13 – SPY CITY

Alexandra Kollontai

Stockholm was a centre of intelligence trading during the war years. The Finns and Estonians were selling Soviet intelligence to the Allies and to the Germans (their allies). The Japanese represented by General Onodera were buying and selling intelligence to their German allies. The Russians were busy trying to force a peace deal on the Finns in 1944 and the Ambassador Alexandra Kollontai was responsible for negotiating a deal. Kollontai was a colleague of Lenin and struggling to maintain her position in the Soviet government as the NKVD closed in on her.

At the end of 1943 the Germans under Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and Walter Schellenberg RSHA were trying to do a deal for immunity from war crimes prosecution with the Allies in Stockholm.

The Maison Rouge Meetings

In August 1944 Himmler organized a meeting of selected German industrialists at the Maison Rouge Hotel in Strasbourg. The SS plan was to prepare German industry for the post-war recovery under a new Nazi regime, the Fourth Reich. The German companies would transfer assets abroad and set up a network of secret front companies. Volkswagen, Krupp, Messerschmitt and others were already planning for the post-war period. Many had subsidiaries in Spain, Portugal, and South America. Physical assets like plant machinery were already being moved offshore to avoid damage by Allied bombing.

Photograph of Max Faust, an engineer of IG Farben talking to Heinrich Himmler

The man in charge was SS Obergruppenführer Dr Scheid who was a senior member of the RSHA. He urged the companies present to make contact and alliances with foreign firms and prepare for the end of the war. This was treasonous talk, but Scheid had a license from the highest level to present the case. He talked about the American partners of Krupp as well as Zeiss, Leica, the Hamburg-America Line shipping company. The plan essentially was to prepare for the Fourth Reich by funnelling cash and assets abroad and buying up foreign companies where these assets could be stored until the war ended through negotiation with the Western powers.

Up until the night of August 10, Strasburg was the safest place in Europe and was regarded as a French city. Churchill had heard about the secret meeting of high-ranking Nazis and decided to bomb the Maison Rouge. The foyer of the hotel had imploded during the night due to the heavy bombardment in the city centre. Jodl, von Ribbentrop and a large number of high-ranking Nazis were rumoured to be staying at the hotel. The following day the management was confronted by a major mystery. It appeared that during the night someone had drilled holes in the doors to the more expensive rooms even when armed SS guards were on guard. These strange perforations were later believed to be the work of the NKVD.

During the Nuremberg trial Soviet intelligence appeared to know everything there was to know about the Maison Rouge meetings and used this information in their interrogation of Harald von Bohlen of the Krupp armaments family whom they had captured in Romania. Another spy, however, was even closer to the event. An agent of the French Deuxième Bureau attended the meetings under the pseudonym of  ‘Waddington’ and his report was soon circulating among Allied intelligence agencies.

Next time we will talk about the attempts of the Western nations to buy up German assets at the end of the war.

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