May 24, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

Cover Name: Dr. Rantzau

Cover Name: Dr. Rantzau is a gripping diary-like personal account of espionage during the Second World War and is one of very few historic memoirs written by an ex-Abwehr officer. Detailed is how Colonel Nikolaus Ritter, following a brief World War I career and over ten years as a businessman in America, returned to Germany in spring of 1935 and became Chief of Air Intelligence in the Abwehr. He was assigned to establish a network of agents to gather information on British and US airfields, aircrafts, and state-of-the-art developments in the aerospace industry. Among others, Ritter's cover names were Dr. Rantzau and Dr. Reinhard in Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, Dr. Jansen in Hungary, Dr. Renken in Germany, and Mr. Johnson in America. Throughout his service in the Abwehr, Ritter smuggled America's most jealously guarded secret, the Norden bombsight and the Sperry gyroscope, into Germany, and coordinated the planning for the invasion of the British Isles (Operation Sea Lion). Ritter was incarcerated by the British in 1945 and sent to the Bad Nenndorf interrogation centre.

Katharine Ritter Wallace, the daughter of Col. Ritter, presents the first English translation of the German World War II memoir. With a combination of collected documents, correspondences, personal notes, communications with peers, and from memory, this captivating account by an espionage agent reveals an insider's glimpse of the German intelligence service and of a handler's expansive and diverse agent network.

About the Authors

Nikolaus Adolf Fritz Ritter (1899–1974) was Chief of Air Intelligence in the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service. Ritter lived in the United States for 10 years until 1935 when he returned to the German military where he recruited and sustained an agent network under the Chief of Intelligence Service, Admiral Canaris.

Katharine Ritter Wallace is the daughter of Abwehr officer Nikolaus Ritter. She is the former chief library director of the Naval Surface Weapons Center, White Oak, Silver Spring, Maryland, and the former Division Head of the Technical Information Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia.


"This is a rare story of a German spy handler in World War II. No racy cars, long-legged women, royal casinos, and jet-set hideaways à la James Bond or George Smiley. Just "sober and nerve-wracking mosaic work" tinged with "greed, foolishness, and treason" by an Abwehr spymaster named Niklaus Ritter (Dr. Rantzau). First published in German in 1972, Ritter's memoirs detail his recruiting of agents in Belgium, Britain, Egypt, Hungary, the Netherlands, and the United States. It is a story of triumphs (stealing the Norden bombsight and the Sperry gyroscope) and defeats (betrayal by an FBI double agent and incarceration by British counterintelligence). It is gripping reading. It is dramatic. It is realistic."—Holger H. Herwig, author of The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918

"Cover Name: Dr. Rantzau is an excellent account of German intelligence with its fly open. It has more to do with flopsweat and fiascoes than cloaks and daggers. This aspect makes the book a worthwhile publication. Mary Kathryn Barbier is among the best scholars currently working in the field, and her foreword significantly enhances the manuscript."—Dennis Showalter, recipient of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing

""All I knew about espionage came from reading spy novels," Nikolaus Ritter writes early in Cover Name: Dr. Rantzau—and then proceeds, with a novelist's flair, to detail how he set about recruiting agents for the German military intelligence service, the Abwehr. At last available in English in this translation by his daughter Katharine R. Wallace, his tale offers a rare glimpse into the workings of the spymaster behind the 1937 theft of plans for America's top-secret Norden bombsight. And what a tale it is: breathtaking close calls, double-crosses, moments of surprising beauty, humor, and self-serving aggrandizement, make for an intriguing, provocative, and—especially—enjoyable read."—Karen Jensen, editor, World War II magazine

"This memoir is quite interesting for the details it gives on the German side of intel ops during the era of the Second World War, a much less security-minded period than the present."—The NYMAS Review: A Publication of The New York Military Affairs Symposium

University Press of Kentucky
Foreign Military Studies

9780813177342 : cover-name-dr-rantzau-ritter-wallace-barbier
264 Pages
$45.00 USD

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