On This Day — Russia Spy Richard Sorge Arrested in Tokyo (October 18 1941)

“Richard Sorge’s brilliant espionage work saved Stalin and the Soviet Union from defeat in the fall of 1941, probably prevented a Nazi victory in World War II and thereby assured the dimensions of the world we live in today.”

Larry Collins

“The spies in history who can say from their graves, the information I supplied to my masters, for better or worse, altered the history of our planet, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Richard Sorge was in that group.”

Frederick Forsyth

“Somehow, amidst the Bonds and Smiley’s People, we have ignored the greatest of 20th century spy stories – that of Stalin’s Sorge, whose exploits helped change history.”

US Journalist Carl Bernstein

“The (Richard Sorge secret) documents clearly indicate and give a warning about the fact that state institutions tend to hide facts in critical occasions.”

Naoki Ota — Sorge Incident specialist and a professor emeritus of Tokai University (August 2018)

On October 18, 1941, Richard Sorge was arrested in Tokyo. He was hanged on November 7 1944, at 10:20 Tokyo time in Sugamo Prison. A number of famous personalities — from General Douglas MacArthur to James Bond’s father and former MI6 Ian Fleming — considered him one of the most accomplished spies. Sorge is proof that one spy can alter the History of our world. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Richard Sorge (October 4, 1895 – November 7, 1944) was a Soviet military intelligence officer, active before and during World War II, working as an undercover German journalist in both Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. His codename was “Ramsay” (Russian: Рамза́й).

Many have dubbed Richard Sorge the “Stalin’s James Bond”. Even Ian Fleming regarded Sorge as the most formidable spy in history. Let us been honest. Not even the legendary James Bond is a match for Richard Sorge! No, not even for that…

“Historians, on the basis of the reports of Japanese and Nazi intelligence agencies, claim that Sorge, who was married three times (to a German Christina, Russian Catherine and Japanese Miyake), maintained steady contacts with 52 women in Japan.”

Soviet spy Richard Sorge: patriot and playboy (Dmitry Sudakov)

In the mass consciousness of Soviet citizens Richard Sorge became a hero, a scout, one of the first people who reported the data on the number of divisions of the Wehrmacht, concentrated in the summer of 1941 on the Russian border, and the date of the invasion and the general scheme of the plan “Operation Barbarossa”. For the critics of Stalin, he became another victim of the bloodthirsty generalissimo, who did not believe his “best scout.”

Richard Sorge was born in 1895. He was half German and half Russian. Despite his Russian mother, his mother tongue – Muttersprache was German. His father who worked in the oilfields of Baku, was a German nationalist, in the words of Sorge, pro-imperialist-minded. Richard studied at the Berlin school, volunteered to go to the front during World War I. He was severely wounded on the Western Front in both legs. He was awarded the title of an officer and the Iron Cross.

It was then when he developed an aversion to the bourgeois world cash.
After that he joined the revolutionary wing of the German proletariat. As an activist, he edited the paper of the German Communist Party. Since the inception of his party membership Sorge was increasingly drawn to the underground work. Probably his first contact with the functionaries of the Communist International took place in April of 1924, during the sessions of the Congress of illegal CNG.

Sorge also managed to earn a doctorate degree (rerum politicarum) in philosophy in social and economic sciences at the University of Hamburg. At the end of 1924 Sorge moved to Moscow and obtained Soviet citizenship, he worked in a number of Soviet institutions. According to some reports, in November of 1929, he was personally recruited by General Jan Berzin, the Intelligence.

Richard Sorge worked in military intelligence, the GRU. He reported the information received from a person close to the German ambassador in Tokyo. After the arrest of Sorge in Japan, the head of the Intelligence Directorate of the NKVD Fitin appealed to the General Secretary of the Communist International (ECCI), Georgi Dimitrov, with a question on how believable the reported information was. There was some glitch in the human resources department and Fitin’s response sent on January 23, 1942 was accompanied by a reference to Richard Sorge.

Sorge, under the protection of a journalist from Germany, headed a scout network in Shanghai, where he recruited his Japanese colleague, who later became one of his key informants. Young Marxist Hotsumi Ozaki came from a wealthy family and had connections in government circles of Japan. Sorge then returned to Moscow soon to depart for Japan. But first he had to go to the Third Reich.

In Germany Richard had a solid reputation of a true Aryan and sociable guy, a member of the Nazi party. The transition from the KPD to the Nazi Party, as well as vice versa, was then painless. In Moscow comrade Sorge was instructed by security chiefs, and in Berlin his dinner was hosted by Dr. Goebbels.
Despite the fact that some researchers say that Dr. Sorge’s deeds detract from the successes of Soviet interception service, even the opponents of the Soviet Union recognized his achievements.

In the case of Sorge researches refer to the decoded telegram to the Japanese military attaché in Moscow, Colonel General Staff Yukio Kasahara, sent more than two years before the arrival of the Soviet spy in Tokyo. There is also reference to some remarks of the Ambassador of Japan to the Soviet Union, uttered in a conversation with the Japanese general during a visit to Moscow. There is no dispute that interception plays an important role in the opposition intelligence services. Some people passionately want to erase the personal factor from the history, replacing it with gadgetry or dispassionate and analytical mind.
Dr. Sorge knew how to use all this. But he also had a passionate belief and genuine patriotism. His last words before his execution were: “Long live the Red Army! Long live the Soviet Union!”

Richard Sorge’s life path in the images of his contemporaries and successors is dotted with plenty of “white spots”. Some portray him as an intellectual of the highest order, endowed with an incomparable gift of analytical and strategic thinking. Others focus on his winding career path as a participant of the largest political events and intrigues of the 1920-30s.

And finally, we see a different Sorge – an extraordinarily lucky adventurer, a fierce ladies’ man who frequented the Tokyo red-light district, an avid biker chasing at breakneck speed on the Tokyo motorcycle “Tsundap” – a sort of James Bond, practicing secret agent. Historians, on the basis of the reports of Japanese and Nazi intelligence agencies, claim that Sorge, who was married three times (to a German Christina, Russian Catherine and Japanese Miyake), “maintained steady contacts” with 52 women in Japan.
All of these hypostases coexisted in one man.

In honor of Sorge the USSR and the GDR issued post stamps and named streets, schools and ships. (Igor Bukker – Pravda.Ru)

Classified Documents Released (August 2018)

In August 2018, the Mainichi Shimbun revealed that internal government documents indicate that the Japanese government tried to control media reporting of the “Sorge Incident”.

The documents indicate efforts by relevant government offices to try to cover up some aspects of the case that ran counter to their interests, and to trivialize the impact of the case by giving detailed instructions to newspapers not to cover the issue as top news.

The incident, which was first revealed by the Japanese government in May 1942, showed that Sorge, working undercover as a German embassy adviser, had access to the core of Japan’s governing structure and sent top-secret information about Japan to the Soviet Union. A total of 35 people were arrested in the incident, which is said to be the largest espionage case in Japan’s modern history.

Experts have emphasized the importance of the newly discovered internal documents, saying that perhaps this is the first time that the government’s intervention into the reporting of the incident has been shown in detail.

The documents were left by Taizo Ota (1903-1956), who headed the division 6 of the criminal bureau of the Ministry of Justice that investigated what were considered thought crimes before the end of World War II in Japan. They have been donated to the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room of the National Diet Library in central Tokyo.

The papers include guidance to the media from the Justice Ministry about the treatment of the incident when the government announced the roundup of the espionage ring on May 16, 1942, while Sorge and others were arrested in October the previous year.

The ministry specifically ordered newspapers not to run the story about the spy ring at the top of their front pages, not to use a headline larger than four-column length, and not to use pictures. It also prohibited the use of information other than that announced by the government, along with any mention of the fact that reporting on the case had been curbed by the government. Although the guidance was issued under the name of the Justice Ministry, opinions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were apparently reflected on the instructions.

Another document titled “Gaimusho hikoshiki iken” (Unofficial opinions of the foreign ministry), states that there should be no mention of the fact that one of the arrested suspects, Kinkazu Saionji, was commissioned to work for the ministry. In one more document titled “Daishin-in kenjikyoku iken” (Opinion of the prosecution bureau of the Supreme Court of Judicature), it was stated, “‘Important’ in the expression ‘important secret items’ apparently needs to be deleted.” These opinions were reflected in the announcement by the Justice Ministry.

(…)

The documents have been open to the public at the National Diet Library since the spring of this year.

Naoki Ota, a Sorge Incident specialist and a professor emeritus of Tokai University, commented that the documents perhaps represent the first time that detailed government control of newspapers over the incident’s coverage has been revealed. Ota pointed out that Kinkazu Saionji’s commission with the foreign ministry was deleted because the ministry wanted to evade responsibility over the case. “The documents clearly indicate and give a warning about the fact that state institutions tend to hide facts in critical occasions,” said Ota.

Quotes

“A devastating example of a brilliant success of espionage.” – Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army

“His work was impeccable.” – Kim Philby

“In my whole life, I have never met anyone as great as he was.” – Mitsusada Yoshikawa, Chief Prosecutor in the Sorge trials who obtained Sorge’s death sentence.

“Sorge was the man whom I regard as the most formidable spy in history.” – Ian Fleming

“Richard Sorge was the best spy of all time.” – Tom Clancy

“The spy who changed the world.” – Lance Morrow

“Somehow, amidst the Bonds and Smiley’s People, we have ignored the greatest of 20th century spy stories – that of Stalin’s Sorge, whose exploits helped change history.” – Carl Bernstein

“Stalin’s James Bond.” – Le Figaro

“Spy Sorge” trailer

Trailer for the Japanese movie Spy Sorge — about Soviet spy Richard Sorge, whose infiltration of the German embassy in Tokyo gave Stalin an ear to Axis plans through the 1930’s and into the first months of World War II.

REFERENCES

Richard Sorge — Wikipedia

Richard Sorge: Patriot, Playboy, Hero of Soviet Union — Real Clear History

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On This Day — Russia Spy Richard Sorge Arrested in Tokyo (October 18 1941)

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