Radio games

   A critical ingredient in the Soviet counterintelligence victory over the Germans in World War II was its use of Radio igra, or “radio games” (Funkspiel in German). The Soviet intelligence services created fictitious German spy rings, often using captured and turned German agents who were placed in contact with German intelligence to feed the enemy misinformation. Smersh and the NKGB ran 183 operations involving fictitious agents, many of whom deceived German intelligence and operational staffs at key moments of the war.
   In the most famous game, codenamed “Monastery,” the Soviets allowed their principal agent, Aleksandr Demyanov, to be captured and then recruited by the German military intelligence, who then parachuted him into Soviet occupied territory to act as their agent. Demyanov, under Soviet control and operating with the alias “Max,” then created a fictional political resistance movement in Moscow and provided the German armed forces with false and misleading information for years. At critical moments before the battles of Stalingrad, Kursk, and the June 1944 Red Army offensive in Byelorussia, Monastery provided misleading “feed” material generated by the Soviet general staff as part of strategic deception. German military intelligence never realized that it had been deceived. In books written by German military intelligence veterans after the war, “Max” is cited as an important and verified source.
   Moscow began another radio game in the summer of 1944 to convince German intelligence that a major Wehrmacht command, under Colonel Scherhorn, had survived the Soviet offensive and was operating independently in the forests of eastern Poland. Scherhorn had been recruited by Smersh after his capture and convincingly played the role, pleading for assistance from Berlin. Demyanov (Max) was then used by Moscow to confirm the force’s existence and resistance. Berlin believed this information and in the course of the war dropped 13 radio sets, 225 cargo packs, and 25 German staff officers to aid Scherhorn. Adolf Hitler maintained a personnel interest in the fate of Scherhorn, who was promoted and decorated by Berlin in the last days of the Third Reich. The deception lasted to the very end of the war. Soviet participants were decorated; Scherhorn was released from captivity in 1949 and returned to Germany.
   The MGB ran similar radio games with Western intelligence services and émigré movements following the war. In Poland the MGB and its Polish colleagues took control of a resistance movement and enticed Western governments to provide it with financial support. The deception continued until a senior Polish intelligence officer defected to the West. As was the case with the radio games in World War II, the Soviet services showed great sophistication in their understanding of their adversaries.
   See also Maskirovka.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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