The Lucy Spy Ring

well_chuffed, Going Postal
Right, Rudolf Roessler

Having looked at Die Rote Drei from a 1945 German perspective , this is the view from more recently. This bunch of spies is better known here as the Red Three and the Lucy Spy Ring though there is all sorts of overlap. There is no juicy Lucy involved , it is named after Lucerne where one of those involved , Rudolf Roessler , was living. The infamous Sonia also makes an appearance , she was later based in the Oxford area and sent Klaus Fuchs’ atomic bomb  information to Moscow by radio. Sonia , her code name , was born Ursula Kuczynski in Berlin and ended up clearing off to East Germany when Klaus Fuchs was discovered.

The start of the story is that Roessler says he was approached by two anti-Nazi German officers who offered intelligence. They were General Fritz Thiele and Rudolph Freiherr von Gersdorff , both of whom he had known since the 1930s. They gave him an enigma machine and a German military callsign and simply sent him information as though it was standard Army communications. At first Roessler passed this information to Swiss Military Intelligence , dubious because he was German , who also passed some to British SIS. Later he sent information via the Rote Drei network direct to Soviet Military Intelligence having been introduced to Alexander Rado , head of the Rote Drei.

The Lucy Spy Ring had around 10 sources in Germany , most of whom were serving in the Army , some are still unknown but it seems all were wiped out in the raft of executions after the attempt on Adolf’s life.

In May 1941 Lucy supplied the Soviets with details of Operation Barbarossa, In the summer of 1942 Lucy supplied details of the operations against Stalingrad and the Caucasus. Decisions taken in Berlin were arriving in Moscow on average ten hours after being made. In the summer of 1943 the details of Germany’s plan for the battle of Kursk were sent , this is when the rot really set in for the Germans and it was all downhill thereafter.

Meanwhile the Germans were getting very worried about the Rote Drei and managed to get the Swiss to shut it down in October 1943. The Germans never really knew exactly what was being sent but they knew it was going to the GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence).

Roessler was still receiving intelligence from his German source and had to send it via Swiss Military Intelligence again , who all the time were passing it on to the Allies. The end came after the plot to kill Hitler in 1944 when Roessler’s sources in Germany were arrested.

Alexander Rado was recruited by the GRU in 1935 and having failed to get a Belgian residence permit , ended up in Geneva in 1939 where he started a cartographic agency named Geopress.

In the summer of 1938 , Ursula Kuczynski , known by the codename Sonia had been instructed by the GRU to set up a spy network in Switzerland with herself as the radio operator. She arrived in England , her children had been left with her sister , to find a recruit for her team , preferably someone with Spanish Civil War experience. The CPGB recommended Alexander Allan Foote and eventually they met in Geneva in January 1939 when he joined and was trained in radio operation at which he became very proficient. In February Foote introduced Sonia to Len Beurton , a fellow Civil War veteran to be a second agent to operate in Germany.

By then Sonia had received fresh instructions from Moscow. They wanted her to return to Britain probably to initiate the transmission of the stolen atomic weapons research. The problem was Sonia was not a British citizen and had a German passport. The solution was to marry someone who had such a passport , Foote or Beurton fit the bill. Foote cried off , having seen her photographic likeness I can not express any surprise , and she married Beurton and the marriage lasted until 1997. However she first had to divorce her first husband , Rudolf Hamburger , this she managed in October 1939 and the marriage took place in February 1940 and gained her passport in April.

Rado had his own sources of intelligence , some French but mainly diplomatic staff.

Rote drei , founded in 1936 , members , each with his/her own network of spies , were :

  • Rachel Dübendorfer , born Hepner and grew up in Danzig (Gdansk) , working for GRU since 1927 , a lifelong communist. She fled to Switzerland in 1933 and married a Swiss , Heinrich Dübendorfer in 1934. She was busy working for the International Labour Organisation where she met quite a few of her contacts/sources.
  • George Blun , a French journalist , most of his sources were other journalists.
  • Otto Pünter , the least effective of the three of the Red Three.

There then is the Lucy ring , it ended up passing some or all of its intelligence via Alexander Foote in Lausanne.

Alexander Foote had little problem travelling around Europe leading many to suspect he was working for MI6. The story of the amount and quality of the intelligence has also led many to speculate that Foote was being fed Ultra secrets that had been massaged so as not to be too detailed and this was a way the British could pass Ultra without giving away the source. However , far from placating Stalin , it made him even more suspicious. He was already receiving Ultra verbatim from Cairncross and the slightly garbled form arriving via Foote , apparently from the British , made him wonder what they were up to.

Eventually Sonia went off to Oxford to become the handler for Klaus Fuchs , who coincidentally , was introduced to the GRU by Sonia’s brother , a Professor. Nepotism at work.

The references here to GRU could be disputed , at some point during one of Stalin’s mad purges , it was subordinated to the NKVD.


© well_chuffed 2018

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