Stalin's Secret War: Soviet Counterintelligence against the Nazis, 1941-1945

by Robert W. Stephan

Book cover for Stalin's Secret War: Soviet Counterintelligence against the Nazis, 1941-1945

The Soviet-German War of 1941-1945 was the most extensive intelligence/counterintelligence war in modern history, involving the capture, torture, deportation, execution, and "doubling" of tens of thousands of agents—most of them Soviet citizens. While Russian armies fought furiously to defeat the Wehrmacht, Stalin's security services waged an equally ruthless secret war against Hitler's spies, as well as against the Soviet population. For the first time, Robert Stephan now combines declassified U.S. intelligence documents, captured German records, and Russian sources, including a top-secret Soviet history of its intelligence and security services, to reveal the magnitude and scope of the brutal but sophisticated Soviet counterintelligence war against Nazi Germany.

Employing as many as 150,000 trained agents across a 2,400-mile front, the Soviets neutralized the majority of the more than 40,000 German agents deployed against them. As Stephan shows, their combination of Soviet military deception operations and State Security's defeat of the Abwehr's human intelligence effort had devastating consequences for the German Army in every major battle against the Red army, including Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, the Belorussian offensive, and the Vistula-Oder operation.

Simultaneously, Soviet State Security continued to penetrate the world's major intelligence services including those of its allies, terrorize its own citizens to prevent spying, desertion, and real or perceived opposition to the regime, and run millions of informants, making the USSR a vast prison covering one sixth of the world's surface.

Stephan discusses all facets of the Soviet counterintelligence effort, including the major Soviet "radio games" used to mislead the Germans—operations Monastery, Berezino, and those that defeated Himmler's Operation Zeppelin. He also gives the most comprehensive account to date of the Abwehr's infamous agent "Max," whose organization allegedly ran an entire network of agents inside the USSR, and reveals the reasons for Germany's catastrophic under-estimation of Soviet forces by more than one million men during their 1944 summer offensive in Belorussia.

Richly detailed and epic in scope, Stalin's Secret War opens up a previously hidden dimension of World War II.

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  • On May 28 2016 Tom Copeland (USCG) read this book and commented:

    Interesting anecdotes - apparently after a heavy snow the Soviets would drop in agents without parachutes so they would not be spotted. If any members of the team were injured on landing, the remaining members were instructed to shoot him. Another good quote - "The USSR's counterintelligence system was inefficient, but it was not ineffective."