«Tonic» and «Sodawater»: A Wrong Cocktail. The Causes of Failure of Austrian and German Communists Enrolled in the Anglo-Soviet Pickaxe Intelligence and Sabotage Scheme in 1943

Brilev S.B., O’Connor B.


Two groups of Soviet intelligence agents denominated as «Tonic» and «Soda Water», formed out of Austrian and German activists of the Communist International and transferred from the USSR to the Reich via the United Kingdom, are, perhaps, the most peculiar participants of the joint «Pickaxe» scheme carried out from 1941–1944 by the Intelligence directorate of the Soviet People’s Commisariat for Internal Affairs (Russian acronym NKVD) and Britain’s Special Operation Executive (SOE). The peculiarities of the pre-war biographies of the groups’ participants (especially the women), the circumstances of their voyage from Archangel to Scotland, the somewhat bizzare Estonian pseudonyms allocated by planners in Moscow for their transit via England and the outcome of their drop off over the Reich, – all of this constitutes truly rare a chapter of history of both the intelligence services and international relations. By comparative analysis of documents from the National Archives of the United Kingdom (TNA), the Russian State Archive for Social and Political History (Russian acronym RGASPI) and various papers provided upon a request by the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation (Russian acronym VGTRK) by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (Russian acronym SVR), an important positivist aim is being achieved: getting rid of the narrative still exercised trough a «Gestapo filter». The latter means that the Gestapo operatives, who were either captured by the British or surrendered to the British and interrogated by them, could have either exaggerated or indeed simplified the realities in order to save their lives. In particular, the article revises the versions articulated by the Gestapo men interrogated in 1940s, as of how a number of war-time Soviet agents were captured an «turned». An additional task has been to clarify the political biographies and psychological profiles of the Soviet agents involved and to explain the circumstances and the logistics surrounding their departure from the USSR to the West.


NKVD; SOE; intelligence; Comintern; Austria; Germany; Gestapo; radio game.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2019.04.09

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