Spying on Science: Western Intelligence in Divided Germany 1945-1961

By P. U. Maddrell | Go to book overview

7
The Inducement of Defection
THE SPEZIALISTENAKTIONEN AND THE PREVENTION OF
DEFECTION

Until the mid-1950s, the principal targets of induced defection operations were the scientists, engineers, and technicians deported to the Soviet Union in the years 1945–8 who were returned to their homeland between 1949 and 1958 in a series of transports which the SED officials who met them called the Spezialistenaktionen (Specialists Operations). The British targeted them in order to obtain intelligence on Soviet war-related research and development. The Americans were very keen to acquire intelligence too. However, since many of the returnees took up important positions in East German science and industry, and American policy was by now to induce the defection of key people, it is likely that the Americans brought them West to weaken DDR science and industry as well. Certainly, by 1952 the Americans were bringing many returnees West; the British were then trying to 'restrain them from a wholesale exploitation on mass production lines'.1

Until September 1950 they returned only in dribs and drabs. On 19 September 1950 the first great rail transport arrived at Frankfurt an der Oder.2 Those regarded as politically reliable tended to be sent back earlier than others; most were also required to sign an undertaking that they would reveal nothing of their work in the USSR.3 Most were sent back to East Germany (this reflected the Soviets' usual repatriation policy, which was to send Germans back to the places they came from). However, some were allowed a choice, chose West Germany, and were sent back there. This was true even of the most important groups of deportee. Some of the atomic returnees of 1955 were sent to the Federal Republic and Austria. So also were 28 members of the last group to be sent back home, the guided missile team known as the Hoch-Möller group. It had worked principally on remote-control and flight-stabilization problems connected with the development of a surface-to-air missile based on the Wasserfall. Its work resulted in an improved version of the Wasserfall, the R-113, which went into service in 1955.4

1 Evans to Turney, 10/11/1952, DEFE 41/16.

2Bericht, 21/9/1950, DY 30/IV 2/13/389, SAPMO-BA.

3 Uhl, Stalins V-2, 205–7; cf. STIB Interview Report No. 235 (Bernd von Bock), Annexe, 87,
DEFE 41/105.

4 Uhl, Stalins V-2, 207–8.

-176-

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