By Bethany Scard
When you are faced with life or death, do you do everything you can to survive, or do you go to your grave with your principles intact? Many people faced that decision through the Second World War under the Nazi regime, including Stella Kubler.
Ms Kubler worked for the Gestapo during the war as a ‘catcher’, or ‘grabber’. This role involved locating Jews that were living illegally having torn off their Star of David so they couldn’t be identified. The interesting thing was, Stella Kubler was also a Jew. She had been brutally tortured by the Gestapo until she gave in and began to work for them instead. Working for the very people that were killing the people of her faith.
Ms Kubler is down in history as a traitor, a woman who sold out and helped the Gestapo kill over a thousand of her own people just to save her own life. But if you were in a similar situation, would you not have done the same thing? To ensure your own survival at any cost?
This was just one of the people Dr Claire Hubbard-Hall introduced us to at her talk on Monday 3 March about the Gestapo Spy Network. With such an interesting topic you can understand why this lecture had the largest number of people so far attending for an Historical Association talk this year.
Dr Hubbard-Hall was one of the first to fly over to America to analyse the files that were released by Clinton in 1998 in the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. Combing through all this material provided much of the research she needed for her book, including a great deal of information on Heinrich Himmler, the main architect of the Holocaust. She explained that she has carried a lot of this research throughout her career and will be included in her book she is half-way through writing. (Watch the shelves for this!)
One idea she explained was about a pendulum. On one side, there is the belief that there was a totalitarian dictatorship that scared the German population into doing what the Third Reich told them to: “Eyes to see everywhere, and hand to seize anyone” as General R. A Rudenko used to describe the Gestapo.
On the other side, there is an argument that the people of Germany policed themselves. That a spy on every corner wasn’t needed because they were willing to act as spies to themselves to try and get ahead. Or at least to get some protection.
However, when it comes down to which argument is strongest, both are needed. The German people couldn’t be relied upon to police themselves entirely, agents were needed to make sure no one was hiding anything.
Dr Hubbard-Hall told us about two women that worked as spies for the Gestapo, one being Stella as mentioned. The other was Carmen Mory who was of Swiss nationality. Because of her neutral position in the war, or her country’s neutral position at least, she was able to talk to many countries’ representatives while at social events in her elite position in life.
There could be worse jobs than having to go to parties and talk to world leaders I guess.
However, the fate of Ms Mory was not pleasant, she was arrested in France and turned into a spy for them. However, when Germany invaded France, she returned to the German side again but this time working as a Capo in the concentration camps. She was apparently very sadistic and faced her punishment at the trials after Germany lost the war. But before facing her punishment, she took her own life.
The Gestapo Spy network, according to Dr Hubbard-Hall, was quite simplistic and the Gestapo Informer Code System could be easily broken. For example, the code 01 | G | 127. The 01 is the location the informer is in, the letter is the position they hold and then 127 is the number of that particular person.
I don’t think it would need the Enigma machine to crack this code.
The majority of informers were men, around 90% in fact. Luckily, Dr Hubbard-Hall told us about these two interesting women instead. The men were often engrained within the fabric of society, they were dentists and barbers, doctors and inn keepers. The people that can hear a lot from a lot of people without them realising.
Thank you Dr Claire Hubbard-Hall for such an interesting lecture, and if anyone is interested in her research or hearing more from her you can visit her website at: www.spyhistory.co.uk
Or follow her on twitter: @spyhistory