"Electrician": A WWII Spy Story

Author: S. Brilev

REMEMBER Pastor Schlag from the TV series "Seventeen Moments of Spring"? Remember when in the spring of 1945, the poor bloke played by Rostislav Plyatt stumbled on skis from Germany to Switzerland with only a hunch that the person who sent him there, Stirlitz, was not a German patriot but a Soviet intelligence officer?

Did such a pastor really exist? Yes! Only he was Dutch, not German. And he crossed the border in a plane, not on skis. And he was flying not from Germany to Switzerland, but from England to Belgium. And he was working for the USSR quite willingly. His name was John William Kruyt.

Maybe some of you will remember the television special report that VGTRK's European correspondent Anastasia Popova and I aired on the 75th anniversary of Kruyt's exploit. But don't put this article aside just yet, thinking you already know everything!

Fortunately, we did not get anything wrong in our television investigation, but after our program was aired, the SVR made a crucial clarification to the story. Seeing how much information we dug up after cross-referencing declassified material from the British National Archives (TNA), the archives of the Comintern in the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) and even the archives of the Yasnaya Polyana museum-estate (!), the SVR responded to a query from VGTRK and declassified documents that shed new light on the story.

The fragmentary and often quite muddled information in the West about Pastor Kruyt is now forming a complete story.

Sergey Brilev, Deputy Director for Special Information Projects, Rossiya TV, Candidate of Science (History); sbrilev@vgtrk.com

This article is a chapter from a new book by Sergey Brilev and Bernard O'Connor describing cooperation between the intelligence services of Moscow and London during the Second World War, adapted for publication in International Affairs. In agreement with the editors of the journal, the article includes additional ...

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