24 December 2018

German Abwehr Activities in The Hague

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about the German Abwehr’s activities in Hamburg. Many of the agents sent to England from the Continent in 1940 and 1941 were run by spymaster Nikolaus Ritter from the Abwehr’s Ast Hamburg (Referat I Luft) offices. Early in my research into Josef Jakobs I discovered that he had also spent time in The Netherlands. In January 1941, Josef was sent to The Hague for additional wireless training and was ultimately sent to England from Schipol Aerodrome near Amsterdam. Karel Richter, too, spent time in The Hague and both he and Josef said that they had encountered at least one other spy destined for England during their time there.

The officers of MI5 were very interested in any information that Josef and Karel divulged about the Abwehr’s activities in The Netherlands. The fact that the two spies could be played off of each other in a game of one-upmanship generated a rich trove of information. Some of the information could be cross-referenced against data gleaned from other spies. Slowly, the MI5 officers built up a picture of the Abwehr’s activities and officers in The Netherlands. It wasn’t complete, by any means, but it was a start. The real question is: was any of the information shared by Josef and Karel accurate? And can we now verify some of that information?

We have, naturally, the declassified MI5 files on Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter, as well as other spies. There are, however, at least two other resources that can be held up to the light along with the MI5 files. I recently came across two Dutch books published in 2011 and 2016 which delve into the German Abwehr’s activities in the Low Countries.

Spionnen aan de achterdeur: De Duitse Abwehr in België 1936-1945 (2011) [Spies at the Back Door: The German Abwehr in Belgium 1936-1945] by Etienne Verhoeyen
Spionnen aan de achterdeur:
De Duitse Abwehr in België 1936-1945
(2011)
[Spies at the Back Door:
The German Abwehr in Belgium 1936-1945]
by Etienne Verhoeyen
The first is by Etienne Verhoeyen - Spionnen aan de achterdeuer: De Duitse Abwehr in België 1936-1945 - and tells the tale of the German Abwehr’s activities in Belgium during the Second World War.

Verhoeyen (born 1945) holds a degree in moral sciences (UGent, 1968). He has served as scientific assistant and editor of historical TV programs (including several about the Second World War). Verhoeyen has been an associate of CEGESOMA (Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Society) for years. His favorite research field is the operation of intelligence services in Belgium between 1918 and 1950. He is the author of:
  • De moord op Julien Lahaut [The Murder of Julien Lahaut] (with R. Van Doorslaer, 1985 and 2010)
  • België in de Tweede Wereldoorlog: Het minste kwaad [Belgium in the Second World War: The Least Evil] (1990)
  • België bezet 1940-1944 [Belgium Occupied 1940-1944] (1993)
  • Spionnen aan de achterdeur: De Duitse Abwehr in België 1936-1945 (2011) [Spies at the Back Door: The German Abwehr in Belgium 1936-1945]
  • about 50 articles about various aspects of intelligence services in Belgium

While I haven’t purchased Verhoeyen’s book, I have been able to conduct a limited search of it via Google Books. I’ve come across several references to the German Abwehr’s activities in The Netherlands which have been helpful.

Frans Kluiters (1951-2009) (from NISA)
Frans Kluiters (1951-2009)
(from NISA)
The second book is an unpublished manuscript by Frans Kluiters, an amateur historian who passed away in 2009. I use the term “amateur” with the utmost respect for although Kluiters was not an academically trained historian, his work is held in the highest regard by authorities in the field.

Kluiters was meticulous in basing his work on original source material and interviews. A biography of Kluiters on the NISA (Netherlands Intelligence Studies Association) site notes that, for Frans, “the facts must be based on sources and also checked, the publication must be as complete as possible, precise and concisely formulated.” Kluiters conducted much of his research at the National Archives in The Hague, London and Washington

Kluiters and Verhoeyen had partnered together to research and publish two books about the German Abwehr’s activities in The Netherlands (Kluiters) and Belgium (Verhoeyen). While Verhoeyen’s book had been published in 2011, Kluiters premature death in 2009 left the second part of the project hanging. Verhoeyen was able to bring Kluiter’s manuscript to completion and in 2016, it was published on the NISA website, freely available to everyone. The book comprises fifteen chapters and ten appendices all easily downloadable and searchable in pdf format. With the assistance of Google Translate, I was able to focus on key sections of the manuscript and extract items of interest regarding the Abwehr’s activities in The Hague that intersected with the lives of Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter.

Kluiters also published an earlier book in 1993 (with a supplement in 1995): De Nederlandse inlichtingen- en veiligheidsdiensten [The Dutch Intelligence and Security Services] but I have not yet been able to track down a copy.

Over the next few blog posts, I plan to examine in greater detail some key locations and Abwehr personnel associated with training espionage agents in The Hague.

Sources
Verhoeyen's biography from CEGESOMA site via Google Translate
Kluiters biography from NISA site via Google Translate

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