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Nazi letter to Soviet wartime agent found in Japan

11 Comments

A birthday letter from a Nazi foreign minister to a legendary spy credited with helping turn the tide of Germany's advance on Moscow has been found in Tokyo, a book dealer said Tuesday.

Unknown to Adolf Hitler's regime, Richard Sorge accurately forewarned his Soviet paymasters that the Nazis were preparing to tear up a non-aggression pact and march into western Russia.

Under his cover as a journalist and press attache to the German embassy, Sorge ran a spy ring in pre-war Tokyo, reporting to Moscow what both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were planning.

Historians say the 1938 letter from Joachim von Ribbentrop, marking Sorge's 43rd birthday and praising his "outstanding contribution" to the embassy in Tokyo, underlines how trusted he was by the Germans -- and therefore how valuable he was to the Soviets.

"The letter comes from pre-World War II time. It is interesting in that it allows you to surmise" the Nazis' trust in Sorge, said Yoshio Okudaira, who works at antique book dealer Tamura Shoten in Tokyo's Jimbocho district.

The letter came with a signed photograph of Ribbentrop, who was Hitler's foreign minister from 1938 until 1945.

Although Sorge was a German national and a Nazi party member, he spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union and was a committed communist who later began spying for Moscow.

In 1933, at the Soviets' behest, he moved to Japan as a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung.

Known for his womanising and heavy drinking, Sorge was also a keen political observer whose insights brought him respect, and ultimately, high-level access inside the German embassy.

He became a personal aide to German ambassador Eugen Ott, a position that gave him an excellent vantage point on Nazi policymaking, and made him privy to vital information about the German war machine.

It was there that he learned of Hitler's intention to unilaterally revoke the non-aggression pact with Moscow and invade the Soviet Union from the west.

While the Soviets did not fully believe this intelligence at the time, they did act when Sorge told them he had learned Japan did not intend to invade Russia from the east, preferring to concentrate on winning territory in resource-rich Southeast Asia.

This vital information allowed Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to reposition vast military resources from the far east to the west, helping to turn back the advancing German army in late 1941.

Okudaira said this snapshot of history came as part of a bundle of Nazi-related documents brought in by a customer who was disposing of a dead relative's collection.

"I thought, 'Here is interesting stuff,'" Okudaira told AFP, adding that the customer did not know the nature of the letter.

Okudaira said the letter and photograph would be auctioned off, although he cautioned that they were written by Ribbentrop's secretary, making them relatively ordinary administrative documents.

Sorge's spy ring was broken up by the Japanese authorities. He was disavowed by the Soviets and hanged by Japan in 1944, although posthumously rehabilitated by post-Stalin Russia.

© (c) AFP 2015

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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And that is one of the reasons Japan lost the war. If they attacked the USSR, things may have different. But the IA was afraid of the USSR army. But tactically, Germany could have won if Japan joined them. After all, the Germans got into Moscow and Stalingrad. If the USSR army had to divert some of it's forces to fight Japan..... It was also failure of intelligence on multiple levels for Japan to have started a war with the US. It showed that the J-gov had no clue except for those who objected.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

No its not MacArthur's "fault". US policy was based on the need to keep Japan intact and nurture it as an ally against the ever present Communist Threat. Same thing would have happened in Germany if the Soviet Red Army hadn't over run over half of Germany.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It was stupid of Japan to execute Sorge. You don't execute spies since they can be handy to have. But Japan never had any good spies. The Kempeitai were not too brutal even to it's own citizens and useless unlike the SS. Sorge may have the greatest spy in history.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

> But tactically, Germany could have won if Japan joined them. Given that the Ribbentrop - Molotov pact didn't last, I wonder how long they'd (Germany- Japan) have tolerated each other given their then rapaciousness and puffed-up egos. We'd eventually have witnessed a real mother of all battles between the two.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Great book about this by the late Professor Chamlers Johnson, of UCLA Berkeley. Seem to remember the title was an "Instance of Treason" (its somewhere among my books). Sorge was a very interesting and very troubled individual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And that is one of the reasons Japan lost the war. If they attacked the USSR, things may have different

If they had not lost the battle of Khalkin Gol in 1939 (against the Soviets) well they'd have likely still been at war with Russia. That defeat at the hands of Zhukov is what turned them towards Pearl Harbour

0 ( +2 / -2 )

ka_chanMAY. 20, 2015

WRONG! Japan had spies in Hawaii before the bombing of Peral Harbor!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Chris Glen. The drubbing at Khalkin made them think again. These "warriors" specialize in sneak attacks. Warriors with absolutely no code of honor.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ka_chan And that is one of the reasons Japan lost the war. If they attacked the USSR, things may have different.

May be.

But first - Russian Navy was much more weak than JIN in 1941. Just no competitor.

BUT Russian Army was much more stronger and up-to-date than Japanese.

Russian unlike Japan had modern tanks modern artillery. And even having Wehrmacht as main enemy Russia can fight successfully on the land against Japanese Army.

By the way at that time there are almost no roads at all at Russian Far East . There terrain itself good for defence and not for attack.

Second in Autumn 1941 Japanese Empire badly need oil . For example from Indonesia. But not from Russian Far East (no oil)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But first - Russian Navy was much more weak than JIN in 1941. Just no competitor.

That's because Russia has always been at a disadvantage geographically. There were 3 ports (warm water) where they could operate a navy: One in the Baltic, one at Odessa, and one at Vladivostok. Making it impossible for them to concentrate their navy at any one point. There is no doubt that lack of oil in the Russian far east played its part in preventing Japan from renewing hostilities, but the bloody nose they received at Khalkin Gol undoubtedly tipped the balance

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Christopher Glen But first - Russian Navy was much more weak than JIN in 1941. Just no competitor. That's because Russia has always been at a disadvantage geographically. There were 3 ports (warm water) where they could operate a navy: One in the Baltic, one at Odessa, and one at Vladivostok. Making it impossible for them to concentrate their navy at any one point.

Whole Russian Navy in 1941 was much more weaker than Japanese, Russian battleships -3 were old and week Cruisers - only 9 !!

Just compare with IJN !!! Russia of Czars had weak heavy industry and can't build MODERN battleships and heavy cruisers. Than Revolution 1917 , Civil War...

And modern Navy - it's VERY expensive and very difficult to build.

But of course Russian Navy historically has other tasks than British or Spanish

Russia never has colonies and unlike Germany never pretend to control world trade.

So Josef Stalin has built lot of tanks planes and artilleries, some submarines (coastal type)

but no lot of heavy ships - Japan had big modern Navy but weak Army - and this is also a wise decision

There is no doubt that lack of oil in the Russian far east played its part in preventing Japan from renewing hostilities, but the bloody nose they received at Khalkin Gol undoubtedly tipped the balance

Yes it was so

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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