Leopold Trepper

From Academic Kids

Leopold Trepper (February 23, 1904 - January 19, 1982) was an organizer of the Soviet spy ring Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra) prior to and during World War II.

Leopold Trepper was born to a Jewish family on February 23, 1904, in Nowy Targ, Poland (part of Austria-Hungary in that time). His family moved to Vienna, Austria, when he was child. After the October Revolution he joined the Bolsheviks and worked in Galician mines. In 1925 he organized a strike in Dombrova and was imprisoned for eight months.

Trepper moved from Poland to Palestine in 1926 to work in a kibbutz. He also worked against the British forces in Palestine. He was identified as a communist agent and expelled in 1928. He went to France and worked for an undergound political organization called Rabcors until French intelligence broke it up in 1932. Trepper escaped to Moscow and worked as an NKVD agent for the next six years, traveling between Moscow and Paris. He escaped the Stalinist purges with support from Russian Millitary intelligence, one of the the few forces still relatively immune from Stalin's influence and where the influence of old Bolsheviks remained strong.

In 1939 Trepper was sent to organize and coordinate an intelligence network in nazi-occupied Europe, based in Belgium. The Nazis named it the Red Orchestra. Prior to the beginning of German attacks on Soviet Union, he sent information about German troops transferred from other fronts to Operation Barbarossa through a Soviet military attaché in Vichy France. Eventually the Gestapo uncovered the network and Trepper fled to France.

In France Trepper created another network but eventually Abwehr tracked him down. They arrested Trepper in November 16, 1942, from a dentist's chair. Germany forced him to betray most of his contacts. They tried to run him as a double agent in Paris but NKVD eventually figured out that he had been turned.

Eventually in 1943 Trepper managed to escape and went underground. He emerged with the French Resistance after the liberation of Paris. He later claimed that he had managed to contact French communist resistance during his imprisonment by Germans.

Soviets took him to Russia but instead of a reward, he was locked up in Lubyanka prison. He vigorously defended his position and avoided execution because of friends in high places but remained in prison until 1957. After his release he returned to Poland and to his wife and three sons. He became a head of the Jewish Cultural Society.

After the Six Day War, anti-semitism increased in Poland and Trepper decided to try to emigrate to Israel. Initially the Polish government refused permission until international protests forced Poland to allow a number of Jews to leave for Israel. He settled in Jerusalem in 1974. In 1977 he published his autobiography, The Great Game.

Leopold Trepper died - a convinced communist revolutionary - in Jerusalem in 1982.


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