The Secret Front

Title:                      The Secret Front

Author:                  Wilhelm Hoettl

Hoettl, Wilhelm (1954). The Secret Front: The Story of Nazi Political Espionage. New York: Praeger

LCCN:    54006645

DD256.5 .H563


Date Updated:  September 24, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Hoettl’s intention was to tell something of those activities of the German service, the SD, that he felt affected the course of events. These were primarily in covert action rather than in collection of intelligence. His purpose, he informs us, is not to unveil the technical workings of a secret service. Hoettl served for seven years in the SD as an expert on central, southern, and southeastern Europe. Among his foreign assignments were Zagreb, chief of the SD advisory section for Italy, and senior SD officer in Yugoslavia. No sources, notes, or documentary supports ate presented. Hoettl tells of SD operations in Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Rumania. He gives his version of the Tukhachevsky affair (he wonders who was fooling whom in this tale of German and Soviet intrigue) and treats the reader to valuable character sketches of leading SD, SS, and Nazi figures he knew. We find the claim that at one point the Germans were reading Allen Dulles’s traffic from Switzerland. Hoettl does not tell much about his own operations against the Allies. Whatever else he did does not equal in importance his role as the intermediary of the SD to the OSS in peace feelers in the later stages of the war. He provides special insights into SD motives for contacts with the Allies. Though Hoettl speaks from first-hand knowledge or with an insider’s awareness of many events (and thus must be treated seriously as a source), the reader must still be on the lookout for sporadic unsound judgments, such as his opinion that the Abwehr had attained heights of proficiency or his suspicions about the Venlo kidnapping. One British reviewer commented that he often fails to distinguish between first-hand information and conjecture based on the unverified observations of others. The book was first published in Austria under the pseudonym Walter Hagen. For Hoettl’s role in the SD, see Dulles’ The Secret Surrender[2] and Bradley Smith and Elena Agarossi’s Operation Sunrise[3]. Sweet-Escott’s Baker Street Irregular[4] speaks of a number of inaccuracies in this book.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

The original German edition, Die Geheime Front: Organisation, Personen, Und Aktionen Des Deutschen Geheimdienstes. {Zurich: Europa-Verlag, 1950), was published under the pseudonym Walter Hagen. The book contains an account of the organization and evolution of the Foreign Intelligence Service (Sicherheitsdienst [SD]) of the Nazi party. Emphasized is the work of the SD in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary during World War II. The author was an Austrian intelligence officer who, after 1938, joined the SD and worked in the Berlin headquarters and in Italy and the Balkans.

[1] George C. Constantinides in Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (1983), pp. 238-239

[2] Dulles, Allen W. (1966). The Secret Surrender. New York: Harper and Row. [London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967].

[3] Smith, Bradley F. (1979) and Elena Agarossi. Operation Sunrise: The Secret Surrender. New York: Basic Books

[4] Sweet-Escott, Bickham (1965). Baker Street Irregular. London: Methuen

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 25-26


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