Seventy-five years ago this month, German military intelligence (Abwehr) began Operation Grand Duke in Southern France. French Resistance and British SOE circuits, the Germans noticed, were popping up in Marseille, Cannes, Lyon, and other cities like a malignant rash. Left unchecked, these spies and saboteurs would wreak havoc on German troops, trains, and intelligence operations.
Abwehr Colonel Oscar Reile, who was stationed in Paris, needed a ruthless bloodhound to find and crush these underground enemy groups.
In March 1943 he called into his office at the Lutetia Hotel the perfect man for the job: Sergeant Hugo Bleicher. A secret policeman within the Geheime Feldpolizei, Bleicher had made a name for himself eighteen months earlier by discovering and dismantling INTERALLIE, the largest enemy spy network operating in France. In less than a year, Bleicher had arrested over sixty French, Polish, and British spies, and became somewhat of a celebrity in Abwehr, S.D., and Gestapo circles.
Reile requested and received permission to bring Bleicher under the Abwehr umbrella, with Hugo reporting directly to him. The colonel explained Operation Grand Duke and told Bleicher he had full autonomy throughout France, and would receive appropriate support and manpower whenever needed. "Show us what you can do," he told Hugo.
The first target, Reile said, was a man named Marsac, a French Resistance leader operating out of Marseille.
With the tenacity of a bulldog and the cunning of Sherlock Holmes, Bleicher went to work.
He did not disappoint.
Stay tuned for details.
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