German intelligence officers

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German intelligence officers

Richard Weininger (KV 2/2855-2860) 1928-1957

Richard Weininger was a dubious Czech financier who was suspected of being either a German agent or a double agent, prepared to work for whoever would pay him best. He played a significant part in the downfall of junior minister Robert Boothby MP in 1941.

These weeded files trace Weininger's career in detail from the time he first came to the attention of the Security Service until he left for Mexico in 1946.  However, despite the gravest suspicions, no clear evidence of espionage was found against him.

KV 2/2855 (1928-1940) shows that Weininger first came to the Secret Service's attention through cross-references to him in press cuttings relating to Boothby, which showed the length of their association. The file mainly relates to the period after September 1939, where it seems that Weininger was using his contacts to lobby the authorities on his behalf. Minute 32 (April 1940) reveals how Boothby's cousin, Commander Carey of Naval Intelligence, was visiting the Security Service to discuss the case.

Weininger and his step-daughter, Edith Kahler, nevertheless remained under suspicion, and he was eventually arrested in September 1940 at Boothby's London flat. A summary of the case to this point is at serial 188a, and an initial report on the documents examined after his arrest is at serial 207a. They include letters from Boothby stating, "I got the Czech assets blocked at your request…I received assurances from you that I would be compensated out of the larger holdings…" This was clear evidence that he had acted at Weininger's request on the promise of financial benefit, an abuse of his position. Moreover, the papers reveal that Boothby was in debt to several people, including Weininger. The Service prepared a minute for the Prime Minister setting out the substance of the case (at serial 226a), which was passed on in October 1940.

Boothby's position as a junior minister at the Ministry of Food could clearly not continue for long. A Parliamentary select committee examined his financial dealings and he was eventually forced to resign his post in January 1941 (though he remained as MP for East Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire). Meanwhile the investigation of Weininger continued, on KV 2/2856 (1940-1941). It was eventually decided that there was no case against Kahler and she was released from Holloway on the Service's recommendation in November 1940. Weininger remained in internment at York.

A final report on the contents of papers examined after his arrest is at serial 236a. At serial 286a there is a copy of a letter sent by Lady Oppenheimer to Mrs Churchill, giving an account of her impressions of Weininger from a meeting before the war, which the Service took to be a truer picture of his real views on England compared to the tale he was now spreading. The file shows how, during his internment, Weininger continued to enlist his influential friends to lobby on his behalf. A record of his appeal against internment is at serial 326a. This file includes a copy photograph of Weininger taken from his Czech passport.

The investigation of the case continued until the end of the war, but without finding conclusive evidence of any espionage role for Weininger. An explanation of why he had not been interrogated by the Service is in KV 2/2857 (1941-1942); his release from internment on health grounds is on KV 2/2858 (1942-1943); the question of whether to intern him again when his health recovered is at KV 2/2859 (1943-1945); and his final departure for Mexico, from where he was then expelled to the United States in 1946, is in KV 2/2860 (1945-1957). This file includes the curious instance of the Home Office attempting, as recorded in minute 827 of April 1945, to press the Service to try to influence the American authorities to grant Weininger a visa, though the Home Office did not advance any reasons as to why the Service should do this.

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Reinhard von Gehlen (KV 2/2862) 1945-1955

Von Gehlen, the future head of the West German Intelligence Service, did not come to the attention of the Security Service until his arrest at the end of the war, despite his involvement in German intelligence on the Eastern Front. Then it was his role in post-war defeat planning that attracted the interests of the Security Service. The file documents Kim Philby's awareness of the case (at serials 3a and 4a). Apart from the initial interrogation reports, there is little information on America's sponsorship of von Gehlen or western support for the Gehlen organisation of former Nazi intelligence agents in the Soviet Union and its satellites. In the 1950s, there is a brief unexplained flurry of interest from the South African authorities questioning the true allegiance of von Gehlen, which the Service answered to the effect that it had no reason to question his loyalty.

George Lang (KV 2/2863) 1942-1948

The thin file on the wartime career of George Lang is chiefly of interest because he was one of the first German contacts of the Double Agent GARBO. It emerges from the file that his prime role as an Abwehr agent in Spain was the recruitment of agents. The history of his contacts is also recorded here.

Elizabeth Weiglmayr de Sommer (KV 2/2865)

Elizabeth de Sommer can perhaps best be described as a reluctant officer of the German intelligence services. The German wife of a Polish tea planter in Argentina before the war, she had returned to Germany in 1941 to secure her daughter's education in Germany, but had then been prevented by the authorities from returning to Argentina. She was required to support the German war effort, initially as a translator, but later on more complex intelligence work. Her main objective in undertaking this work seemed to be to keep in touch with her daughter. When an order came for her to go on a mission to Spain, de Sommer ignored it, and stayed in Berlin with her daughter, before eventually smuggling her away to safety. On her arrest towards the end of the war, de Sommer gave her American captors a very full account of German intelligence operations particularly in South America and its organisation, with details of many of the intelligence officers she had worked with.