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Top 10 Famous Spies

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Richard Sorge
ADN-ZB / ZB / 3.10.85 / Zum 90. Geburtstag Richard Sorges am 4. Oktober Richard Sorge, der Kommunist, deutsche Revolutionär, Kundschafter der Roten Armee und hervorragende Publizist würde am 4. Oktober 1985 90 Jahre alt. Am 7. Oktober 1944 wurde er in Japan ermordet. (Relativ unbekanntes Foto aus dem Familienbesitz)

Spies are grateful protagonists in thrillers and movies. These adventurers live a secret life as they gather information that can give their own country a decisive advantage in a war. Yet the real life of a spy has less glamorous sides and often ends badly for them. What are ten famous spies from history?

10. Oleg Gordievsky

The story of Oleg Gordievsky has many ingredients from a thriller. The KGB agent became disillusioned with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He started working for the British Secret Service, something that became even easier when he was stationed in London. Gordievsky realized much earlier than others that Mikael Gorbachov was destined to become the leader of the Soviet Union, a vital change that would eventually end the Cold War. In 1985 he was recalled to Moscow and interrogated for a long time. Gordievsky was not allowed to travel abroad after this. With the help of the British secret service, Godievsky managed to escape through Finland in the back of a car.

9. Anna Chapman

With the end of the Cold War and the rise of the digital world, the era of the spy seems to have come to an end. Anna Chapman proves otherwise. She was born Russian and her father was probably active in the KGB. She would get a British passport by marrying Alex Chapman and pursue a career in London with various financial institutions. Anna would live in New York for a while and was eventually arrested for being a member of a group of Russian spies. Although the spies didn’t manage to play through any big secrets, they were still trying to move up the ranks in American society. Anna Chapman became the most famous of the group because of her good looks. In the end, she was exchanged along with other spies. Since then she has been active as a model in Russia†

8. Richard Sorge

For many spies, the profession of journalist is a good cover. After all, it provides a good explanation of why you are in another country and can also disguise curiosity. Richard Sorge was of German-Russian descent. During the First World War he was injured and during his rehabilitation he became fascinated by communism. Sorge would stay as a journalist in Moscow where he was actually trained as a spy. In China he subsequently met a fellow Japanese journalist, Ozaki Hotsumi, with whom Sorge would form a very effective duo. Once in Japan, Sorge would pass on a lot of essential information through Hotsumi.

This is how Stalin knew about the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor. Stalin would sometimes dismiss Sorge’s information, allowing Hitler to initially overwhelm the Red Army. After that, he had learned his lesson and trusted that Japan would not invade Russia until the Germans occupied Moscow. This allowed Stalin to deploy troops from the East on the Western front at a crucial moment. Sorge and Hotsumi were eventually exposed and hanged in 1944.

7. Eli Cohen

Eli Cohen is a textbook example of the decisive role a good spy can play. Cohen was born in Egypt so he was fluent in Arabic. In the 1960s, he was recruited by the Israeli secret service Mossad to eventually be stationed in Syria. There, the social Cohen managed to gain the trust of many soldiers who attended parties at his home.

Cohen became famous for his suggestion to the Syrian military leadership to plant eucalyptus trees near bunkers so soldiers could rest in the shade. This enabled the Israeli Air Force to map exactly where the bunkers were located. Before his information was used successfully during the Six Day War (1967), Cohen had already been exposed. He was hanged in public.

6. Karl Schulmeister

The risk when deploying a spy is that it will eventually turn out to be a double spy. Austrian Karl Schulmeister was one of the first double agents of modern times. Schulmeister was an adventurer who led a life as a businessman and smuggler. In addition, he was a spy for the Austrian Empire.

Schulmeister came to work for Napoleon through the deployment of a French general and his information would play an important role in the Battle of Austerlitz, among other things. The Austrian became a rising star in Napoleon’s army and became the boss of his secret service. With Napoleon’s final downfall, Schulmeister’s adventures also ended. He would work in a tobacconist’s shop for the rest of his life.

5. Virginia Hall

Spies played an important role in World War II. The German secret service Gestapo was aware of this and ruthlessly tracked down spies and then murdered them. The Gestapo had an obsession with the American Virginia Hall, which they nicknamed Artemis. Hall was in France when World War II broke out. At first she helped organize the French resistance. After Hall narrowly escaped, she returned to France in 1994 where she worked with the resistance to prepare for the Normandy landings and conduct guerrilla actions. Unlike less fortunate colleagues, Hall was never exposed and would join the CIA as an analyst after the war.

4. Klaus Fuchs

During World War II, a number of countries worked on a superweapon. The atomic bomb would eventually be developed by the Americans. After the war, this gave the Americans a clear advantage over the Soviet Union. German physicist Klaus Fuchs had fled from Hitler in 1933 and eventually became a British citizen.

During the war he was invited to participate in the development of the American atomic bomb. Before that, he had already passed on information to the Soviets and would continue to do so until the end of the war. Most likely, therefore, the Soviet Union could produce an atomic bomb faster. Back in England, Fuchs would admit that he was a spy and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. After nine years, Fuchs was released.

3. Cambridge Five

The Cambridge Five is the nickname for a group of British spies who were recruited to work for the Soviet Union while studying in Cambridge. They did this successfully during the Second World War and the 1950s. The most important members were deployed in various positions, Kim Philby worked for the British embassy in Washington.

This allowed him to see, among other things, which of his colleagues was suspected of espionage activities. When he warned some of them, they fled to the Soviet Union. As a result, Philby eventually became suspicious himself if he had to resign. If this had not happened Philby could have possibly finished much higher in the British Secret Service.

2. Sidney George Reilly

Sidney George Reilly’s real name was Georgi Rosenblum. He was born in Ukraine and recruited into Scotland Yard at a young age. With his adventurous streak and great language skills, he developed into a master spy. During the First World War he managed to get through to a meeting of the German army command in a uniform.

After World War I, his activities increasingly concentrated on Russia, where the communists threatened to take power. Reilly was allegedly involved in the czarist family’s flight plans, a failed coup and an assassination attempt on Lenin. He was eventually captured and killed by Stalin’s orders. It is said that Reilly was the model for James Bond. In 1983, his adventures were filmed in the hit television series Reilly: Ace of Spies.

1. Mata Haric

Margaretha Zelle was born in Leeuwarden and would become world famous under her stage name Mata Hari. She lived in the Dutch East Indies for a while where she joined a local dance group and first used the name Mata Hari. At the beginning of the 20th century, Zelle moved to Paris, where she found herself in artistic circles, but mainly became famous as an exotic dancer. Mata Hari was renowned for her beauty and at the time there were all kinds of wild rumors about her sensual act and wealth.

As a Dutchman, Mata Hari could continue to travel during the First World War. Various services noticed that they often lived in military circles. She was suspected of espionage, but no one knew exactly who she worked for. She was eventually arrested in Paris and convicted of spying for Germany. In 1917 Mata Hari was executed. Since then, Mata Hari has grown into a legendary femme fatale and became afilm adaptation of her life played by Greta Garbo . There are still many doubts about her espionage activities. She seems to have entered the service of the Germans at the beginning of the First World War, but most likely never was a legendary master spy.

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