Spy of the Century – Alfred Redl & The Betrayal of Austro-Hungary, John Sadler & Silvie Fisch

Spy of the Century – Alfred Redl & The Betrayal of Austro-Hungary, John Sadler & Silvie Fisch

Alfred Redl was one of the most famous spies of the period before the First World War. From 1907 to 1912 he was head of the Austro-Hungarian counter-espionage service (the Evidenzbureau), but in 1913, soon after he left that post he was exposed as a Russian spy, and was allowed to commit suicide. In the following year the Empire’s first attack on Serbia ended in disaster, while the fighting on the Eastern Front ended with the disastrous loss of Galicia to the Russians. Quite how far Redl can be blamed for those defeats is unclear, but he was in a position to hand the Russians many key Austrian plans.

The authors are faced with one key problem – very little direct evidence of the extent of Redl’s actions has survived – his suicide means that he was never interrogated, and many Austro-Hungarian archives were lost after the collapse of the Empire. The lack of firm evidence for his real actions meant that many increasingly extravagant accounts of his spying were published at the time, further muddying the waters. 

Unfortunately this book isn’t terribly well organised. The account of Redl’s military career jumps around fairly randomly, as does the account of his known espionage activities. This is a story that would benefit from a very clear framework, including a clear examination of what we actually know about Redl’s spying activities. We do get a good feel for the period and the atmosphere in the last few years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the material on Redl’s dual careers is here – just not clearly structured.

1 – Prelude
2 – The Boy from Lemberg
3 – The Last Waltz
4 – The Game
5 – The Evidenzbureau (Intelligence Bureau)
6 – The 'Ace of Spies'
7 – The Betrayal
8 – Dolce Vita
9 – The Fall
10 - Legacy

Author: John Sadler & Silvie Fisch
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 170
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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