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SMERSH ("Smert shpionam" - Death to Spies)

The dramatically named SMERSH (a contraction of the phrase, "Smert Shpionam!" - Death to Spies!) was the Chief Counterintelligence Directorate of the People's Commissariat of Defence of the USSR (or GUKR NKO USSR), or Chief Counterintelligence Directorate (GUKR). The organization was formed by Stalin out of counterintelligence elements of the NKVD in April 1943 and placed under his direct control. Other sources report that the Armed Forces Counterintelligence Directorate, was under the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU), or that Smersh ws an NKVD organization with counter-intelligence and security functions in the Armed Forcess]. Theoretically responsible for counterintelligence operations, SMERSH in fact was Stalin's tool for eliminating "subversion" and collaboration in territories recaptured from the Nazis.

After the failure of "blitzkrieg" when Wehrmacht suffered a crushing defeat at Moscow and Stalingrad, Germany became desperate to reverse the situation by using "secret war" - massive sabotage behind enemy lines. Perfectly prepared physically, fanatically devoted to the ideas of Nazism, excellent knowledge of Russian and other languages ??of the peoples of the USSR, the terrorists of the Abwehr (German intelligence) were formidable and cunning enemy, and inaccessible forests and marshlands west Russia ideally suited for mobile-based militant groups.

The original proposal for a new Soviet counter-intelligence organization named it SMERINSH — an acronym for the phrase “death to foreign spies.” In the version approved and signed by Stalin in March 1943 and sent to Viktor Abakumov, the organization’s first and only chief, the word “foreign” had been eliminated and SMERSH— “death to spies,” foreign and domestic — was created.

On April 19, 1943, Joseph Stalin directed the Army Special departments of the NKVD and the submission made on the basis of their new security service - SMERSH, putting at its head Viktor Abakumov. Abakumov was a notoriously brutal official who was known to torture prisoners with his own hands. SMERSH was called the most effective counter-intelligence Second World War. The decision of the General Committee of Defense of the USSR from April 21, 1943 "On the organization of" SMERSH" stated that SMERSH "shall have the following tasks: A) the fight against espionage, sabotage, terrorism and other subversive activities of foreign intelligence units and institutions in the Red Army."

SMERSH officers were assigned, with no distinguishing badges on their uniforms, throughout the Red Army and Navy. They reported all suspicious and “inappropriate” behavior to Abakumov, and he reported only to Stalin. It was SMERSH that sent Solzhenitsyn to the gulag for criticizing Stalin in a letter, and it was SMERSH that some accounts say executed the “spy” Raoul Wallenberg. One element of SMERSH worked against spies of the German army and often turned them into double agents. Another dealt with Nazi defectors, and the still unsolved case of the “Klatt Bureau,” a German espionage network that operated in the USSR.

The most spectacular German counterespionage success was the development of a double-cross network that fed disinformation to the Soviet intelligence services between 1942 and 1945. Located in Berlin and a few other Western European capitals, this network was extremely successful in sending sensitive political and military information to Moscow. The Gestapo team was able to capture a number of these agents and "turn" them. Codenamed Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra), this Gestapo operation was among the greatest Soviet intelligence setbacks of the war.

At the end of 1943, Nazi Party boss Martin Bormann foresaw the snproaching defeat of the Third Reich and reportedly began to build up a secret Nazi cadre organization unknown to Hitler and other Nazi leaders. This organization has come to be known in Western intelligence circles under the codeword HACKE. After the war, HACKE kept alive the old Nazi slogan, "Fight the Jews and plutocrats in the USA," and its goal was the founding of a Fourth Reich.

Gestapo Chief Mueller, in turn, was reportedly already in contact with the Soviets at least as early as the beginning of 1944, and he informed them of Bormann's plan. The Soviet operation with Mueller was directed personally by Gen. Abakumov, then Chief of SMERSH Military Counterintelligence) and subsequently head of the entire MGB, predecessor of the KGB. Abakumov immediately recognized the importance of HACKE and did everything possible to penetrate the organization and direct it toward long range Soviet goals. Mueller's post-war whereabouts is a much-debated mystery. It was first believed that he died in the siege of Berlin, but there have been a number of reports that he escaped successfully to the Soviet Union.

The HACKE story shows bow early in the game and with what apparent success the Soviets moved to penetrate and exploit the various formal and informal groupings of former Nazis. Former SS and SD officers were particularly vulnerable to Soviet blackmail, as the Soviets systematically sought out and exploited the evidence of their war crimes guilt. Many of these former Nazi officers, including some with a record of hushed-up war crimes, obtained important or sensitive positions in the West German government.

On the eve of the capture of Berlin SMERSH created operative groups to seek out and arrest the leaders of the Reich. The charred corpse of Paul Joseph Goebbels, whose name itself has become synonymous with stupefying propaganda, was found by SMERSH officer Major Zybin. The body should be delivered Karlchost, that housed the department of SMERSH 5th Shock Army. However, at the disposal of the Major was just a little Opel.

During the war more than 30,000 terrorists and spies were captured or neutralized. More than 6,000 officers and men of SMERSH died during the war. Hundreds missing. Four were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Posthumously. After the war, SMERSH was primarily engaged in interrogating and executing returning Soviet prisoners of war. SMERSH, at Stalin’s insistence, represented the Soviet Union at the Nuremberg Trials. Steeped in legends, SMERSH was disbanded in the spring of 1946, but remained one of the most mysterious and the most effective counter-intelligence world.

One of the reasons Abakumov rather than Merkulov became chief of the Minister for State Security (MGB) on 18 October 1946 was that Stalin agreed with his demonstrated policy of maximum emphasis on intelligence operations against the United States. Although the ministry was under the general supervision of Beria, Stalin hoped to curb the latter's power. In this capacity he was in charge of the 1949 purge known as the "Leningrad Affair," in which the Politburo members Nikolai Voznesensky and Aleksei Kuznetsov were executed.

He was Minister of the MGB until late 1951 when, as a protege of Beriya, he was replaced by S. D. Ignatyev at the instigation of Beriya's opponents. At the end of 1951 an MGB employee, Mikhail Ryumin bypassed Abakumov and went directly to Stalin to report what became known as the Doctor's Plot. As a result Abakumov was arrested on 04 June 1951, and even Beria was in danger. With Stalin's death in March 1953, the Doctor's Plot unravelled. Ryumin was arrested, tried, and executed. Abakumov, however, was not set free; he was eventually tried for his role in the Leningrad Affair and shot on 18 December 1954 [some sources report 19 December 1954].

Ivan A. Serov's activities during World War II are far from clear. According to an official Soviet biographya Serov participated in the defense of Moscow in l941 and of Stalingrad in l942, where he supervised the evacuation of industrial enterprises; he then took part in the offensive which drove the Germans out of the Caucasus, and later participated in the siege and capture of Berlin, where he remained when the war ended. This account conceals more than it reveals. In 1940-41, during the first Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, Serov had been responsible for the deportation of some 134,000 "class enemies" to slave labor camps.

At some point during the war, Serov is said to have received a high post with Smersh. One report states that at the beginning of the war Serov was appointed political adviser to one of the marshals commanding an Army Group at the front. The reference to the Caucasus in the Soviet biography is supplemented by firm evidence that during the period November 1943 to March 1944; Serov directed the mass deportations to Central Asia of the Chechen-Ingush and other Caucasian minority groups which had been guilty of collaborating with the Germans, As Soviet troops moved forward in 1944, Seroy applied similar policies to other cases of mass defection, including the Crimean Tartars.

For his services in the war, Serov received the Order of Suvorov, 1st class, and the Order of Kutusov, 1st class. These awards were followed in May 1915 by his second Order of Lenin, a Gold Star Medal, and the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

In June 1945 Serov was transferred to Germany, where, promoted to Colonel-General, as SMERSH Chief in Soviet-occupied Germany. Serov served as Deputy Chief for Civil Administration of the Soviet Administration, first under Marshal Zhukov, and thereafter under his successor, Sokolov'skiy, As chief of intelligence and security operations in the Soviet zone of Germany, Serov is said to have organized the repatriation of Soviet displaced persons and prisoners-ofuwer, collected German scientists and data on guided missiles and atomic research, and provided forced labor to operate East German uranium mines. He is also reported to have had differences with Zhukov, who resented his counter-intelligence work among the armed forces as well as the semi-independent status of the MVD within Zhukov's military sphere and, Serov contributed to the situation by sending adverse reports on Zhukov through security channels to Stalin.

Serov arrived with advancing Red Army in the summer of 1945 and left late in 1947, apparently the victim of political machinations in Moscow. Very little is available on Serov after 1947, the year he apparently left Germany. A confidant of Nikita Khrushchev, in 1953 Serov engineered the overthrow of Stalin's Internal Security Chief, Lavrenty Beria. In 1954, Serov was made the first chairman of the newly created KGB.

Allen Dulles later wrote in "The Craft of Intelligence" that "The information that was extracted Soviet intelligence during World War II contributed to the military successes of the Soviets and represented this kind of material, which is an accomplishment for the exploration of any country."

Some words by their very sound convey an impression of malicious intent. For readers of fiction, Scrooge, the Grinch and SMERSH — the latter thanks to Ian Fleming’s James Bond — are familiar examples. In the first James Bond novel, originally published in 1953, 007 takes on Le Chiffre, a French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH, as the suave agent becomes involved in a high-stakes game of baccarat, enjoys a fiery love affair with a sexy female spy, and endures torture at the hands of a master sadist.

Little known in the West, the Third Directorate of the KGB was responsible for all counterintelligence and security work in the Soviet Armed Forces, including the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Soviet General Staff - the GRU - and in all Soviet defense and defense-related laboratories and industries. To those familiar with its work, the Third Directorate is known as KGB/00 (KGB/Osobiy Otdei) - KGB Special Department. During World War II, it was widely known as SMERSH. The Soviet security officers to whom Alelcsandr Solzhenitsyn refers in "Gulag" as "Osobisty" were officers of the Third Directorate, KGB.

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Page last modified: 06-04-2016 20:10:39 ZULU