The Curious Case of Colonel Redl

Brilliant career

Alfred Redl was born in 1864 in Lemberg, now Lviv, which at that time belonged to the Austrian Empire. Redl spoke German at home, but he knew Polish, Ukrainian, and even Russian — which probably played a significant role in his future espionage career. His family was not rich, but he still managed to get an excellent education in a military school, enlist in the army, and then get into a higher military school, where they trained officers of the General Staff. For a while Redl lived in Kazan, where he studied Russian. It was after this that he became an intelligence officer in Evidenzburo. Career went uphill - he became head of the department, and in 1912 headed the headquarters of the VII Army Corps in Prague. About him spoke like this: "... cunning, closed, attentive and obligatory, with a good memory ... sweet, soft, gentle speech ... more cunning and fake than clever and talented."

Double spy

Who and when recruited Redl in Russia is hard to say for sure. Romeiko-Gurko, a former Russian agent in Switzerland, recalled that the Consul in Lviv Matushkin had a hand in this. However, a man with that name never served there. Historians suggest that Redl began spying in 1907, because it was in that year that considerable sums began to come into his account regularly. Most likely, he collaborated not only with the Russians, but also with the Italians.

Alfred Redl with Baron Ghisl /

Hidden motives

It is believed that Redl agreed to serve Russian for a reason. First, he was afraid that his homosexual inclinations would become known to the public. At that time, one could be imprisoned for sodomy, not to mention the loss of work and general contempt. A double agent could get good money, and the maintenance of lovers demanded from Redl large costs. In addition, he was afraid that the fact of his illness would emerge - Redl had been treated for syphilis for a long time, but as it turned out, he could not overcome the illness. Some historians claim that homosexual relations were not at all something unusual in the Austrian Empire, and many officers did not hide their orientation.

Spy disclosure

The story of Redl's failure resembles a chain of surprising coincidences, as a result of which one of the most successful double agents was uncovered. His colleagues recalled that in 1913, the Austrian Post drew attention to the strange envelopes with money, which regularly came to Vienna in the name of a certain Niettas. Sent them from the German town near the Russian border. Germany and Austria-Hungary decided to trace where the money and notes come from, and at the same time find out who this mysterious recipient is.

Redl spoke German, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian

Of course, he turned out to be Redl, whom intelligence agents caught due to sheer luck - and the bad luck of the spy. False Nycetas forgot a penknife in a taxi, which is why he had to return to the post office. So agents tracked Redl and came to him at the hotel. Exposed spy tried to rely, but soon gave up and told everything. A few hours later, he committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol.

Mysterious story

Historians are still arguing whether the cause of Redl's suicide was really the fear of revealing his orientation. Redl's lover Stefan Horinka considered himself guilty of his death - according to him, a few hours before the fatal shot, he was at the spy and declared that he had to break with him. Horinka was going to marry a woman who was pregnant by him. By the way, he was convicted of sodomy and sent to prison for three months.

Frame from the film "Colonel Redl" /

The clues that allegedly exposed Redl as a double spy also raise questions. It may have been used to hide information leaks from another agent that could not be disclosed. There is another version - perhaps the real spy was found after all, but he turned out to be connected with influential persons who did not want to implant themselves in a dubious story.

Redl was afraid that his homosexual relationships would be revealed at the trial.

And the story really came out unpleasant - somehow the information about Redl fell into the hands of journalists, and the newspapers in Vienna raised a fuss. The scandal was incredible. It is not surprising that after Redl became the hero of numerous films - after all, such a plot cannot be thought up on purpose.


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