Declassified MI5 files offer wealth of new information

Sophie Kukralova

Sophie Kukralova

Britain’s National Archives have authorized the release of nearly 200 files from the vaults of MI5, the country’s domestic intelligence service. The release of the documents, which range from 1937 to 1955, has given rise to numerous interesting historical revelations, including an apparent effort by German Hitler Youth groups to establish personal and institutional links with Lord Baden-Powell, founder and leader of the Boy Scouts. The relevant MI5 file notes that Baden-Powell, who was “wined and dined by senior Hitler Youth figures”, responded enthusiastically to the Nazi charm offensive. Other revelations include the Soviet sympathies of Sidney Bernstein, later Baron Bernstein, who founded Britain’s Granada Theatres (later Granada Television) in 1926. There are also new reports on Sophie Kukralova, a WWII-era Nazi spy who seduced a number of British intelligence agents in Cairo, Egypt; the use by MI5 of a failed Australian actor to impersonate General Bernard Montgomery Monty (the trick duped at least one Nazi spy); and MI5’s concern that Zionist Jews were planning terrorist attacks inside Britain. Finally, the released files include portions of a 1945 MI5 spy craft handbook, which expresses dissatisfaction with “false moustache[s] or beard[s]”, as they are “easily detected, especially under the high lights of a restaurant, pub or in a tube train”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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