Alfred Redl

Alfred Redl

Alfred Redl (March 14 1864May 25 1913) was an Austrian officer who rose to head the counter-intelligence efforts of Austria-Hungary. He was one of the leading figures of pre-World War I espionage. His term in office was marked by innovation, and he used very high technology for the time to ensnare foreign intelligence agents. But he was himself a spy for the Russians. Claims that Redl also worked for secret services of France and Italy have appeared much later but they were neither confirmed nor disproved reliably .


Born in Lemberg, Galicia, Austrian Empire (now Lviv, Ukraine), Redl came from a poor family, his father being a railway clerk. An exceptional intelligence enabled him to rise quickly in the officer ranks of the Austrian army, a position usually reserved for the wealthy and privileged. He joined the counter-espionage service and rose to becomes its chief, but at the same time he himself was a spy for Russia, Austria's enemy.

Redl's motives for treason are still unclear. He may have been caught in a compromising position by Russian agents, since he was homosexualcitation |title=Insides and Outsides: Jewish and Gentile Culture in Germany and Austria |first=Dagmar C. G |last=Lorenz |first2=Gabriele last2=Weinberger |publisher=Wayne State University Press |isbn=0814324975 |page=264] and being exposed as such would have been fatal to his career prospects. Actually, Russian military intelligence, based in Warsaw at the time, under the command of Colonel Nikolai Batyushin, had discovered Redl's homosexuality as early as 1901, information that was used to blackmail him into revealing classified information.

He was paid well for his services, and had a lifestyle far above what his official salary could cover. It is not unusual for people to be blackmailed into spying and then being well-paid for it as a means of ensuring that they continue. It would appear that there was also a strong element of vanity involved, as well as a taste for the dangers. A Russian report of 1907 describes Redl as "more sly and false than intelligent and talented", a cynic "who enjoys dissipation."

From 1903 to 1913, Redl was Russia's leading spy. Before World War I he gave the Russians Plan III, the entire Austrian invasion plan for Serbia. The Russians then informed the Serbian military command about Plan III. As a result, when the Austrians invaded Serbia, the Serbians were ready for it. [ [ Colonel Alfred Redl biography ] ] Redl not only gave away all of Austria's military secrets and plans, but he also supplied very incorrect estimations of Russian military strength to the Austrian military. Redl has been called one of history's greatest traitors because his actions were responsible for the deaths of half a million of his countrymen. [ [ World War I Russian Spy Col. Alfred Redl ] ]

Redl is thought to have sold to Russia one of Austria's principal attack plans, along with its order of battle, its mobilization plans (in an age when mobilization could be the key to victory) and detailed plans of Austrian fortifications soon to be overrun by Russia. He is known beyond question to have sent Austrian agents into Russia and then to have sold them out to St. Petersburg. He also had Austrian agents within the Russian Imperial Staff, but sold them out too, to be hanged or to commit suicide. He also is believed to have betrayed various Russian officers who contacted Austro-Hungarian intelligence.


When he left the counter-intelligence service Redl was succeeded by a man trained by Redl himself, Major Maximilian Ronge. Ronge instigated the practice of checking suspicious mail. One suspect envelope — a poste restante letter to be returned unclaimed — was found to contain a large sum of money as well as references to known espionage cover addresses. [Janusz Piekalkiewicz, "World history of espionage: Agents, systems, operations". ISBN 978-3517008493] On May 9, 1913, a duplicate letter with money was posted to the same cover name, "Nikon Nizetas", and police detectives assigned to monitor the post office and follow whoever claimed it. When the letter was finally claimed on May 25, police pursued but lost contact. They finally found a pen-knife sheath which the suspect had lost in a taxi. Tracking him to the hotel "Klomser", they told the management to ask the guests if any of them had lost the sheath and waited in the lobby. When a guest arrived to claim the sheath, the detectives were shocked to recognise their former boss, Colonel Alfred Redl.

When informed of his exposure, Redl committed suicide by gunshot, which was regretted both by Emperor Franz Josef, who would have preferred that Redl avoid dying in mortal sin, and by Austrian Intelligence, which would have preferred to interrogate him on the exact extent of his betrayal.


Historians of the Habsburg Empire, as well as espionage historians such as CIA's Allen Dulles and Soviet General Mikhail Milstein, agree in calling Redl an arch-traitor. [cite news
work=New York Times
] Redl's treason is thought to have contributed to the defeats Austria-Hungary suffered in the early months of World War I, since the plans for the attack on Serbia were quite complete and could not easily have been changed in the time between Redl's suicide and the onset of the war.

In the end it may have come down to the nature of the Austrian state itself, an anachronistic idea, rather than a fatherland. In the political post-mortem one Hungarian newspaper noted that "the Redl affair cannot be seen as a private matter. Redl is not an individual but a system. Whilst soldiers elsewhere are taught to love their homelands, lack of patriotism is held to be the greatest military virtue in this unfortunate monarchy. With us military education culminates in all national feeling being driven out of our soldiers... In the Redl affair this spirit has had its revenge. The Austrian and the Hungarian soldiers possess no fatherland; they only have a war lord."

In fiction

* Redl was played by Klaus Maria Brandauer in the 1985 István Szabó film "Colonel Redl" (see imdb title|id=0089716|title=Oberst Redl)
* John Osborne's 1965 play "A Patriot for Me" is based on Redl's story
* A summary of Redl's career and its effect on the course of the Great War is provided by Dennis Wheatley in his historical novel "The Second Seal"( 1950). Redl's successor, Ronge, also appears as himself - chief of Austro-Hungarian Intelligence. He is trying to foil the attempts of British Intelligence to find out what Austria intends for Serbia in 1914.



* Georg Markus, Der Fall Redl, 1984. ISBN 3-85002-191-2
* Robert Asprey, The Panther's Feast, 1959. (Jonathan Cape)

External links

* [ Col. Alfred Redl]
* [ Alfred Redl] cs icon

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Alfred Redl — (* 14. März 1864 in Lemberg, Galizien; † 25. Mai 1913 in Wien) war ein österreichischer Nachrichten Offizier und berühmter Spion. Er war zuletzt Oberst der österreich ungarischen Armee und Generalstabschef des VIII. Korps in Prag. Während des… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alfred Redl — Co …   Wikipedia Español

  • Redl — bezeichnet: Redl (Gemeinde Vöcklamarkt), Ortschaft von Vöcklamarkt, Bezirk Vöcklabruck, Oberösterreich Redl ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alfred Redl (1864–1913), Oberst der österreichisch ungarischen Armee und russischer Spion Alois… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Redl, Alfred — (1864–1913)    Redl, a colonel on the general staff of the Austro Hungarian imperial army, was recruited to spy for Russia by a Russian military intelligence officer. He was run by the Russian military attaché in Vienna. Redl was in charge of… …   Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence

  • Alfred Pongratz — (* 29. September 1900 in München; † 4. Oktober 1977 ebendort) war ein deutscher Schauspieler und Sprecher. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Filme (Auswahl) 3 Fernsehen (Auswahl) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alfred Schirokauer — (* 13. Juli 1880 in Breslau; † 27. Oktober 1934 in Wien[1]) war ein deutscher Schriftsteller, Drehbuchautor und Filmregisseur. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Romane …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Redl — Redl,   Alfred, österreichisch ungarischer Oberst, * Lemberg 14. 3. 1864, ✝ (Selbstmord) Wien 25. 5. 1913; 1900 12 im Nachrichtendienst des Generalstabs tätig; aufgrund homosexueller Neigungen zu Spionagediensten zugunsten Russlands erpresst… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Redl, Alfred — ▪ Austrian military officer born March 14, 1864, Lemberg, Austria died May 25, 1913, Vienna       chief of intelligence for the Austrian army from 1907 to 1912 and at the same time the chief spy for tsarist Russia in Austria.       Redl was born… …   Universalium

  • Alfred Jodl — Infobox Military Person name= Alfred Jodl lived= 10 May 1890 – 16 October 1946 placeofbirth= Würzburg, Germany placeofdeath= Nuremberg, Germany caption= Alfred Jodl nickname= allegiance=flagicon|German Empire German Empire (to 1918)… …   Wikipedia

  • Colonel Redl — Redl ezredes    Film historique d István Szabó, avec Klaus Maria Brandauer (Alfred Redl), Armin Mueller Stahl (le prince héritier), Gudrun Landgrebe (Katalin Kybinyi), Hans Christian Blech (Von Roden), Jan Niklas (Christopher Kubinyi).   Scénario …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.