German Intelligence Agents and suspected Agents

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German Intelligence Agents and suspected Agents

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Albert Meems (KV 2/2428)

Meems was one of very few German agents who successfully moved in and out of the UK during the Second World War without being detected. A Dutch livestock trader, he travelled the world widely in his business, and in 1940 entered Kent, where another livestock trader, a Mr Howard, reported his suspicions, since the livestock trade with Holland had ceased and there seemed to be no reason for Meems' visit. Meems returned to Europe, and was mentioned in 1944 by a captured German espionage agent, Emil Genue, as an Abwehr agent. There are vivid descriptions of Meems on the file: "Very fat…red face. Blue bulging eyes…Appearance of a toad…Carelessly Dressed. Ready-tied ties." There is a case summary at serial 12a. Meems was captured in the American Zone of Germany in 1946, and was sent for trial in Holland. This reconstituted file includes a photograph of Meems.

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Paul Borchardt (KV 2/2429-2430)

Borchardt, noted Arabist and geographer (a kind of German Lawrence of Arabia) spied for Germany in the First World War, and it seems likely that he also acted as a spy in the Second World War, and like Albert Meems, passed through British hands without being detained. A Catholic of Jewish descent, whose First World War exploits took him to the Near East where he is supposed to have briefly become a Moslem, Borchardt arrived in the UK in 1939. He presented himself as a refugee from Nazi oppression, who had spent a spell in Dachau and had only been rescued by the intervention of sympathetic army colleagues. Admitting to his past espionage career, he claimed to be a Jewish anti-Nazi, and offered his services to British intelligence.

Borchardt's case proved a difficult one for the Service and it was unsure how to handle him. As minute 48 in KV 2/2429 (1920-1944) notes: "…it is, perhaps, the first proven example of an enemy agent entering this country as a Jewish refugee." Borchardt was not interned, or placed under restrictions, and left for America in 1940, where he again offered his services. He was instead placed on trial for espionage, and serial 80a provides a published account of his trial, with racy details. This file and KV 2/2430 (1942-1946) include photographs of Borchardt and witness testimonials to his good conduct and character during the First World War.

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Vasa Vojinovic, also known as John Scott (KV 2/2449-2450)

Vojinovic's file provides a good example of the lifestyle of a Yugoslav diplomat during the Second World War and of a monarchist anti-Titoist trying to make his way in post-war Britain. He became the society photographer John Scott around the time of his naturalisation as a British subject in June 1953, and worked with Norman Hartnell photographing Queen Elizabeth II's coronation robes.

Vojinovic's story commences in these files in KV 2/2449 (1941-1951) when, as a Yugoslav diplomat marooned in Lisbon after the break-off of relations between Yugoslavia and Vichy France, he attempted to get to London. Both the Security and Secret Intelligence Services were suspicious of him, and reports that he spent time in uniform in Paris in 1941-1942 were considered, as was his personal character. However, no evidence that he was a German spy could be found and he was eventually admitted in late 1942. Haldane Porter minuted of him in May 1943: "He is extremely dressy, 'thrice barbered o'er and smelling like a nosegay', with an ingratiating but jerky manner and a ready flow of abominable and often unintelligible French." Detailed interview reports taken as he passed through the London Reception Centre at serial 59a and 71a give Vojinovic's story of his life, and there are photographs of him on this file (serials 26a and 100a).

After the war Vojinovic settled first in Windlesham, Surrey, and sought to join ex-King Peter's entourage, but was soon noted as hunting and as taking photographs, and of trying to enter the British court as a photographer. Around this time, reports that he was a Russian spy began to emerge (KV 2/2450, 1953), but there was no evidence to substantiate this. General Gascoigne of the Household Brigade sought clearance for him becoming its official photographer, and in serial 109a he is reported as being a "Court photographer" already well known to Mountbatten, Attlee and others. His certificate of naturalisation was issued in June 1953, and shortly before then he is noted as using the name John Scott for his photographic work.