Morten Møller: Comintern Couriers – new approaches to communism’s intelligence apparatus

Abstract

In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2016. Berlin: Metropol Verlag, pp. 39–56.

The article focuses on the couriers of the Comintern’s secret apparatus, the Department of International Communications (or OMS) and its work in Europe in the middle of the 1930s. Using archival material from both the British intelligence service and the Comintern’s cadre department new information is given on the persons involved in the extensive courier service that delivered substantial economic support from Moscow to secret liaisons in several European capitals. Decrypts from British surveillance prove that money transfers to five European capitals in 1936 – which would have been the equivalent of some 11 million Euros today. The telegrams also show that four out of five of those couriers channelling funding were women and that a prominent role was played by Swedish, American and British citizens. The article then focuses on two Danish couriers, Ellen Schou and Gottlieb Japsen, who were based in Moscow and in just over a year transported suitcases with substantial amounts from Moscow to various European capitals. Unlike their superiors in OMS, Schou and Japsen survived the Great Terror in the Soviet Union and, after their return to Denmark, played subordinate roles in the Danish Communist Party until their deaths in the 1980s and 1990s. Finally, the article calls for further studies of the destinies of Comintern couriers in order to achieve a more solid understanding of their background and their work for OMS, as well as their later political role in the Communist world.

Über den Autor

Morten Møller, Master of Arts (Roskilde), geb. 1978. Seit 2006 wiss. Mitarbeiter an der Königlichen Bibliothek in Kopenhagen. Veröffentlichungen: Ellen og Adam – en fortælling om kærlighed og terror i Stalins Moskva [Ellen und Adam – eine Geschichte von Liebe und Terror in Stalins Moskau], Kopenhagen 2014. Das Buch basiert auf dänischen, norwegischen, britischen und russischen Quellen und konzentriert sich auf die skandinavischen Kommunisten in Moskau während des Großen Terrors 1936 bis 1938; außerdem zwei Biografien über die führenden dänischen Kommunisten Mogens Fog und Børge Houmann: Hvem er Nielsen? [Wer ist Nielsen?], Kopenhagen 2012; Mogens Fog, Kopenhagen 2009–2010.