Richard Sorge Biography
Died At Age: 49
Sun Sign: Libra
Born in: SabunÃ§u, Baku
Famous as: Soviet Military Intelligence Officer
Spouse/Ex-: Christiane, married Yekaterina Maximova (Katya)
father: Wilhelm Richard Sorge
mother: Nina Semionovna Kobieleva
place of death: Tokyo
Cause of Death: Execution
education: University of Hamburg
Richard Sorge was a military intelligence officer of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. He worked as an undercover German journalist in Nazi Germany as well as the Empire of Japan. Codenamed as â€˜Ramsayâ€™, he was quite effective prior to â€˜World War IIâ€™ and was also successful in creating an espionage network in Tokyo during the war. One of his most significant acts of espionage was furnishing information to the Soviet Union regarding an attack planned by Adolf Hitler. He conveyed to the Soviet Union during September 1941 that Japan was not planning an attack on the Soviets. This helped the Soviets to relocate their divisions from Far East to the Western Front to combat Nazi Germany during the crucial â€˜Battle of Moscowâ€™. He was imprisoned in Japan and after repudiation by the USSR and denial by â€˜Abwehrâ€™, a German military intelligence, as their agent, he faced torture, trial and was finally hanged in November 1944. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, saw a French film, â€˜Who are you, Mr Sorge?â€™ in 1963 and verified the story of Sorge with the â€˜KGBâ€™. Thereafter in 1964, after a gap of two decades, Sorge was posthumously conferred â€˜Hero of the Soviet Unionâ€™.
- He was born on October 4, 1895, in Sabunchi, a suburb of Baku (at that time a part of the Russian Empire), to Wilhelm Richard Sorge and Nina Semionovna Kobieleva as the youngest of their nine children.
- His father was a German while his mother was a Russian. He worked with the â€˜Caucasian Oil Companyâ€™ as a mining engineer. After his fatherâ€™s contract expired, the family moved to Germany where he was brought up in a cosmopolitan upper middle class household.
- He joined the German Army in October 1914, following the outbreak of â€˜First World Warâ€™ on July 28, 1914. He was posted in the â€˜3rd Guards Corpsâ€™ at a field artillery battalion. He was 18 at that time.
- In March 1916, he got badly injured when three of his fingers were cut off by shrapnel while serving the Western Front. The incident also broke his legs that caused permanent damage making him limp throughout his life. He became a corporal after a promotion and was awarded the â€˜Iron Crossâ€™.
- While recovering from injury he got involved in a relationship with a nurse. Greatly motivated by her father, Sorge went through the works of Marx and turned a Communist.
- After his recovery, he studied economics in Hamburg, Berlin and Kiel universities. In August 1919, he obtained a Dr. rer. pol. (doctorate in political science) from Hamburg University.
- He later joined the â€˜Communist Party of Germanyâ€™ and participated in different Leftist agitations. He worked as a teacher for a while and also served a coal mine, but lost both his jobs due to his political views.
- He moved to the Soviet Union and joined the â€˜Cominternâ€™ in Moscow as a junior agent.
- The Soviet intelligence inducted him as an agent and Sorge visited many European nations as a journalist to examine possibilities of communist revolutions.
- In 1922 after relocating to Frankfurt, he was delegated to collect intelligence regarding the business community.
- In 1923 he participated in the â€˜Erste Marxistische Arbeitswocheâ€™, a Marxist conference in Ilmenau in Thuringia, Germany. While working as a journalist, he helped in setting up library of the â€˜Institute for Social Researchâ€™.
- Officially he was inducted in the Cominternâ€™s â€˜International Liaison Departmentâ€™ in 1924 after he relocated to Moscow.
- In 1929 he became associated with the â€˜Fourth Departmentâ€™ of the â€˜Red Armyâ€™ and continued the association throughout his life.
- In 1929, he visited the UK to covertly observe the position of the â€˜Communist Party of Great Britainâ€™, the economic and political scenario of the country and also the labour movement there.
- As per instruction, he went to Germany in November 1929 and joined the â€˜Nazi Partyâ€™. He took a cover job in â€˜Deutsche Getreide-Zeitungâ€™, an agricultural newspaper and as ordered kept away from left-wing activists.
- He relocated to Shanghai, China, in1930 where he took a cover job of an editor in a German news service. His job allowed him to travel across the country and that helped him to contact several â€˜Chinese Communist Partyâ€™ members.
- His reporting in January 1932 included the clash of the Chinese and Japanese forces in Shanghai streets. In December 1932 he went back to Moscow and there he penned down a book on Chinese agriculture.
- As instructed by the â€˜GRUâ€™ in May 1933, Sorge, codenamed as â€˜Ramsayâ€™, was asked to visit Japan with the objective of setting up an intelligence ring there. In this pursuit, he first travelled to Berlin, Germany, to revive his contacts there.
- He obtained assignments from newspapers â€˜TÃ¤gliche Rundschauâ€™ and â€˜Berliner BÃ¶rsen Zeitungâ€™, â€˜Geopolitikâ€™, a Nazi journal and also from â€˜Frankfurter Zeitungâ€™ so as to get cover as a reporter to visit Japan. In August 1933 he finally went to Japan.
- On September 6, 1933, he reached Yokohama. As ordered he refrained from any link with either the Soviet Embassy or the â€˜Japanese Communist Partyâ€™.
- The intelligence ring of Sorge in Japan included Max Clausen, Branko VukeliÄ‡, Hotsumi Ozaki and Miyagi Yotoku among others. Anna, wife of Clausen often worked as a messenger within the network.
- He successfully created a ring of informers in Japan during 1933 to 1934, who were in touch with senior Japanese politicians. This helped him in getting Japanâ€™s foreign policy information. One of his agents, Ozaki, who developed association with the then Prime minister of Japan, Fumimaro Konoe, was able to copy classifieds for him.
- To avoid a possible risk of imprisonment and execution during the â€˜Great Purgeâ€™ in 1937, Sorge defied the instruction of Stalin and returned to the Soviet Union.
- He informed the Soviet intelligence regarding the â€˜German-Japanese Pactâ€™ and the â€˜Anti-Comintern Pactâ€™.
- According to a Soviet press report in 1964, Sorge on June 15, 1941, informed the Soviets through a radio dispatch that the â€˜Operation Barbarossaâ€™, a forthcoming attack on USSR by the â€˜Axisâ€™ powers, will commence on June 22.
- On September 14, 1941, Sorge informed the â€˜Red Armyâ€™ that Japan was not planning an attack on the Soviets. This probably helped the Soviets to relocate their troops from Far East to the Western Front to combat Nazi Germany during the crucial â€˜Battle of Moscowâ€™ that resulted in the first strategic defeat of the Germans.
- Around 1941, Sorge came under suspicion of the Germans and on October 18, 1941, he was captured by the Japanese police in Tokyo and confined at the â€˜Sugamo Prisonâ€™. At first the Japanese suspected him as an â€˜Abwehrâ€™ agent, due to his German association.
- After denial by the â€˜Abwehrâ€™, Sorge admitted being a Soviet agent. However, when the Soviets denied his claim and refused to exchange him with a Japanese spy, Sorge was hanged to death on November 7, 1944.
- He was interred in the graveyard of the â€˜Sugamo Prisonâ€™ and later his remains were shifted to FuchÅ«, Tokyoâ€™s â€˜Tama Cemeteryâ€™.
- In May 1921, he married Christiane, but the couple divorced after a few years.
- He later married Yekaterina Maximova ("Katya").
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