Tribute paid to German who spied for Allies
10 June 2005, WASHINGTON - Fritz Kolbe, the World War Two German diplomat who gave crucial intelligence from Hitler's foreign office to the Allies but later was shunned and rejected by fellow public servants, received a second posthumous nod from the German government on Thursday.
10 June 2005
WASHINGTON - Fritz Kolbe, the World War Two German diplomat who gave crucial intelligence from Hitler's foreign office to the Allies but later was shunned and rejected by fellow public servants, received a second posthumous nod from the German government on Thursday.
German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, speaking at a small ceremony at the embassy in Washington, said that Kolbe, who died in 1971, displayed "the courage of a simple person vis-à-vis the tyrant's machinery".
Details of Kolbe's wartime activities came to light when two correspondents for the German magazine Der Spiegel, Axel Frohn and Hans-Michael Kloth, gained access to documents the CIA unsealed in June 2000.
The diplomat's story gained even more attention last year with the publication of 'A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich', French journalist Lucas Delattre's account of Kolbe's contacts with the Allies.
Last year, German foreign minister Joschka Fischer honoured the wartime spy in a speech and had a foreign ministry conference room named after him. He noted on that occasion that post-war Germany had taken much too long after the war to recognise and honour those who opposed the Nazi regime.
The German government says Kolbe, who was born in 1900, served in the Foreign Office from 1925 to 1945. During WWII, he had access to countless secret documents containing details of military operations, foreign espionage activities and secret negotiations.
Information that came across his desk included details on the location of factories vital to the Nazi war effort, the work of German agents in Allied and neutral countries and pending German submarine attacks on Allied ships.
Described by Delattre as a shy, discreet and unassuming man, Kolbe later told the Allies he hated the Nazis and wanted to play his part in bringing them down. At great personal risk, he photographed, copied or stole more than 2,600 of these documents and smuggled them right out of Hitler's diplomatic hub in Berlin.
With vital, accurate information stashed away in his underwear, he made up excuses for occasional absences from work and travelled several times to Bern, Switzerland, where he delivered the documents to the US ambassador and to astonished American agents.
While conducting the dangerous, voluntary missions, Kolbe wrote a letter about how his young son should be raised in case he was caught or executed. "Don't teach him hate against our opponents and those who presumably murdered me, but infuse him with a spirit of protest and sacrifice for our ideals," he wrote, according to a text cited by Fischer.
As if anticipating the condemnation that would follow afterwards, Kolbe added in the letter that people would try to tarnish his reputation but no one could dispute that "idealism is my motivating force".
"Would there be any reason to live if freedom is crushed, as in Germany under the Nazis?" he wrote.
Kolbe indeed later paid a price for his efforts. When post-war West Germany opened a new foreign office in 1951, he applied for employment but was rejected.
Delattre wrote that Herbert Blankenhorn, a onetime Nazi Party member who later ran the political department in the post-war Foreign Office, likely played a role in preventing Kolbe's reinstatement. Other wartime bureaucrats with whom he had worked considered him a traitor and untrustworthy.
German foreign minister Joschka Fischer recalled recently that he read Delattre's book in two nights without being able to put it aside, according to Ischinger.
"Fritz Kolbe is among those who saved our honour and self respect in times of dictatorship, horror and tragedy," Ischinger said.
Subject: German news