Red Orchestra

From Academic Kids

The Red Orchestra was a Soviet espionage ring in Nazi-occupied Europe during the first years of World War II.

The name reputedly came from their German enemies; German counter-intelligence learned that the Moscow NKVD centre referred to their spies' radio transmitters as "music boxes" and called their agents "musicians"; so the Germans began to call the Soviet covert network die Rote Kapelle — the Red Orchestra.

The Red Orchestra was coordinated by then-NKVD agent Leopold Trepper. He organized underground operations in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and he travelled extensively. The network became so successful, even infiltrating the German military intelligence service Abwehr, that the Nazis set up the "Red Orchestra Special Detachment" (Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle) to try to destroy it.

The Berlin group of the Red Orchestra initially were different groups of friends around Harro Schulze-Boysen, intelligence officer for the German ministry of air, and Arvid Harnack in the German ministry of economics. These friends included Alexander Erdberg; theatre producer Adam Kuckhoff, and his wife Grete Kuckhoff who worked for Alfred Rosenberg's race policy department; Horst Heilmann, codebreaker in the Wehrmacht communications division; Günther Weisenborn, German author; Herbert Gollnow, in German military counterintelligence; and aircraft manufacturer Johann Graudens who reported on Luftwaffe airfields or communist workers such as Hans Coppi.

Their main purpose was not espionage, but collecting information about Nazi atrocities and distributing leaflets against Hitler.

Schulze-Boysen had contacts with the Soviet Embassy and before the German-Soviet war started, he got one two-way radio transmitter, which didn't really work. In the end, only one message was transmitted into the Soviet Union.

When the NKVD didn't get in contact, Trepper was asked to find out what had happened. This was the only contact between Trepper and Schulze-Boysen.

After the war, Helmut Roeder, the Prosecutor in the trail against the Red Orchestra invented the story of a big Soviet espionage ring and became an informant for the CIC.

Belgian-born socialite Suzanne Spaak joined the Red Orchestra's Parisian network after being appalled by the conduct of the Nazi occupiers in her country.

The motivations of individual agents were not always ideological; Rudolf von Scheliha spied for money to maintain his opulent lifestyle. The Gestapo intercepted a message about two NKVD agents coming to help von Scheliha and arrested both him and his assistant. They were shot on December 22, 1942.

Red Orchestra reported on German troop concentrations in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, air attacks, aircraft production, and fuel shipments. In France, they worked with the underground French Communist Party. Red Orchestra agents even managed to successfully tap the phone lines of the Abwehr in Paris.

Eventually the Abwehr triangulated the radio transmissions of Johann Wenzel, a Red Orchestra agent in Belgium, and arrested him. Wenzel agreed to turn double agent and then informed on the leaders of the network. Based on his information Germans arrested Schulze-Boysen and his wife on August 30, 1942, and Harnack and his wife in September of that year. Many agents broke under torture and the Germans were successful in wiping out the network. Trepper was captured and forced into being a double agent until he escaped and joined the French underground, where he worked until the liberation of Paris.

Red Orchestra operations had been entirely eliminated by the spring of 1943. Most agents were executed, including Suzanne Spaak at Fresnes Prison just thirteen days before liberation in 1944.

See also

External link

Red Orchestra is also the name of a second world war mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 that takes place in the Eastern Kapelle


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