German intelligence agents and suspected agents

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German intelligence agents and suspected agents

Kurt Dehn (KV 2/2618-2619)

There are a number of files relating to German intelligence agents in this release, among them the curious case of Kurt Dehn, an agent of the Etappendienst (the German Naval Espionage Organisation, absorbed by the Abwehr in 1939).

Dehn had been resident in Britain since 1936, and as an ex-German naval officer he was suspected of having divided loyalties. A watch was mounted on his correspondence, but his identity as an agent was not positively confirmed (KV 2/2618, 1936-1939) and he was interned more on the grounds of being a doubtful case in September 1939. Interviewed by the Security Service that winter (serial 107a) his dubious character was recorded: "…he would be willing to do such intelligence work [for Britain] as was in his capacity…however, he would be completely unsuitable and also untrustworthy. Although I doubt if DEHN has ever actually given information to Germany…I feel that he is capable of doing so, and would not hesitate if he were paid."

On this basis, and without hard evidence, the Service's request for Dehn to be interned for the duration was granted. However, as recorded in KV 2/2619, (1939-1952), Dehn was released from internment on the Isle of Man in July 1944 as he was deemed no longer a threat. It was only subsequently that his intelligence role was confirmed from captured German documents – though by this time he had submitted an application for naturalisation (which was granted in 1952). Dehn's story from these reconstituted files is therefore one of the very few German agents in Britain during the war to escape being confirmed as an agent – though the efficient operation of the internment system effectively prevented him undertaking any espionage work. It also shows the calibre of man used by Germany for this work.

Hans Görschen (KV 2/2620-2621)

These heavily weeded, reconstituted files tell the story, such as the Security Service was able to establish it, of the German-born, naturalised Dutch Abwehr officer Hans Görschen, who seems to have used this position to assist the Dutch Resistance and hide his own anti-Nazi opinions.

The Service had identified Görschen before the war as an Abwehr officer in Holland and likely channel for passing Abwehr funds covertly into Britain through his commercial activities (KV 2/2620, 1937-1947), and this belief seems to have made it hard to accept that Görschen might have had another motive. Minute 399 of November 1945, for example, notes: "The mystery deepens. There is not the slightest doubt that in 1938 von GOERSHCEN was an important Abwehr man…" but goes on to doubt the possibility that he had aided the Resistance.

Yet this and the following file KV 2/2621 (1947-1949) contain many first hand reports that he had assisted the Resistance, and indeed that he was working for Allied intelligence, and was involved in the July plot against Hitler. The trouble was that many of the reports came from at best dubious sources, such as the account of Carl Deichmann (serial 407) of January 1946, which tells of Görschen's wartime activities in some detail. The investigation peters out when the Service accepted the story that Görschen had been killed by the Gestapo at Prinz Albrecht prison in Berlin in April 1945, after enquiries for traces of Görschen in captured Nazi records had not yielded any evidence.

The file includes photos of Görschen and Deichmann.

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Hans Larsen (KV 2/2628)

Larsen was a Norwegian recruited by the Germans to report on Swedish military dispositions, who was flown to Britain after his arrest in Sweden.

The reconstituted file, covering 1945-1956, is chiefly of interest for the Camp 020 Interim Report (serial 7a), which gives a great amount of detail on the methods employed by the Germans in recruiting Larsen and running him as an agent. His case history is similar to many recruited by the Germans who subsequently tried to sell their services to the allies. Larsen was to have passed his information using secret writing, and the file includes copies of letters tested for secret writing, and a copy of The Naturist from March 1945, which was also tested for secret writing. The file includes a photograph of Larsen.

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Kurt Ludwig (KV 2/2630-2632)

Ludwig was a German spy operating in America, where he ran a spy ring passing military intelligence to the Abwehr in Lisbon and Madrid by means of correspondence containing secret writing. An original of an intercepted letter and envelope is at serial 36a. The ring was detected due to the skilled work of the British censors in Bermuda, whose role in the case is recorded here, along with examples of the intercepted correspondence and revealed secret writing.

Though Ludwig thought he was under suspicion, it was only due to the clever detective work on information culled from his correspondence that he could be traced, and it was the intercepted evidence that was vital in the courtroom. The Ludwig case is included in Volume 4 of Hinsley's history of British Intelligence in the Second World War.

Ludwig wrote frequently, and the product from his intercepted letters, and the analysis done on the information they contain, can be found in KV 2/2630 (1940-1941). There is a good summary of the case by the Secret Intelligence Service representative in America in August 1941 up to the identification of Ludwig as the spy "JOE K" (as he appeared in the correspondence) at serial 14a. The FBI arrested Ludwig on 23 August. The file goes on to build traces of Ludwig's movements and those of his associates and agents, and this continues in KV 2/2631 (1941). There is an example of developed secret writing from this case at serial 55a.

KV 2/2632 (1941-1947) continues the story up to and beyond Ludwig's trial and conviction. The consul-general in New York commented (serial 103cca) on the good effect the case had on the American press, with the role of the Bermuda censors being highlighted.

Comte Gabriel Billebault de Chaffault (KV 2/2633-2635)

While the case of French Abwehr spy Count Billebault de Chaffault is not the most celebrated, dramatic or significant, the three reconstituted files covering the case are included here because they give the most complete account of the handling of a German spy so far released. The Count had been identified as an Abwehr agent before his mission to Uruguay started in 1943, and he was arrested at Gibraltar and taken to Camp 020 for interrogation. The Security Service was first warned about the Count by correspondence from Kim Philby at the Secret Intelligence Service.

The initial Camp 020 case summary is at serial 46k (KV 2/2633, 1942-1943), but the very full and detailed Camp 020 final report is at serial 47a (KV 2/2664, 1943), which gives a complete history of the processing of the case and full interview reports, along with an extremely derogatory and negative character assessment of the Count, suggesting almost that his propensity towards treason was an inherited trait.

KV 2/2635 (1944-1956) records how the Count was returned to France to face trial for his treachery in June 1945, and he that he was sentenced to five years "degradation nationale pour intelligence avec l'ennemi" in February 1946. The photographs of the Count in these files are unusable because of the reconstituted nature of the record.

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Ernesto Hoppe (KV 2/2636)

The heavily weeded file on the case of Ernesto Hoppe covers a story described in the interim report on him from Camp 020 as follows: "The adventures of HOPPE would run well in serial form in the servants' penny weekly. Espionage, loot, U-Boats, clandestine landings, wireless transmitters, pass-words, fast cars, pregnant wives, Spanish brothels, denunciations, forgeries, secret service prisons, escapes in hospital blue, all these things and more have come under consideration during the official investigation into the life of this man."

Hoppe, an Argentine living in Germany, was to travel on a German Secret Service mission to Argentina, supposedly to arrange the transfer of the valuables and funds of senior German figures into safe deposit there. An Argentine source revealed the plan and Hoppe was removed from his boat at Gibraltar, from where he was taken to Camp 020 for interrogation. The report at serial 141a gives a full account of his story, including details of his escape from a guarded hospital room in December 1943, and what he did during the few hours' liberty he thereby obtained. Hoppe was deported to Argentina in October 1945.