THE HOMOSEXUAL WHO WRECKED AN EMPIRE (Mar, 1960)
I just thought this was so ridiculous I had to post it.
THE HOMOSEXUAL WHO WRECKED AN EMPIRE
His queer pleasures drove him to treason—and started a world war!
By STEFAN v. S. RUBELCU
THE APARTMENT was a decorator’s dream, luxuriously tricked out with all kinds of feminine frills and heavy with the sickening sweet odors of perfume and incense. Almost daintily, the figure in the lush room touched a manicured finger to a baroque wooden floral decoration on the pearl-inlaid wall panelling. Noiselessly, a door slid open, disclosing a capacious closet crammed with obviously expensive female apparel.
Racks of jasmine-scented silken kimonos fought for space with mounds of frilly lingerie. Other shelves held the sheerest of silk stockings, and there was a large rack of hand-crafted high heeled shoes occupying the left side of the secret compartment from floor to ceiling.
Many a woman would have swooned with delight at just a fraction of this voluptuous display of dainties. Yet, ironically, this was not the wardrobe of some courtesan or wealthy beauty.
It was the boudoir of a man who delighted in dazzling young Army officers and orderlies—a man whose mission in life was to corrupt them in order to satisfy his homosexual passions.
This was the home of Alfred Victor Redl, a man who lived two lives.
Outwardly he was a virile, much-decorated Colonel on the General Staff of the proudest army in Europe, chief of his country’s Counter-intelligence Corps, respected confidant of an Emperor and his heir.
Behind the scenes he was a purple pansy who delighted in posing for photos in the nude while engaged in shocking perversions—and one of the most infamous traitors in history. His betrayal of Austria’s top secret war plans helped to spark World War I, and brought about the ruin of his country and the downfall of a dynasty that had ruled for more than 600 years.
Here, from official records, is one of the most fantastic cloak-and-dagger operations in history—the story of the homosexual who betrayed an Empire.
Redl was the son of a poverty-stricken railroad freight clerk at Lemberg (Lwow), then part of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the age of 15 he enrolled in a cadet school and eight years later was commissioned a lieutenant in the Imperial Army.
A torried love affair with a circus cutie left him with two unsolicited decorations: gonorrhea and syphilis. The treatment for VD in those days was rough and exceedingly painful. For gonorrhea there were burning injections of silver nitrate and copper sulphate for several weeks, as well as excrutiating probing with a metal catheter to keep the urinary tract open. For syphilis there were daily massages with mercury ointment and several years of mercury pills.
Long after the physical discomforts abated, the psychic scars remained. For the rest of his life Redl shunned women, found satisfaction only in perverse sex practices with men.
Ruthlessly ambitious, he rose rapidly in the army. At 28 he won a coveted appointment to the War College. Promoted to Captain, he was sent to Russia to serve his apprenticeship as a spy in the nation regarded as Austria’s most potent foe. On his return he was assigned to the Intelligence Bureau of the General Staff at Vienna, where he soon achieved a reputation as a brilliant officer.
Thus at the age of 36 Captain Redl was a soldier with a bright future—and a dark, secret present.
There was a private villa on the outskirts of Vienna where gentlemen of means and exotic tastes gathered to engage in indescribable orgies with male prostitutes. Redl often attended these orgies, posed for lewd photographs which he treasured under lock and key in his desk to refresh his memory between sessions.
Sybaritic living, expensive gifts to his favorites and occasional blackmail forced him to live far beyond his means. He was over his head in debt.
He managed to hide his secret vice from his colleagues and superiors in Vienna—but it soon became known to a black-bearded, beady-eyed little man in Warsaw, on the other side of the border. As chief of the Czar’s espionage center, Colonel Nikolai Stepanowitsch Batjuschin made it his business to keep completely informed on the private life and personal eccentricities of all members of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff.
A Russian agent brought Captain Redl a proposition —and an ultimatum.
Colonel Batjuschin wanted certain top secret documents from the classified files of the General Staff. He was willing to pay handsomely for them. If Redl refused to provide them, convincing proof of his homosexuality would be immediately sent to the Chief of Staff of the Austro-Hungarian army.
Forced to choose between treason and certain ruin, Redl chose treason. During the next ten years he delivered war mobilization plans, reports on the deployment of armies, blueprints of fortresses and details of new weapons to the Russians. It was a simple task for an officer in his position to extract classified documents from the files, photograph them and return them to the files. The photos, sealed in innocuous envelopes, were mailed to various spy drops in Paris, Zurich and Norway.
By return mail Redl received regular remittances of money far exceeding his salary. This enabled him to live on an even more lavish scale
than ever before. He took a large new apartment, bought an expensive fire-engine-red Daimler complete with liveried chauffeur, maintained a stable of high-stepping horses. To explain his sudden affluence, he invented a legacy from an imaginary rich uncle.
However, Redl was intelligent enough to realize that he was living on the brink of a precipice. The moment his usefulness was over, Colonel Batjuschin would not hesitate to expose him and turn him over to the tender mercies of a court-martial. Casting around for a means of averting this fate, he came up with an interesting thought: Surely the Russian spymaster had some secret weakness or vice he was hiding from his superiors!
He assigned agents to investigate Batjuschin. They discovered that the Colonel, too, was living far beyond his means. He made up the deficit by falsifying his accounts. Thousands of rubles vouchered as pay for foreign agents actually went into his own pockets.
Incognito, Redl arrived in Warsaw for a showdown. He told Batjuschin what he had discovered, exhibited the proof of wholesale embezzlement his agents had uncovered. The Russian surrendered.
“I suppose this puts an end to our convenient arrangement,” he said.
“Not at all,” Redl quietly replied. “Except that from now on we deal with each other as equals.”
Patriotism, honor and loyalty were empty concepts, he declared. Each of the two scoundrels wanted to enjoy life after his fashion and to advance his career. So a deal would be mutually profitable. From time to time Batjuschin would send him the names of Austrians on the payroll of the Russians. In exchange, Redl would betray to him Russian agents working for the Austrians.
They shook hands on this new twist in cynical treachery. During the next 12 months Redl (by means of information supplied by Batjuschin) tracked down and convicted 12 spies working for the Russians. Among them were a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major and a Captain in the Austro-Hungarian army, and a highly-placed employee in the War Ministry at Vienna. His superiors were astounded; during the previous five years only three Russian spies had been caught and convicted.
Rapidly promoted as the result of such achievements within a few years, Redl was a Lieutenant Colonel, chief of Austrian counter-espionage and deputy chief of Army Intelligence. He was decorated by the Emperor, accompanied His Majesty on maneuvers, was acknowledged to be the outstanding expert on espionage in Europe.
Meanwhile he had acquired a new lover, a 14-year-old boy whom he presented publicly as his “nephew.” He put the boy through cadet school, after graduation had him assigned to the finest cavalry regiment in the Empire, showered him with expensive gifts—two diamond rings, a string of fine horses, a high-powered automobile, a fine apartment and a princely allowance which enabled his protege to live in proper style.
All this took money. In spite of his increased salary and the regular sums he earned by betraying Austrian secrets to Batjuschin, Redl once more found himself caught up in the financial rat-race. He solved that problem by simultaneously selling classified documents from army files to the Italian and French military attaches in Vienna.
Early in 1913, while Redl (recently promoted to Colonel) was on special duty at Prague, disaster struck.
Major Max Ronge of Austrian Army Intelligence received a communication from his ally and counterpart in the German Army, Major Walter Nicolai. It forwarded a letter addressed to “Herr Nikon Nizetas”, care of General Delivery, Vienna. The letter had remained unclaimed in the Vienna post office for several weeks, then been returned to the city shown on the postmark, Berlin.
German censors had opened it It contained 6,000 crowns (about $1,500) in banknotes and the addresses of two known spy centers, one in Paris and the other in Geneva.
Major Ronge set a trap at the Vienna post office, but “Herr Nizetas” did not show up. A month later two more letters addressed to him arrived at General Delivery. They contained a total of 14,000 crowns (about $3,-500). Ronge replaced the letters, assigned two detectives to the post office.
Three weeks later “Herr Nizetas” claimed his mail. The clerk stepped on a buzzer, but the detectives were slow to respond. By the time they got to the window their quarry had signed his receipt, picked up his letters and disappeared in a cab. Luckily they were able to trace the cab to a hotel. And there they learned from the doorman that the gentleman who had gotten out of the cab was Colonel Alfred Redl.
The detectives at once telephoned Major Ronge. He was incredulous. It was ridiculous to suppose that the distinguished head of Imperial counterespionage was himself a spy! However he ordered them to keep an eye on Colonel Redl. Meanwhile he sent an aide to pick up the signed receipts at the post office. Redl’s well-known handwriting was unmistakable.
Later that evening, when Redl emerged from the hotel, two detectives followed at a discreet distance. From constant practice he had eyes in the back of his head and soon spotted the tail. He realized the game was over; somehow he had given himself away. Agents would soon be at his apartment in Prague, and it was full of incriminating evidence. As he walked he removed some papers from his wallet, tore them up and threw them into the gutter. A detective retrieved them and took them to Major Ronge. • One was a receipt for a registered letter addressed to a spy drop in Paris. The other was a money order dispatched to Redl’s “nephew” at a garrison just outside Vienna.
Shortly after midnight four officers knocked on the door of Redl’s hotel room. The Colonel admitted them. “I know why you are here,” he said. “I am guilty. I want only to judge myself.” On interrogation, he confessed that he had sold war secrets to Russia and said he had no accomplices. One of the officers put a pistol on the table and they filed out. Redl picked up the pistol, put the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The suicide of Colonel Redl “because of mental exhaustion caused by overwork” created a minor sensation. The General Staff tried to hush the scandal. But when a search of his apartment turned up shocking proof of homosexuality and espionage the newspapers got hold of the true story and the fat was in the fire. Public opinion was outraged; there was an uproar in the Austrian Parliament. Lieutenant Stefan Hromodka, Redl’s “nephew”, was tried by a military court and found guilty of “unnatural prostitution.” He was sentenced to three months hard labor and dishonorable discharge from the army.
A year later, when the first World War broke out, Austria tasted the bitter fruits of Redl’s betrayal.
Thanks to the information he sold, Russia broke the back of the drive into Poland, captured several fortresses and occupied eastern Hungary. To stave off complete collapse, Germany had to take over and reorganize the Austrian Army.
By the time the war ended Austria had suffered the highest casualties (in proportion to men engaged) of all the armies in the field. Some 90 percent of its troops—nine out of every ten men—were either killed, captured or wounded.
By terms of the peace treaty the
great Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist. Out of its prostrate body was carved five new nations: Austria, Hungary, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia.
All this was the work of one traitor. Count Sternberg told Parliament: “Redl denounced each Austrian spy. He delivered our secrets to Russia and hindered our learning Russian secrets through spies. So in 1914 Austria and Germany remained ignorant of the existence of 75 Russian divisions, more than the whole Austro-Hungarian Army. Hence our desire for war and our defeat.
“If we had seen clearly, our generals would not have driven the high court officials into war.”
This homosexual not only betrayed the Empire—he dragged all of Europe into one of the bloodiest wars in history. • • •