Declassified dossier reveals prized German spy

LONDON — She was thought to be one of Germany’s prized secret agents, described as beautiful and languid and capable of infiltrating an enemy camp, obtaining secret plans of attack, and then delivering them to her bosses.

LONDON — She was thought to be one of Germany’s prized secret agents, described as beautiful and languid and capable of infiltrating an enemy camp, obtaining secret plans of attack, and then delivering them to her bosses.

A former ballerina, Marina Lee was said to have naturally light blonde hair and to speak several languages, and a page in her security service dossier made note of intelligence passed on by the French: Very nice legs.

The intelligence on Lee — plus other aliases she was believed to possess — are part of a cache of files from Britain’s MI5, Britain’s domestic spy agency, released Thursday by the National Archives.

Along with detailing the World War II activities of alleged spies, the files document the efforts of the intelligence community to unpick the activities of the German conglomerate Siemens and determine the loyalty of the company’s employees.

In a file called the “Siemens-Halske-Schukert Combine,” British agents are reminded of a 1936 law that said “every German man and woman must render service to the Fatherland in time of war and that Germans who live abroad, including those of dual nationality, are bound to serve when called up.”

Operatives were asked to look into the company’s employees in far-flung locales such as Iran, India, Iceland and Chile, while others were sent to interrogate local citizens who’d come into contact with characters deemed suspicious.

Those interviews didn’t always go smoothly: A woman with a weak heart, interviewed in England by MI5 about a German houseguest who worked for Siemens — and who was believed to be an enemy agent — kept bursting into tears.

It turned out, the investigator reported back to London, that the woman knew nothing of her guest’s activities, which was likely a good thing because “she would probably be dead from a heart attack in any case if she knew he had.”

There are 170 files in Thursday’s release. So far, nearly 4,500 British security service files have been placed in the archives in Kew, in west London. They are open for the public to view, and some are available online.

This batch of declassified files also include a dossier on Wolf Mankowitz, who wrote the screenplay for the first film incarnation of the James Bond classic “Casino Royale.” MI5 was worried he might be a communist agent, even though the file contains a report from his commanding officer, who said he observed Mankowitz during his time in the army — and wasn’t worried.

“Even if he possesses communist views I do not think he has the personality or strength of character to pass them on to his fellow soldiers,” the report said. “There is no evidence that he has attempted to air these views whilst with this unit.”

The security service got nervous again in the mid-1950s, when Mankowitz headed to Moscow for a visit to the World Youth Fair, and returned proclaiming that he’d like to set up a British-Soviet film project. Their interest dwindled, however, by 1958, and his file was closed.

Previously released files have revealed that MI5 was concerned about Hitler Youth cycling around Britain, warning they could be spies. Others have shown that MI5 hired an astrologer to try and match the forecasts given to Adolf Hitler by his personal astrologers.

The dossier on Lee, which contains unconfirmed reports on her activities, reads like the outline of a spy novel. She was believed to have been born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then to have trained as a ballerina. She fled Russia when her parents were killed by the Bolsheviks, eventually marrying a Norwegian. There’s no photograph of her in the file, but her beauty is described in glowing terms.

One report details the debriefing a captured German agent called Gerth Van Wijk gave the secret service. He told them a story another agent called “von Finckenstein” had passed on about Lee.

He said a German commander, Gen. Eduard Dietl, was facing defeat and retreat near the Norwegian port of Norvik in 1940. But according to the dossier, Lee was able to infiltrate the headquarters of British Gen. Sir Claude Auchinleck.

“She returned to Dietl and with the information she had obtained he was able to adjust his position and defeat Auchinleck,” the dossier says. “Finckenstein described her as blond, tall, with a beautiful figure, refined and languid in manner.”

Lee was believed to have moved on to Spain, and the dossier includes a 1947 alert warning police and border agents that her arrival in Britain “should be reported to MI5 immediately.” But the file contains no further reports on Lee, and her file was closed in 1960.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

People cheer after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

This photo provided by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office shows Ruben Flores, 80, who was arrested in connection to the murder of college student Kristin Smart at his Arroyo Grande home on Tuesday, April 12, 2021. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the arrest warrants for Ruben Flores and his son Paul Flores were issued after a search of the elder Flores' home last month using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs. He said evidence was found linked to the killing of Smart but they had not yet located her body. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Document: Kristin Smart once buried in suspect’s backyard

Document: Kristin Smart once buried in suspect’s backyard

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read instructions to the jury before closing arguments, Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death

Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death

This undated image provided by Matthew Pottage shows drought-tolerant succulents in a window box in London. (Matthew Pottage via AP)
Going beyond the traditional window-box garden

Going beyond the traditional window-box garden

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. Female service members and veterans are blasting the way Canada's military police investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joined virtually by Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland as they talk online to a group of front-line pharmacists from across the country to discuss the ongoing vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID‑19, from the Prime Ministers office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Freeland says Liberals open to provincial child care demands, draws line around fees

Freeland says Liberals open to provincial child care demands, draws line around fees

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Trudeau, Freeland seeking AstraZeneca shots as they become age-eligible with others

Trudeau, Freeland seeking AstraZeneca shots as they become age-eligible with others

Most Read