Agent Sonya: the woman who nearly killed Hitler

I listened to a terrific podcast this week from Stories of our times called Agent Sonya: the Soviet spy who came in from the Cotswolds. It’s about a German woman called Ursula Kuczynski who spied on Nazi Germany for the Russians in the 1930s and 1940s. She was Jewish and soon had to flee Germany. Initially she was based in Switzerland where she hatched a plot to assassinate Hitler. This came very close to fruition and may have been successful had the Russians not cancelled her plans after signing a pact with Germany at the start of the war. Imagine how different the world might have been had she been able to continue with her plans and been successful?

Eventually Ursula came to Britain where she spied on the British for the Russians. She teamed up with Klaus Fuchs, a German physicist working in Britain, and sent details of the British atomic bomb program to Russia. MI5 were aware of her but seemed more interested in her husband because he was a man. The fact that she was a married woman with children was her best asset as a spy. The head of the Soviet section at MI5 at the time, Roger Hollis, dismissed all suspicion about her saying, “She is much preoccupied with her children and domestic affairs.” There was only one woman working at MI5; she suspected Ursula and urged her male colleagues to investigate but none of them listened to her.

Apparently she left secret documents in a hollow tree for her Russian handler to collect. In turn they would leave money for her. At one point they switched trees but due to a miscommunication were each visiting the wrong tree with Ursula leaving information in one tree and the Russians leaving money in an entirely different tree. This continued for a year and she thought she’d been let go.

There’s a recently published book about her by Ben Macintyre called, Agent Sonya: Lover, Mother, Solider, Spy. I’ll be very surprised if there’s not a movie one day.

Source for the image on this post:

2 thoughts on “Agent Sonya: the woman who nearly killed Hitler”

  1. I was just looking for a good podcast to accompany some boring spreadsheet work – even better this was a Ben Macintyre podcast! He has written some great books, which really capture both the adventure and the absurdity of spying, and he gets character across very well.

    1. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I haven’t read any of his books but I’m curious after listening to the podcast. I think I’ll get this book he wrote about Ursula.

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