Germany honours anti-Hitler spy

10th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 September 2004 , BERLIN - The German government has honoured a mild- mannered Berlin bureaucrat who was arguably the most successful spy of World War II, smuggling top-secret documents in his underwear out of the German Foreign Office in Berlin and handing them over to OSS agents in Switzerland. Virtually unknown to most Germans, Fritz Kolbe risked his life to shorten the war and to bring down the Nazi regime, said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer during ceremonies in Berlin honouring the Allied

10 September 2004

BERLIN - The German government has honoured a mild- mannered Berlin bureaucrat who was arguably the most successful spy of World War II, smuggling top-secret documents in his underwear out of the German Foreign Office in Berlin and handing them over to OSS agents in Switzerland.

Virtually unknown to most Germans, Fritz Kolbe risked his life to shorten the war and to bring down the Nazi regime, said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer during ceremonies in Berlin honouring the Allied secret agent who was blackballed by the West German government after the war.

"It is very late, but not too late to pay tribute," Fischer said in ceremonies dedicating a room to Kolbe in the Foreign Ministry building.

"The honour is long overdue," he was quoted by N-TV television as saying. "It was not a glorious page in our Foreign Ministry's history."

Kolbe's combination of skill and luck - and the fact that he looked like a mousy bureaucrat - resulted in the Nazis never realising that an Allied spy was in their midst in the very highest echelons of the Reich.

Kolbe paid the consequences after the war when fellow bureaucrats shunned him, calling him "untrustworthy", and made certain he never worked with them again.

His remarkable story came to light in a book which hit book shops in Germany earlier this year. The book by French journalist Lucas Delattre tells how the seemingly innocuously Kolbe sat at a meticulously tidy desk in the Foreign Office complex overseen by Karl Ritter, the diplomatic corps liaison to the Wehrmacht.

Across that tidy desk came documents spelling out details of military operations, foreign espionage activities, secret negotiations - and everything that crossed that desk was stolen, copied or photographed by Kolbe.

Former CIA head Richard Helms once said Kolbe delivered "the best intelligence of any agent during the entire war".

One of his biggest missions occurred 15 August 1943, when Kolbe was told he was to serve as a diplomatic courier to Berne, Switzerland.

Sensing a golden opportunity, Kolbe locked his office door from the inside, lowered his trousers and strapped two large envelopes bulging with top-secret documents to his thighs under his underdrawers.

At 8:20 p.m. he caught a train from Berlin's Anhalter Bahnhof station for the Swiss capital. At any point he could have been caught. But he was not. And he carried out five more courier missions to Switzerland, smuggling documents and sensitive information to Allied agents.

The Allies could hardly believe what they were seeing. And his explanation for risking is life was even more difficult to understand.

Kolbe hated the Nazis and wanted to do everything in his power to bring down the Nazi regime.

"I'm a patriotic German with a strong conscience that prevents me from just sitting still," he told the Allies. "My sincerest wish is to help bring this war to a speedy end."

Unable to get a job with the West German Foreign Office, he ended up selling chain saws. He succumbed to cancer in 1971 at age 70.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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