It all began as an insignificant legal action in October 1950, when a woman named Elly von Hake, a resident of West Berlin, filed a civil action against Hans Kemritz, a practicing German lawyer living in Bad Homburg. Frau von Hake was claiming damages from Kemritz relating to the death of her husband, Hans-Juergen von Hake.
At first, this appeared to be nothing of great importance. After all, it was 1950, and the events Frau von Hake referred to in her suit had occurred years earlier. More importantly, the relations between the United States and West Germany were on the level of a friendship alliance about to embark on a common defense strategy. Certainly, no one could have predicted that an obscure civil legal action filed in a Berlin Assize court would soon represent a threat so serious that it would shake the very foundations of the German-American relationship.
According to Frau von Hake, her husband did not return from a visit to Hans Kemritz’s East Berlin law office on the morning of March 14, 1946. In a sworn statement to the Berlin court, Frau Von Hake said that her husband simply vanished. After a vain effort to secure information from city authorities and Kemritz, she heard nothing until a letter arrived in April. Bearing a Berlin postmark, the letter was from her husband. He wrote that he had been judged guilty of spying by a Soviet military tribunal and was serving a ten-year prison sentence.1
Shortly after the arrival of von Hake’s letter, his wife was contacted