British citizens sympathetic to the Nazi cause and willing to pass on intelligence during World War II never suspected that Jack King wasn’t a Gestapo agent.
One sympathizer, Hans Kohout, a naturalized British citizen, thought the information he passed on to King, in reality, an agent of British intelligence, concerning a top secret British tactic that could negate an enemy’s air defenses, exposing major cities to destructive air raids, would make it to Germany. The traitor was privy to the information from employment at a factory engaged work related to defense. The information never made it to Berlin.
King’s role came to light when files were released by the National Archives. He repeatedly duped traitors into giving him secret information.
Mingling with fascists was laden with danger when a person pretended to be someone else. It could have gone wrong, said Stephen Twigge, a National Archives historian. His documents reveal that King was really Eric Arthur Roberts, a bank officer who had no specialized training.
Twigge said his work averted a possible ‘fifth column’ that could have injured Britain’s war work.
The files illustrate Roberts had an unglamorous but solid career at Westminster Bank when the Security Services came calling in 1940. He disappeared then re-emerged as Jack King.
In a report dated 1942, he told of a meeting with a woman along England’s southern coast in the Brighton area. He said her friendly attitude made King believe she would turn against her country. Within the hour, however, she turned over military secrets.
The files also have new information concerning the life of a German World War I spy, Franz von Rintelen, who is assumed to have established the group responsible for blowing up a munitions depot in 1916 on Black Tom Island in New York’s harbor.
Ritelen was dispatched to the city in 1915 to supervise sabotage efforts against supply shipments to Russia and Europe. He was arrested in England, the same year, following a message transferring him back to Germany. Following America’s entry into the war, he was sent back to the U.S. for trial and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
With the Nazis in power, Rintelen, now hurting financially, volunteered his services to Hitler. He assumed his former superior in New York, Franz von Papen, had betrayed him. Intercepted messages from Rintelen to Hitler’s propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels, encouraging him to kill von Papen, The Japan Times reported.
Rintelen was interned from 1940 to 1945. After his release, he was employed as an odd-job man and gardener until 1949 when he died.