Spy of the Century: Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary
by John Sadler and Silvie Fisch
Pen and Sword, 2017
|1924 Movie Poster
To many journalists in Vienna at the time, this rather brusque description from army censors seemed to have something under it. The following day news broke that in searching Redl's apartments substantial sums of money had been found, as well as indications of abnormal sexual activities. Everyone began to ask who Alfred Redl was and what had he done? Over the next few weeks, stories surfaced about Redl's involvement with unspecified foreign powers and sexual relationships with men and women.
Since that May day, the case of Redl has exuded mystery. It has been the subject of numerous films, stage plays, and books, all of which have endeavored to plumb the mind of Redl as to his intentions, who he sold information to, and what his motivations were for betraying the country that had allowed him such an unparalleled rise to power and prestige. John Stadler and Silvie Fische have added to the plethora of works on the subject with this new book, in which the overleaf states that their overview is "based on information long hidden in Austrian and Russian archives."
With this in mind, the authors then try to find who Redl sold the secrets to and who else may have been involved. The speculation in this area is excellently laid out, but, as has happened with other works, it is non-conclusive. Those not familiar with Redl's story may ask at this point why there is such a lack of information. It was because Redl, after being discovered and on the verge of arrest, was given the right to suicide to avoid scandal, such was the esteem his colleagues held for him. He was never questioned nor were incriminating documents linking him with other powers ever discovered.
Spy of the Century is an excellent book for understanding the political and social environment in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the early 20th century. It is also head and shoulders above R. Asprey's work of the late 1950s entitled The Panther's Feast which dealt with Redl. It is more factual, whereas Asprey's work bordered on sensationalism. As for revealing anything new, I would leave that up to the reader. Notably, neither the select bibliography nor the end notes contained any reference to information gleaned from the Russian and Austrian archives.
Michael P. Kihntopf