Skip to main content

Red Orchestra

Red Orchestra

The Red Orchestra was the name given to a network of communist, Soviet-affiliated spies during World War II. The group provided intelligence to the Soviet government, but also functioned as a resistance organization against the Nazis. During its three years in operation, the Red Orchestra smuggled key German secrets and documents to Allied forces, and rescued several political prisoners, mostly communist dissidents.

Leopold Trepper, a Polish-born Jew and communist activist, joined the Soviet Red Army Intelligence Service in the mid-1930s. He was later assigned to the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), a fledgling Soviet secret police and espionage agency. Before World War II began in Europe, Trepper established a network of communist sympathizers and leftist political activists. When the war began in 1939, Trepper turned his network into a spy ring, bent on gathering Nazi secrets and other intelligence useful to the Soviet army.

Trepper's network, the Red Orchestra, soon had operating divisions, or rings, in Nazi occupied France, Belgium, Holland, and neutral Switzerland. Each ring had varying successes. The French unit provided information to Resistance fighters and infiltrated several Nazi offices in Paris, stealing documents and radio equipment. Red Orchestra agents infiltrated the German military intelligence Abwehr headquarters in Paris and successfully tapped its phones. This permitted agents to intercept intelligence information transmitted directly from Berlin.

The greatest espionage achievement of the organization, however, was that of the Swiss ring, nicknamed Lucy. The Red Orchestra unit received leaked information and a document relating to the Nazi plan to invade the Soviet Union. These documents, which included the proposed date for the launch of the offensive, were turned over to the Soviet army and government, but were wholly ignored.

Trepper's network began to crumble in 1942, when several Red Orchestra agents were arrested in Belgium. Later that year, the Gestapo tracked down Trepper himself and arrested him in Paris. The Gestapo managed to find and eliminate many Red Orchestra agents. Some rings continued to operate throughout the war, but on a smaller scale. Trepper escaped his Nazi captors and tried to rebuild his group, but by 1944 the Red Orchestra network had been largely dissolved.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Tarrant, V. E. The Red Orchestra, the Soviet Spy Network Inside Nazi Europe. New York: Bantam, 1996.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Red Orchestra." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Red Orchestra." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/red-orchestra

"Red Orchestra." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Retrieved September 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/red-orchestra

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.