A Patriot for Whom? Colonel Redl and a question of Identity

Alan Sked looks at the sensational leaking of Austrian military secrets to Russia on the eve of the First World War.

In April 1913 a letter arrived at the Main Post Office in Vienna's Fleischmarkt addressed poste-restante to a Mr Nikon Nizetas. It was postmarked Eydtkunen, a German provincial town near the Russian border. After remaining for the maximum period allowed, it was returned to Eydtkunen and thence to Berlin to be returned to the sender. When it was opened, however, it aroused suspicion: it contained no less than 6,000 Austrian Kronen (today worth about £8,000) and the address of the sender was in Geneva. The letter was therefore passed on to German intelligence who traced the address to a retired French officer who was active in espionage. The Austrians too, were immediately informed and the man who took charge of investigations in Vienna was the head of military counter-intelligence there, Major Max Ronge. He had occupied the post for almost a year, having taken over from Colonel Alfred Redl, who had been temporarily reassigned to active duties as Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army Corps in Prague.

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