Soviet-Nazi-Japanese spy letters recovered


World War Two spy letters have been found in Japan. The letters belonged to Richard Sorge, a spy for the Soviet Union, who worked undercover in the German embassy in Japan as a journalist and press attaché.

Richard had received a letter from Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi’s foreign minister, in 1938. The letter outlined birthday greetings for Richard on his 43rd birthday and showed how valued and trusted he was by the Nazi leadership. However, in fact, Richard was a spy for the Soviet Union.

Richard is claimed to have warned the Soviet leadership about the Nazi and Japanese plans to ignore the non-aggression pact signed by the Soviet Union and Germany at the beginning of the war, and instead invade the Soviet Union.

The letter from von Ribbentrop was written and sent just before the war and came with a photograph of von Ribbentrop himself. Richard was a German citizen and a member of the Nazi party, but he had spent most of his time in the Soviet Union and had then become a committed member of the communist party and was later able to spy for the Soviets.It was in the early 1930s that the Soviets pressurised Richard into taking a position in Japan, working for a German newspaper. He remained there for the pre-war years and stayed on when the war began.

Richard was a womaniser and heavy drinker, but was also well-respected for his political insights and this got him important access at the German embassy to high-level officials. Richard became a personal advisor to the German ambassador to Japan, Eugen Ott. It gave him unique access and insight into the Nazi’s plans and policies.

It was in that role that he found out about the Nazi’s plan to ignore its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and invade on its western border with Europe.

At the time the Soviet leadership did not believe the intelligence that Germany planned to invade its borders. But they did believe that Japan had decided not to invade from the east, so that it could instead focus on gaining territory in Southeast Asia.

It was this information that led Stalin to relocate all his military forces to the country’s borders in the west, which eventually helped to prevent the Nazi advance deeper into the Soviet Union, the Yahoo News reports.

The letters were found by a relative of a person who had recently died in Japan, and were among a pile of Nazi war time documents. The letters and documents are planned to be sold off via auction, although they are written by von Ribbentrop’s secretary not Ribbentrop himself, so are expected to be of little monetary value.

Richard was actually caught by Japanese intelligence in 1944, and was disowned by the Soviets. He was hanged in Japan later that year and was posthumously recognised by Russia.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE