Lecture 4:
Wolfgang Lotz

Within the next few weeks we will be learning about Eli Cohen, one of the most famous spies who ever served the nation of Israel. Many of you have already heard of him. Far fewer have heard of Wolfgang Lotz, another Israeli spy operating in Egypt in the early 1960's. Because of Lotz' presence in Egypt, the prize agent Eli Cohen was sent to operate in Syria instead.

Wolfgang Lotz was born in Germany in 1921. His father was a non-Jewish theater director and his mother an actress. Neither of them felt any closeness to their respective religions - so much so that Wolfgang's mother did not even have her son circumcised. This turned out to work to his advantage in his career as a spy.

Wolfgang's parents divorced in 1931, and in 1933, with Hitler's accession to power, his mother emigrated to Palestine, taking her son Wolfgang with her. His mother got involved in the acting scene in Tel-Aviv, while Wolfgang attended the Ben-Shemen agricultural school. He changed his name to Ze'ev Gur-Aryeh, Ze'ev being the Hebrew word for "wolf" - as in Wolfgang. He became an "expert equestrian and horsetrainer." A few years later, before he was 15, Wolfgang joined the Haganah. "His duties included guarding the armored bus that provided the only means of getting to Ben-Shemen, which was surrounded by increasingly hostile Arab villages and towns. He also had to do horse-back guard patrol around the school itself."

In 1939 World War II broke out. Wolfgang Lotz, being fluent in German and English, as well as Hebrew and Arabic, was a great asset to the British Army. He volunteered and was sent to Egypt, where he remained throughout the war. His main work consisted of the interrogation of German prisoners of war - where his own command of the German language was very useful.

Soon after his return to Palestine, he became involved with arms smuggling for the Haganah. When the state of Israel was declared in May 1948, Lotz served as a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces, taking part in some of the fiercest fighting in the Latrun area. He stayed in the army after the war, and in 1956, as a major, he commanded an infantry brigade in the Sinai/Suez campaign.

Sometime after the Sinai Campaign of 1956, the Mossad approached Lotz about working for them. He did not look Israeli. As he recalled, "I was blond, stocky and…a hard drinker and the very epitome of an ex-German officer." He was also blue-eyed, and with his native German, he could be a superb undercover agent. He was also known to be courageous and ready to risk his life. What was more, he had an extrovert nature "and a superb acting ability inherited from his mother. And because he was not circumcised, he would find it easier than most to pass, if necessary, as a non-Jew."

He was almost 35 and did not see a great future for himself in the army. He was aware of the "intensive and exhausting" nature of Mossad training, but accepted the challenge eagerly. He was asked to convince others that not only was he not Jewish, but that he was an ex-Nazi. To build a cover story, he was sent to West Germany. He was "to play the part of a German businessman who had served in Hitler's Army in North Africa and then had spent eleven years in Australia breeding racehorses." All of this effort was preliminary to placing him in Egypt, where he was to infiltrate the coterie of ex-Nazis living and working there.

Lotz underwent intensive training in the art of espionage for several months, and took courses in Egyptian history, politics and culture. "As early as 1957 the decision had been made to send him there (to Egypt) so he could collect information on the Soviet arms being supplied to Nasser's government." But there was another reason the Mossad wanted a top agent in Egypt. "An increasing number of reports (were) coming in about the growing influence of German advisers who had been invited to the country by Nasser. Many of them were former Nazis. Scientists, engineers, doctors, police experts - they had come to occupy a central place in the running of the country." The Mossad was especially worried about German scientists working on an Egyptian rocket. The Mossad wanted more information, and Lotz was to provide it.

In November 1959 Lotz was sent to Germany. After a year of moving from place to place, in order to make it difficult to trace, it was decided to send him to Egypt. He arrived in December 1960 or January 1961. He quickly set about making contacts. He went to horse riding clubs, and he soon found which one was often frequented by Egyptian Army officers. Lotz met Youssef Ali Gahourab, the Chief of Egyptian police. Introducing himself as a horse breeder, the two soon developed a real rapport and friendship.

Soon word spread of the rich German who had arrived among the Egyptian elite. "Within days Lotz was being deluged with invitations to dinner parties, cocktail parties, swimming parties. Wealthy horse-fanciers were asking his advice. Police chief Gharoub made arrangements with him to go riding daily."

Nor did Lotz skimp on his own show of generosity. "He entertained often and lavishly, carefully noting the titles and military ranks of the acquaintances he made." He bought horses of his own and stabled them at the Cavalry Club.

After six months Lotz returned to Europe to report to his superiors in the Mossad. They were very pleased with his work. As Eli Cohen was called "Our man in Damascus", Lotz was called "The Eye of Tel Aviv in Cairo."

Lotz prepared to go back to Egypt with a large sum of money and a radio transmitter to secretly keep in contact and communicate with Israel. But before he did, something very strange indeed - for a spy in his situation - arose. Lotz was already married to a woman in Israel. His marriage was not going well, but he remained married. Nevertheless that did not stop him form entering into a complicated love affair. On a train from Paris in June 1961, Lotz, in his own words, met "'a tall, extremely pretty, blue-eyed blonde with the curvaceous figure I always have a weakness for.'" Her name was Waltraud Martha Neumann, a refugee from East Germany living in America. She was visiting her parents in Germany.

Two weeks later they were married. "It is almost inconceivable that a trained and otherwise reliable agent would do such a thing, but Lotz said he did not consult his Israeli controllers and simply took his bride to Cairo." He insisted on taking her with him, which seriously compromised him as an agent. "To make matters worse Lotz told her at the outset that he was a spy for Israel. If he should be captured in Egypt, her complicity would weaken his ability to resist the brutal torture he was certain to undergo." On the other hand Israel needed and wanted him in Cairo. He had proven himself as an invaluable agent. Mossad Chief Isser Harel gave the go-ahead to continue with the operation.

There were other unconfirmed reports that Waltraud was actually just part of his cover story, and that the BND, the West German Intelligence Agency, assigned Waltraud to work with Lotz as part of their clandestine cooperation with Israel.

Whatever the truth, their love was real. And when he told her he was spying for Israel, she agreed to help him enthusiastically.

Lotz returned to Egypt in the summer of 1961, with Waltraud following a few weeks later. Egyptian police chief Gahourab was there to meet him and drove him personally to Cairo, "where a lavish party was thrown in his honor." Despite the party, Lotz made his first transmission to Tel-Aviv.

Lotz had a virtually limitless spending account, and he used it to buy presents for friends in high places, to throw parties, and to buy horses and stables for the riding school he would open. Wolfgang and his wife enjoyed themselves immensely. During the day they rode with friends, and their active social life led to more and more contacts with people in high places. They established good relations with Brigadier General Fouad Osman and Colonel Mohse Said, key figures in Egyptian Military intelligence. Osman was head of security for rocket bases and military factories, and thus was responsible "for protecting exactly those installations that Lotz wanted to find out about." One of Nasser's closest advisers, Hussein El-Shafei, "often told Wolfgang of important state decisions before most government officials knew about them."

Lotz also became very close to many Germans and former Nazis living in Cairo. He even became genuinely friendly with one couple. Another friend was Gerhard Bauch, who claimed to be a former Nazi officer, but was suspected of leading a more surreptitious life. General Fouad Osman told Lotz one day; "That man Bauch is always hanging around listening to every word you say. Be careful. Officially he is here as an industrialist, but we know he is a spy for the Bonn government. We allow him to operate freely, as president Nasser wants good relations with the Germans…we also know that the information Bauch gets here is passed on to the CIA. As you are a German he may try to exploit your position here. Forgive me for saying so, but you are a little naive about the dirty business of espionage. I thought I had better warn you."

Rather amusing words, being told to the foremost Israeli spy operating in Egypt at the time. Wolfgang thanked his friend and promised to be more careful.

Lotz, however, did keep up his pretense, and even succeeded in establishing his reputation as a rabid anti-semite - which only made him more acceptable to former Nazis and high Egyptian officials alike. He infiltrated the most secretive circles of the SS, as distasteful as it was to befriend these men.

His friendships with key military figures proved invaluable. He was able to visit even "closely guarded, top-secret bases near the Suez Canal. He and Waltraud were allowed access to airports where the Egyptians stationed their newly arrived Migs, and took photographs of the aircraft at close range with their pilots standing proudly by." Arms depots, air hangars, communication centers - all were open to him. At one point Israel wanted to find out more about the Russian Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) base being built near the Suez Canal City of Ismailia. It was absolutely off limits to people like him. But he went ahead and when arrested, he protested he had no idea where he was and if there were any problems, the military base commander could call Youssef Gahourab and Fouad Osman. The commander did so, and they indeed got Lotz off the hook.

The Egyptians boasted to Lotz about the clever way they mixed real fighter planes in with dummies on the airfields in order to confuse the Israeli Air Force. Lotz dutifully complimented them on their ingenuity and reported all of this to Tel-Aviv.

In the early 1960's Mossad Chief Isser Harel was very concerned by the danger of German scientists working in Egypt to develop their surface to surface rocket missile program. There was a perceived danger of the missiles reaching Israeli cities. Therefore, Harel pressed Lotz for more information on the development of the project.

Until then Lotz had given then Mossad very little information on the German scientists working in Egypt. But within six weeks Lotz "was back in Paris with a full list of every single German scientist living in Cairo. He had their Cairo addresses and the locations of their families in Germany and Austria. Through high-placed sources he had gained exact details of the exact role which each man played in the Egyptian armaments factories." From Lotz, the Israelis learned to their satisfaction that the Egyptians were having great difficulty in "finding a reliable guidance system."

Lotz maintained his horse breeding and horseracing charade, so much so that he even built his own riding establishment, "complete with miniature race track, stables, paddocks and a training ring." His friends came in droves to watch and admire his creation, which was just as he wanted; the more champagne flowed, the more his high-ranking friends divulged military and state secrets.

Lotz contributed to the Mossad campaign of threatening German scientists working in Egypt, mainly by writing threatening letters. One of them read; "We are writing to tell you that your name now appears on our black list of German scientists employed in Egypt. We would like to think that you care for the safety of your wife, Elizabeth, and your two children, Niels and Trudi. It would be in your interest to cease working for the Egyptian military."

Things were working fine for Wolfgang Lotz for a number of years until certain changes took place in Egyptian foreign policy in the autumn of 1964. The Egyptians had been dependent on Soviet military and economic aid since the mid 1950's. The Soviets used this leverage to pressure Nasser into inviting East German President Walter Ulbricht to come to Cairo. The West German Government protested, but Nasser felt he had to accede to Soviet wishes. So in the winter of 1965 he indeed invited the East German president. What was more, the Soviets had been complaining that the West German intelligence service, Gehlen, was working with the CIA against the Soviets.

Nasser decided to cooperate with the Soviets and show the West Germans that he couldn't be pressured in one move. He thus "ordered the arrest of some thirty West Germans living in Cairo." Wolfgang Lotz, his wife Waltraud, and Waltraud's parents, who had come to Egypt for a visit, were all arrested.

The Egyptians told the German ambassador that the arrests were purely a matter of form, and that they would all be released after the East German President left. But Wolfgang Lotz had no way of knowing this. He assumed that the Egyptians had found out about his spying activities. His first consideration, as the Mossad had feared from the start, was for Waltraud - and now her parents who were visiting as well. Lotz decided to cooperate fully with the Egyptians, who hadn't suspected a thing.

When they began to interrogate Lotz as a matter of routine, he volunteered to his stunned and unsuspecting interlocutor all they wanted to know. If the Egyptian interrogator had shown surprise, Lotz might have caught on, but the Egyptian didn't betray his astonishment. He merely told Lotz: "'I want to know where you hide your espionage equipment.'" He was just catching on to the meaning of Lotz' words, but he continued on with aplomb and presence of mind: "'We know everything. So as to avoid wasting time - mine and yours - it would be best if you confessed fully right here and now.'"

Lotz told him that he would "find the security transmitter in the bathroom." He went on tell him that in bars of soap they would find explosives and microfilm. They found over $75,000 in various caches.

But Wolfgang Lotz' acting ability and cool enabled him to keep much from his Egyptian interlocutors. He stuck to his cover story that he was a German, had been educated in Germany, and when World War II broke out he had joined the Afrika Corps. There, he said, he learned the equestrian art.

Following the war he went to Australia for 11 years before returning to Germany. He claimed that at a riding club he got an offer to breed horses and open his own riding establishment in Egypt. Only later, he said, did he understand that the Israelis had led him into a trap. He explained that he always dreamed of a horse farm and racetrack, and the price was to transmit information to Israel. "'I am a weak man'" he told them. "'I agreed right away. I did not even hesitate. I feared, at the time, that if I backed out my life would be in danger. The Israelis were ruthless and arrogant like all Jews. I thought it safest to follow their suggestions.'" He went on to warn the Egyptians: "Never have anything to do with them (the Israelis)."

The Egyptians seemed to accept his story of a rather slow ex-German soldier. But they checked to see if he was circumcised to make sure he was not a Jew. As we recall, he was not circumcised.

The Egyptians asked him for all of his contacts - who had trained him, where he had been trained, etc.

After days of this he convinced Egyptian Intelligence that Waltraud's parents were uninvolved. But they did not believe that Waltraud herself was innocent.

Lotz pretended to cooperate fully by volunteering all kinds of information - but his information was only partially true. The Egyptians believed he was a German spying for Israel but of course he was really an Israeli. He even made a televised broadcast to the German people urging anyone who considered spying on behalf of Israel not to do so, and expressed remorse for his own actions.

The Egyptians were thrilled with the propaganda - but the Israelis were even happier. Lotz' cover was obviously still not blown.

Just as the Egyptian-Jewish spies in the Operation Susannah fiasco received a trial, so did Wolfgang Lotz and his wife Waltraud. The Mossad secretly arranged for Lotz to have a German defense lawyer and an observer from Germany was even present.

Lotz continued to use his expert mix of truth and deception to convince the Egyptians that he was really a German. They believed him. There was a scare when a letter came from Germany, from a German lawyer representing victims of the Israeli threatening letter campaign. The lawyer accurately reported that Lotz' mother was Jewish and that he had emigrated to Palestine in the early 1930's, and that he had even served in the Israeli Army. But Lotz swore the information was false and the court still believed him.

On August 21, 1965, Wolfgang Lotz was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. Waltraud was sentenced to three years.

But Wolfgang was never forced to do hard labor. He won over the guards and befriended the other Israeli spies we learned about a number of weeks ago - Robert Dassa, Victor Levy, and Philip Nathanson. Lotz was even permitted to see his wife Waltraud now and then. Waltraud herself had become friends with Marcelle Ninio in the Women's prison.

At first Lotz did not reveal that he was an Israeli to his fellow Israeli spies. With time he did, and they became even more closely knit.

Months after the 1967 War, in the winter of 1968, Lotz, Waltraud, and the other Israeli spies were released in a spy exchange with Egypt.

Lotz returned to live in Israel. He went into various business ventures that never really worked out. But although never well known, Wolfgang Lotz deserves to be remembered for the tremendous contribution he made to Israeli security prior to the Six Day War, and for the presence of mind to fool his interrogators and jailers about his true identity as not only an Israeli spy, which they knew him to be, but as a citizen of Israel


 

 

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29 Aug 2005 / 24 Av 5765 0