The attempt by Nazi Germany to assassinate the “Big Three” – Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill – was foiled thanks to Soviet intelligence
MOSCOW. (Nikolai Dolgopolov) – The British Big Ape Media TV company and the Moscow TV Center are making a documentary series about Russian-British relations over four centuries. The Lion and the Bear, for release in 2008, will mix documentary history, travelogue and personal accounts and will be presented by author, and Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Celia Sandys.
One of the best sections in the film is devoted to the Tehran meeting of the three leaders in 1943, when Hitler’s agents planned to destroy the Big Three in one fell swoop. The attempt was foiled by Soviet intelligence.
The “Long Jump” operation to assassinate the Big Three was masterminded on Hitler’s orders by Otto Scorzeny, an SS thug and daredevil saboteur.
The first tip-off about the planned attempt came from Soviet intelligence agent Nikolai Kuznetsov, aka Wermacht Oberleutnant Paul Siebert, from Nazi-occupied Ukraine. Kuznetsov, a famed Soviet spy, got an SS man named Ulrich von Ortel to spill the secret over a bottle of good brandy. Von Ortel not only told his “friend” Paul about the operation, but invited him to accompany him on a trip to Tehran to buy cheap Persian rugs.
“Light cavalry” had no mercy for the Germans
In the autumn of 1943, fate thrust 19-year-old Gevork Vartanian into the center of the operation. Vartanian was an intelligence agent as well as the son of a Soviet intelligence agent who worked in Iran under the cover of a wealthy merchant. He received his first assignment and the cover name Amir from the resident in 1940.
He formed a group of seven like-minded people. All were of about the same age – Armenians, a Lezghin and an Assyrian – and they communicated in Russian and Farsi. Their parents had been exiled or fled from the USSR to escape Stalin’s gulag. They were outcasts and refugees, but they put their lives at risk for the sake of the Motherland that had rejected them.
They were new to the intelligence profession and people from Soviet intelligence had to teach them as they went along. The resident called the group “light cavalry” because of their agility and speed. They shadowed Germans and identified Iranian agents. Gevork Vartanian/Amir today claims that the “light cavalry” had been instrumental in bringing about the arrest of several hundred people who posed a great danger to the USSR and Britain, who both had troops stationed in Iran as early as the autumn of 1941.
On the eve of the Tehran Conference, the Soviet and British field stations were working under tremendous strain. The “light cavalry” received orders to prevent the assassination attempt at all costs. These young men handled the job. I asked Gevork Vartanian whether it was true that on the eve of the Tehran Conference the Soviet and British intelligences moved ruthlessly to detain all the suspects.
“What did you expect?” Gevork Vartanian replied. “To let the Germans take out the three leaders with one stroke? People were placed under temporary arrest on the slightest suspicion.
If suspicions were not confirmed, they were released after the conference. On one occasion we had to arrest an Iranian Nazi agent at a wedding party. We got a tip that he was complicit in the assassination plot. As it turned out, it was not the first terrorist attack he had been a part of.”
And no “Long Jumps”
During the filming at the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service press office, Celia Sandys tried to find out from Gevork Vartanian how they had managed to foil the plot. The slender man in a well-fitting dark suit with the top Russian military decoration – the Golden Star of the Hero – answered in good English and then, at Ms. Sandys’s request, repeated the answers in Russian.
“Six German radio operators had been dropped by parachute into the holy Muslim city of Qum and made it to Tehran. That was the start of Operation Long Jump. The Germans established communication with Berlin. The ‘light cavalry’ was given the mission to locate the intruders’ radio station in the huge city of Tehran. Day and night, 14 to 16 hours a day we scoured the streets. Eventually we found the place where the group was hiding.
“From then on the Germans were transmitting messages to Berlin that were intercepted by the Soviet and British intelligence. But the Nazi radio operators were nobody’s fools. One of them managed to send a coded message, ‘we are under surveillance.’
“The principals in Germany realized that the operation was getting off to a disastrous start. The Nazis decided against sending the main group led by Scorenzy to certain death. The Germans failed to make their Long Jump.
“Your grandfather,” Vartanian went on, “was staying at the British Embassy, where he was provided with security guards. But the U.S. Embassy was on the city’s outskirts and staying there was too risky. In a departure from the rules of protocol, Roosevelt, after much urging, stayed at the Soviet Embassy, where, of course, Stalin was also staying.”
Churchill’s granddaughter was naturally curious to know what security precautions had been taken to guard the Prime Minister.
“The street between the Soviet and British Embassies, which were located close to each other, had been sealed off. They stretched a six-meter tarpaulin sheet to make something like a passage guarded by Soviet and British machine-gunners.
“All the participants in the Tehran Conference were able to go back and forth safely.
“According to some information, the Nazis planned to get into the British Embassy through a water supply channel and assassinate Churchill on his birthday, November 30. But these plans were foiled.
“In those days I was also there, in Tehran. I was close enough to see your grandfather, Stalin and Roosevelt. What struck me was their confidence and calmness.”
“You must have had a certain amount of luck,” noted Ms. Sandys.
“Yes, of course,” Vartanian agreed. “Luck is important for many professions, and all the more so for that of an intelligence agent.”
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Source: Rossiiskaya Gazeta