Book: "The Secrets of the German War Office"

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Book: "The Secrets of the German War Office"

Post by jluetjen » 17 May 2015 20:04

My daughter gave me an original 1914 copy of this book for my birthday, by "Dr. Armgaard Karl Graves", which purports to expose the German spy service immediately prior to WWI. Given the first 8 printings in 1914, my suspicion was that this might be a piece of British propaganda like the many newspaper accounts from "German deserters". Doing some quick research on-line I didn't find a whole lot of information. The Germans do acknowledge him as one of their own -- of sorts. It sounds like "Dr Armgaard Karl Graves" was a pseudonym for Max Meincke, who did work for both (or perhaps more accurately at least) German Naval Intelligence and MI5. According to the Germans he was quite the scoundrel who acquired a considerable rap sheet of violent crimes (theft, harassment of women, burning a women alive) as he moved around the world. After he moved to the US he apparently tried to sell secrets from both German Naval Intelligence and MI5 to the US.

It appears that the book is also available through Google Books.

Has anyone else ever come across this character? Anyone have any thoughts after reading the book?

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Re: Book: "The Secrets of the German War Office"

Post by Jon Clarke » 18 May 2015 09:18

jluetjen wrote:Has anyone else ever come across this character? Anyone have any thoughts after reading the book?
Thomas Boghardt's book "Spies Of The Kaiser" has four pages on Graves who seems to have been a bit of a chancer to say the least. According to Boghardt, 'Graves had never intended to conduct serious espionage' but had been a criminal who German naval intelligence recruited in 1911 to spy on naval movements off the Scottish coast. He was arrested by the British within a matter of months and then offered to be a double-agent for them. Unfortunately some in British Intelligence believed in large-scale German plots in Britain and they fell for Grave's tales, some of which were probably had lifted from spy novels. A few months later he fled to New York via Berlin thus ending his career as a double-agent. The book you refer to wasn't British propaganda but Grave's attempt to make a bit of money in the US from his "career". Boghardt writes about the book:

The public embarrassment for both his ex-employers, Germans and British alike, began in 1914. Graves made statements to the American press, promoting himself as a masterspy and revealing details about his former employers. Among other things, he revealed his contact address for the Counter-Espionage Bureau and the identity of the former director of German naval intelligence, Arthur Tapken. Graves’ revelations culminated in his autobiography, The Secrets of the German War Office. Written by the ghostwriter Edward Lyell Fox, the book contained a fair amount of fairy tales, but was also interspersed with details of Graves’ espionage career in both services. Fortuitously for Graves, the book was published on the eve of the First World War, and instantly sold over 100,000 copies. Ironically, while German intelligence suspected Graves of conspiring against Germany, MI5 concluded that ‘Altogether he was zealously promoting the cause of the Central Powers’. The German authorities in the United States considered it necessary to hire a private detective to shadow Graves.

In reality, Graves had no bonds of loyalty with either side but was simply trying to profit from his secret service experience. He published a sequel to his book in 1915, entitled The Red Secrets of the Hohenzollerns, and filled the columns of American newspapers with predictions about the outcome of the war.

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