New East Digital Archive

German postwar movie icon exposed as Soviet spy?

21 February 2017

After the declassification of top secret intelligence documents, it has been revealed that one of Germany’s most popular film stars of the Nazi and postwar eras may have been a Soviet spy. Marika Rökk (d. 2004) starred in close to 40 films during her lifetime, but was reportedly passing secrets to Moscow from the 1940s.

Having been born in Egypt in 1913 to Hungarian parents and spent her childhood in Budapest, Rökk shot to fame in 1935 for her role in operetta Leichte Kavallerie (Light Cavalry), primed by the regime as homegrown talent to compete with the likes of Hollywood.

Suspicions were raised in 1951 by Gehlen — West Germany’s intelligence organisation and the forerunner of Germany’s contemporary BND intelligence service — regarding the actress’s role as a Soviet spy. The file, published by German tabloid Bild, has only just been released, after being classified top secret for 50 years.

The newly published file suggests that Rökk was part of an underground network called Krona, for which she was recruited as a KGB agent by her manager, Heinz Hoffmeister. This underground ring passed on high-level military intelligence, including plans for Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Kursk.

According to Gehlen intelligence, Rökk’s 1951 announcement that she was retiring from her acting career after 16 years was simply a “clever chess-move cover” to enable the actress to continue her spying role.

The Telegraph reports, however, that the declassified documents do not in themselves contain any evidence to back up Gehlen’s suspicions.

Source: The Guardian and The Telegraph