The title of this blog comes from a Gaelic expression -"putting on the poor mouth"-which means to exaggerate the direness of one's situation in order to gain time or favour from creditors.
26 August 2010
Never trust a ballerina
The Guardian reports that a Russian ballerina who became a Nazi spy was responsible for one of the earliest allied defeats in the second world war after getting hold of the British campaign plan for Norway , according to historic security services files released today.
Marina Lee was said to have infiltrated General Auchinleck's headquarters at Tromso in 1940 The failure of the Norwegian campaign directly led to Neville Chamberlain's replacement by Winston Churchill as wartime prime minister.
MI5 learned of the claim in January 1942 from a captured German agent, Gerth van Wijk, who was working for the British inside Camp 020 detention centre in Surrey. He was told this "astonishing story'' from another captured agent called Von Finckenstein. Although corroborated by a second German detainee, KC Hansen, the file shows that MI5 was never able to establish the truth of the story despite pursuing its inquiries for a further six years.
Van Wijk said Von Finkenstein had told him the German General Eduard Dietl was almost defeated at Narvik and contemplated crossing the Swedish frontier to be interned with the rest of his troops.
Von Finkenstein later named her as Marina Lee, a married woman who had fled to Scandinavia, after her parents were "murdered by the Bolsheviks", where she had married a Norwegian.
"She was trained in Russia as a ballerina and in Oslo was for some time the head of a school of ballet. She is a highly valued and experienced German agent," he told Van Wijk. He also said that he believed she had gone on to work for the Germans in Spain, operating from the Ritz hotel in Madrid with a red car. He had a photograph of her but threw it into the sea with his passport when he was picked up by the British.