More on Rudolf Ställmann, aka ‘The Baron de Koenig’, ‘Rex’, ‘Colonel Lemoine’, etc.

‘Lemoine’s’ (von Koenig) passport photo (1930s)

For aficionados of ‘Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg’ here is some additional source material on Rudolf Ställmann (aka ‘The Baron de Koenig’, ‘Rex’, ‘Colonel Lemoine’, etc.) who, after Bravo Portillo’s murder in 1919, took over the 70-strong anti-union death squads and false-flag terrorists/anti-CNT provocateurs of ‘La Banda Negra’ in Barcelona on behalf of Josep Miró I Trepat and security/police chief General Miguel Arleguí. Ställmann fled Barcelona in 1920 after his murderous activities were exposed in the CNT daily ‘Solidaridad Obrera’. The information comes from a 1941 book, ‘Total Espionage’ (Putnam’s Sons), by Curt Reiss, a US (Austrian refugee and intelligence agent) journalist who seems to have met Lemoine/ Ställmann/Koenig in pre-war Paris. Lemoine’s connection with the Deuxième Bureau is backed up by French fascist journalist Lucien Rebatet (who also worked for the French security service) whose book ‘Les décombres’ describes in detail Ställmann’s forged documents setup at his office in the rue de Lisbonne. Ställmann seems to have taken over the office (with 20 operatives, including ex-Spartakist refugee Frederic Drach) on his return from Spain in 1920-’21. These details confirm Farquhar McHarg’s belief that Ställmann had been advancing French interests since his arrival in Spain in August 1915:

“Lemoine’s” DST file

“Just before the First World War, and afterwards, till the beginning of this war, many French newsstands carried a certain kind of paper-covered novel costing only a few centimes. They were spy novels. They were written by authors with fancy names, and they were very badly written.

The late twenties in France saw a vogue for spy movies. They continued to appear up until the very last days before the present war. These movies and novels had one thing in common: all these works of art presented at least one scene in which the hero, a French secret-service agent, gave enlightenment in these words to a nice chap who didn’t know the first thing about espionage: ‘If you see anything suspicious, sit down immediately and write a letter to M. le Chef du Deuxième Bureau, Paris.’

The effect of such books and movies has never been calculated. Probably even the officers of the Deuxième Bureau knew nothing about the public reaction. Ail they knew was that most of these ventures were terrible flops—from a purely financial as well as from the artistic point of view. All this must have been annoying to them, since it was the Deuxième Bureau which did the financing.

Obviously, it was done under the realization that a big spy organization must have the co-operation of the public. It never was done to give the general public a fancy idea of the exciting and adventurous life of the men who worked in the secret service. Because it just wasn’t exciting. The officers of the Deuxième Bureau didn’t rush around finding secret doors, unmasking sinister plotters, and taking time off to fall in love with a beautiful girl, preferably an American heiress.

At 8:30 every morning they entered the large building on the corner of the Boulevard Saint Germain and the Rue de l’Université. Though this is only a few minutes from the Place de la Concorde, and therefore in the centre of Paris, very few Parisians knew that here were located the Services du Deuxième Bureau. There wasn’t much traffic on this part of the Boulevard, and after dark it was practically deserted.

It was a big, solid building, inspiring both confidence and a sense of mystery. It had the mingled atmosphere of an old, honoured administration building, and of a haunted house.

1920-07-CAB-24-111-directorate of intelligence
July 1920: British Directorate of Intelligence Report on Catalan labour situation.

Everything seemed to be quite normal until you entered, and were confronted by a man who sat at a little desk next to the big staircase. He asked your business. You had to fill out a form stating your name and the purpose of your visit. Then another man appeared to take the memorandum away, and if you could have followed him you would have seen him go into one of the offices on the main floor and hand the form to somebody who went through a file or list, comparing what you had written with his own information, perhaps comparing the handwriting with a sample of your handwriting.

Once you were inside, everything looked ordinary enough; there was only one thing to distinguish this building from any administration building. It was a little too quiet. There were never any clerks lounging in the corridors and having a chat. There was never a loud noise, outside or inside the offices. At vine o’clock the officers, who by then had looked over their mail, would meet in a large high-ceilinged room with long windows. The walls were panelled in mahogany. In the middle of the room was a large oval table, with fifteen chairs around it. All officers were in civilian clothes. Finally an elderly man would corne in and take the chairman’s seat. He was of medium height, with greying hair, close-cropped and bristly, and a rather young face, with pince-nez on his nose.

Entering the room at that time you might have taken the meeting for a conference of the directors of an industrial concern of international scope. For when the men started to discuss the mail it was evident that this mail came not only from all parts of France, but virtually from every country in the world. And it also became evident that each of the men was in charge of one particular country or group of countries.

But that was about all you would have learned. Because even here, in the innermost heart of the Deuxième Bureau, the language these men used was extremely guarded. No names were mentioned. They always spoke about `valuable information,’ but never said what information.

The Chairman, Colonel Gauché [Colonel Maurice-Henri Gauché (1937-1940], had been the chief of the Deuxième Bureau for many years [3 years!]. Under him were two assistant chiefs. They were Commandant Perrier and Commandant Novarre, both small men of insignificant appearance. Then came eight chefs de section, holding the military rank of commanders and captains, each in charge of one particular country or region. Their names were—not their names. Only the Chief himself knew the real names of the officers with whom he worked, and his real name was supposed to be known only by the War Minister.

There was a special oath for every person working in the Deuxième Bureau, binding him to utmost secrecy.

The Deuxième Bureau was organized on a regional basis. Each region had a district chief. He was an officer in civilian clothes who hired the agents for his territory and who supervised their activity. His office — Bureaux Frontiers Militaires — was always close to some fronder. He had to gather the incoming material, sift it, and send it on to Paris.

Then there were the officers within the traditionally neutral countries. Here, supervising agents were established who gave their men assignments, and condensed and sifted their reports before sending them on. They seldom communicated directly with Paris; a report from one of these agents came via the nearest district chief. There, it was once more sifted and condensed and compared with other reports covering the same or a similar subject. Finally a small pencil mark was put on it. It was either a `C,’ a `P,’ or a ‘D.’ These letters stood for certain, probable, or doubtful.

This system was extremely dependable and safe. It was also extremely slow.

This, then, was the Deuxième Bureau: a dignified, business-like institution operating a little too slowly, perhaps. But the Deuxième Bureau was something more, something quite different. It operated, for instance, like this:

Every Tuesday and Thursday, at odd hours of the day, some good-looking, elegantly dressed young men entered the large modern apartment bouse 44 Rue de Lisbonne. They went up three flights and rang the bell of an apartment with the sign: ‘Imports and Exports.’ (In Paris it is not unusual for an apartment bouse to contain offices.) They were guided by an elderly and homely woman secretary into an office with wine-red leather chairs, bookshelves of dark wood on which were piled all sorts of papers, books, magazines, and newspapers in great disorder. There was also an enormous desk between two windows. And behind the desk was M. Lemoine.

  1. Lemoine was in the habit of providing these young men with money. In return they were supposed to make the acquaintance of secretaries of foreign consulates and embassies; take them out, show them a good time, get as intimate as possible with them, and finally try to steal passports out of their offices. This trick had worked for many years. Even if the girls found out who the thieves were, they very rarely mentioned the matter. If they made a complaint to the police, the particular young man was found and duly arrested. And the foreign diplomat was informed that the thief was being severely punished. In reality, the young man never stayed in prison more than one or two days.
  2. Lemoine was a remarkable man. He was tall and heavy-set, bald but extremely vigorous, intelligent and witty. He was a man-about-town, and you would never have guessed that he was more than seventy years old.

His was a fantastic story. His real name was not Lemoine at all, but Baron Koenig. No, not Baron Koenig, but Herr Korff. No, not Korff, but Stallmann. Anyway, he was a native German, and he had been notorious in pre-First World War Berlin and all over Europe as the best cardsharp on the Continent, a man who never lost unless he tried.

There was finally a trial which, involving as it did some important members of Berlin society, became a sensational affair. Stallmann-Korff-Koenig escaped arrest by fleeing to Paris, where he became Lemoine. During the World War he began to work for the Deuxième Bureau, directing most of its activities in Spain. It was even said that it was he who finally broke the case of Mata Hari. He himself, however, always denied it.

His export and import office was a front for traffic in arms. Yes, M. Lemoine was always known in international circles as a prospective buyer of arms. However, he very rarely did buy anything. He bought arms only when there was no other way to find out where they were stored.

The office at 44 Rue de Lisbonne was by no means the only one of this kind. There were, in Paris alone, nine more. Most of them were in the neighbourhood of the stock exchange, disguised as brokerage firms, situated in large office buildings among genuine brokerage firms. Throughout France there were sixty-eight such fronts.

Most of them were used merely to receive people who had offered their services and who were not to be invited to the Boulevard Saint Germain.

Some of these offices were highly specialized. Some, for instance, concentrated exclusively on employees of foreign embassies and consulates in Paris and other big cities. All of them employed at least one Frenchwoman—a telephone operator usually. Other offices specialized in other fields. Their safes contained a great assortment of rubber stamps from various foreign offices and ministries, either stolen or cleverly forged. The supply never ran low.

So many agents had to be provided with so many papers. The operatives of the French secret service were everywhere. They worked in munitions plants, they had shops near armouries, they scrubbed floors in aircraft factories, they spent money in night clubs, they were on good terms with dope peddlers and with prostitutes, they played honorable parts in the reserve officers associations, they lent money to moneylenders, they were in love with the executives of export firms, they engaged the services of private detective agencies, they were clients of translating bureaus which also did

The dangerous age of the Deuxième Bureau 47 occasional work for consulates and embassies, they were the pals of the conductors on international sleeping cars passing through many countries on their way across Europe, they drank in little inns with the drivers of buses connecting frontier villages, they stole maps from museums.

They were everywhere.

They were in Switzerland, in Belgium, and in Holland. In these countries the Deuxième Bureau had established business firms which apparently were intent upon selling goods to German concerns. The numerous salesmen of these firms—one in Switzerland alone employed at one time ninety salesmen—had travelled all over Germany for years.

All this was not new. This had been built up partly before the First World War. After the defeat of Germany the Deuxième Bureau made not the slightest move to reduce its enormous apparatus outside of France. On the contrary, the French were afraid—with good reason, as events have shown—that Germany might arm again and start a new war.

General Dupont had been in charge of the Deuxième Bureau during the last years of the First World War—and done wonders. Nicolai [Walter Nikolai 1873-1947. Head of the German Abteilung IIIb between 1913 and 1919] himself declared (in his memoirs) that the Deuxième Bureau of this period had some achievements it might well be proud of. For example, the French had succeeded in planting a spy named Henry in the German Headquarters and keeping him there for two years. Another spy operating in the tremendously important counterespionage division, a certain Police Commissioner Waegele, was able almost uninterruptedly to deliver information to the Deuxième Bureau until shortly before the end of the war. And afterward he spread an even more powerful and efficient network of spies all over Europe.

It was really an amazing organization General Dupont had built up and the most modern secret service to function up to the early thirties.

And it was just then, at a time when Hitler embarked upon the very thing that the French secret service was sworn to prevent; it was just then, when Hitler started to rearm, when the Deuxième Bureau should have shown the utmost speed and efficiency, that it began to slip. And it slipped fast.

They were too sure of themselves.

The long and great tradition of the Deuxième Bureau‘s successful last ten years had persuaded those in key positions that the French secret service was unbeatable. Ironically enough, they made exactly the same mistake the Germans made after their victory in 1871, when they neglected to modernize their secret service, relying on the superiority of their army. The French now committed the error of relying on the traditional excellence of their secret service instead of modernizing it.

They didn’t see what was coming because they didn’t want to see. The vital breath of any successful spy system is an aggressive spirit; curiosity in itself is aggressive. The French were no longer aggressive in any sense; even their curiosity was flagging.

In a way, they repeated in the field of espionage the same mistake that they committed in the matter of armament. They became purely defensive. They thought they could hold on to what they had. Without their realizing it, their espionage system, which only a few years before had been operated with infinite imagination and daring, now became static. It became a Maginot Line of espionage.

According to classic principles of military espionage, a spy can work only where there is a secret to be discovered. According to such principles, there were three logical spy centres in France: Paris, Alsace-Lorraine (with Strasbourg, Colmar, and Metz), and the North of France (with its factories and fortifications).

The French secret service watched those logical centres. But that wasn’t enough, it wasn’t nearly enough.

You could feel the lack very strongly in the Boulevard Saint Germain. You could feel it in dozens of little things, each trivial but each betraying the prevailing spirit of clinging stubbornly to tradition.

There was, for instance, the ridiculous device of the little waiting room reserved for all visitors of whom the Deuxième Bureau was not quite sure. Opening from this waiting room was a small closet. In this closet stood a strange apparatus designed like a periscope, which allowed a perfect view of the waiting room. The younger officers didn’t think much of this apparatus. They felt that anybody who had gained access to the building under false pretenses and for some sinister purpose, was not likely to betray his true intentions by his expression, even when he thought himself unobserved. However, it was a tradition of the Deuxième Bureau to take a good look at any stranger before talking to him. And tradition could not be brushed aside.

Or, there was the more important matter of the radio department in the cellar. It had taken years of the most violent struggle on the part of the younger officers to get a radio department installed at all. And it was much too small: there were too few people to listen in on the code short wave broadcasts which Germany was disseminating to her agents all over the world.

The older officers had their own ideas, some of which were absurd.

There was, for instance, one commandant who was in charge of certain Paris activities. He still imagined that espionage could be practised as it has been practised thirty years before. Every few weeks some beautiful young girl whom he had met in a night club would put in appearance at one of the ‘brokerage offices.’ The undaunted officer was sure that in each one he had discovered a potential Mata Hari. He spared no money to establish her in an elegant apartment and buy her good clothes. And then nothing happened. The Nazis were somehow never considerate enough to fall in love with these ladies. When the lease was up, the Mata Haris went back to their night clubs. They had, at least, got the dresses.

In their definite distaste for anything modern, the French agents were addicted to the oddest methods. One thing all the agents and spies had to listen to every so often was: `We want facts. We do not want opinions. We can exercise judgment ourselves.’ Or: ‘Never mind psychology,’ they were told, ‘use your eyes.’

And then everything was so slow. When General Dupont had built up his network, speed wasn’t necessary. But now it was desperately necessary. Hitler had set the pace by his blitz-manner, and utmost speed was of the essence. It is doubtful if the Deuxième Bureau could have matched Hitler’s speed had it tried. But it never tried. The time-honoured system of sending everything first to the chief of the district, of having every report checked and rechecked, was not for a moment abandoned.

Maybe more speed could have been achieved had there been more money to spend. France was going through a moderate economic crisis. The budgets of all the ministries were cut. But the budget of the Deuxième Bureau was slashed. Let an agent ask for a sum which seemed too high, and he was answered sharply, `We thought you were a patriot.’ There were no fixed rates of pay. Five thousand francs was considered high. Twenty to thirty thousand francs was the maximum, spent only in the most important cases.

Through M. Lemoine, a certain Hungarian chemist came to the Deuxième Bureau in December, 1936. He offered to go to Germany and get hold of formulae for the new poison gases which were just then being tested in a laboratory near Mannheim. The man went via Switzerland to Germany, and stayed there for two weeks. He returned with the new secret formulae.

They were not yet known to the French Government chemists and they surpassed everything that had previously been developed in the field of poison gases. The Deuxième Bureau was delighted. And the agent was paid five thousand francs.

He left Paris two weeks later on a new mission. He never came back. As a matter of fact, he never even entered Germany. Still, he was able to do business with the Nazis. He sold them the information that lie had just sold the secret formulae to the Deuxième Bureau. For this he received the equivalent of thirty thousand francs.

As for M. Lemoine, he wasn’t paid at all. To be sure, it would have been difficult for any government department to pay him, for he needed too much money. Therefore, the Deuxième Bureau entered into an extremely interesting arrangement with him.

  1. Lemoine was allowed to exploit his friendly contact with the authorities to make money for himself. His greatest source of revenue was the procuring of French visas for rich foreigners who couldn’t get them by legal means. But that wasn’t all. M. Lemoine was allowed to sell French passports and French working permits, which at that time were in great demand by foreigners who were in the country illegally.

It wasn’t astonishing that M. Lemoine, who, after all, had never been overly scrupulous, should choose this way of making a living. But it was fantastic that the French authorities should countenance it. More grotesque than that: while M. Lemoine used this strange commerce to make money for himself, the whole Deuxième Bureau started to use it—not for personal advantage, but to obtain the necessary expense money for the agents, which could not be obtained through appropriations.

Many foreigners were offered visas, working permits, or new passports if they would consent to work for the secret service. It became the usual thing for a foreign agent who complained about not getting any pay, to be told, `What more do you want? Haven’t we furnished you with a passport?’

The Deuxième Bureau had sunk to the level of M. Lemoine. Maybè, it wasn’t exactly corruption, because the Deuxième Bureau did it in the interest of the nation. But in a way it was worse than outright corruption. It meant that the fundamental principles of law and order were turned into a farce…”

‘Total Espionage’, Curt Reiss, 1941

still more on Lemoine/Ställmann/the Baron von Koenig from The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

“The Baron de Koenig’, 1937

“…The Centre attached great importance, however, to an introduction provided by de Ry to his friend the Paris businessman Rudolphe Lemoine, an agent and recruiter of the French foreign intelligence service, the military Deuxiéme Bureau. Born Rudolf Ställmann, the son of a wealthy Berlin jeweller, Lemoine had begun working for the Deuxiéme Bureau in 1918 and acquired French citizenship. Intelligence for Lemoine was a passion as well as a second career. According to one of his chiefs in the Deuxiéme Bureau, ‘He was as hooked on espionage as a drunk is on alcohol.’ Lemoine’s greatest coup was the recruitment in 1931 of a German cipher and SIGINT clerk Hans-Thilo Schmidt, whose compulsive womanizing had run him into debt. For the next decade Schmidt (codenamed HE and ASCHE by the French) was the Deuxiéme Bureau’s most important foreign agent. Some of the intelligence he provided laid the foundations for the breaking of the German Enigma machine cipher by British cryptanalysts in the Second World War.

“After Bystroletov had made the initial contact with Lemoine (code-named REX by the Deuxiéme Bureau and JOSEPH by the OGPU), he was instructed to hand the case over to another, less flamboyant Soviet illegal, Ignore Reiss (alias ‘Ignace Poretsky’, codenamed RAYMOND) so that he could concentrate on running Oldham. At meetings with Lemoine, Reiss posed initially as an American military intelligence officer. Lemoine appeared anxious to set up an exchange of intelligence on Germany and foreign cipher systems, and supplied a curious mixture of good and bad intelligence as evidence of the Deuxiéme Bureau’s willingness to co-operate. An Italian cipher which he provided in May 1931 seems to have been genuine. In February 1932, however, Lemoine reported the sensationally inaccurate news that Hitler (who became German chancellor less that a year later) had made two secret visits to Paris and was in the pay of the Deuxiéme Bureau. ‘We French,’ he claimed, ‘are doing everything to hasten his rise to power.’ The Centre dismissed the report as disinformation, but ordered meetings with Lemoine to continue and for him to be paid, probably with the intention of laying a trap which would end in his recruitment.

“In November 1933 Lemoine brought with him to meet Reiss the head of the SIGINT section of the Deuxiéme Bureau, Gustave Bertrand, codenamed OREL (‘Eagle’) by the Centre. To try to convince Bertrand that he was an American intelligence officer willing to exchange cipher material, Reiss offered him Latin American diplomatic ciphers. Bertrand, predictably, was more interested in European ciphers. Soon after his first meeting with Bertrand, Reiss informed Lemoine that he worked not for American intelligence but for the OGPU. The Centre probably calculated that it had caught Lemoine in a trap, forcing him either to admit to his superiors that he had been both paid and deceived by the OGPU or to conceal that information and risk being blackmailed into working for the Soviet Union. The blackmail failed. Lemoine had probably realized for some time that Reiss, whom he knew as ‘Walter Scott’, worked for Soviet intelligence. Reiss had several further meetings with Lemoine and Bertrand, at which they exchanged intelligence on Italian, Czechoslovak and Hungarian ciphers…”

The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, 1999