Die Rote Drei

well_chuffed, Going Postal
Soviet Network

This is yet again, based on the reminiscences of Dr Wilhelm Flicke – Die Rote Drei , or the Red Three , referred to three locations around Lake Geneva that were transmitting intelligence back to Russian Military Intelligence in Moscow. Beginning in June 1941 the German Intercept Service discovered three radio circuits from Switzerland to Moscow. It was soon discovered these were agent stations and they were reporting to Russian Military Intelligence. No further information was uncovered until later because the cryptographic systems employed were not broken.

The traffic was copied but caused much scratching of heads on the German side. Not until December 1942 , after the arrest of agent Kent of the Red Orchestra network was any clue found. Kent said that in 1940 he had brought a cryptographic system to Geneva and delivered it to an address in the Rue de Lausanne. The main office of the Comintern was in this very street. Through confidential agents in Switzerland and the German Counterintelligence office on Dijon , attempts were made to get at this organisation and above to get a clue about the cryptographic system they used.

It was not until the summer of 1944 that the Germans could read the messages ; the contents took many a man’s breath away.

During the entire eastern campaign , during the first German offensive in 1941 , during the preliminary stages of the campaign of 1942 , during the critical period of the battles around Stalingrad and in the Caucasus and later in 1942 when the eastern front was being pushed back and the Germans hoped to make a stand on the Dnieper so as to check the tide of attacking Russians – precisely during those days , weeks and months , the most secret information regarding the German military situation in the east , troop units , tanks , assembly areas , intentions – all was being passed currently through Switzerland to Moscow. This information could only have come from the very highest levels of the German military command.

The sender was always signed as “Dora” , the messages were sent to “Director” and the multiple sources each had a name.

Direction finding indicated that two transmitters were in Geneva and the third was in Lausanne. Germany’s agents in Switzerland now hunted down these locations. In Geneva at 133 Rue de Lausanne was Alexander Rado who was officially a director of a company called Geo-Presse. He was a Hungarian who had lived in Berlin up to March 1933 and had then gone first to Hungary and then in 1934 to Paris where he was active in cartographic work on behalf of the Soviet Union. He was a fanatical communist and in 1926 had been in Moscow for nine months.

His wife had been secretary of the Communist Women’s movement , had also worked at teh Soviet Embassy and had also spent time in the Soviet Union. It is certain that Rado and his wife were already active as Soviet agents in 1939 and most likely long before that. It is believed he arrived in Switzerland in 1940. In Geneva he had two transmitters , the second being in 5 Rue de Soleure. In Lausanne the transmitter was located 2 Chemin Longerai. The occupant was A A Foote whose cover name was John. He did the cipher work , sent the reports and also had a network working for him. All unbeknown to the Swiss authorities.

Eventually the Germans could identify the people involved in Switzerland and read all their messages but the most important point was never cleared up. Where exactly did this intelligence come from. The had to be connections in Adolf’s HQ , the Armed Forces High Command , in the Air Ministry and in many industrial plants. Try as they may , the Germans never found out where the information came from.

Dr Wilhelm Flicke ends his account with an enigmatic statement that the reason no radio transmissions were ever found delivering information to the Rote Drei was because it had gone to Rado by other , simpler ways.

One of the post war suggestions about the source of this information was that British Intelligence were using die Rote Drei to feed Ultra intelligence to the Russians. This has been discounted by many but considering the breadth of the required spy network in so many places , it has to be more than a possibility. Otherwise , surely the Germans would have captured one or two of the dozens who would have been required to mount such a spying effort. Flicke did not know that Enigma had been cracked , indeed he thought the reason the allies knew so much about the U-Boat locations was through their use of radar.

There is no indication whether this intelligence was routed via Stalin or not. It was being run by the Russian military so presumably it was passed to the military high command. Stalin did not trust anybody but considering the number of sources the Russians had , they must have been able to put the picture together. There were reports that information supplied by the Cambridge Five was virtually ignored by Uncle Joe because he thought these people working for nothing other than ideology could not possibly be trustworthy. This however sounds to me like British Intelligence attempting a damage limitation exercise. In the history or warfare , both hot and cold , has there ever been such a massive number of people supplying intelligence as the Soviets managed to amass.

© well_chuffed 2018

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