Why is a book about SMERSH relevant today? As Mr. Birstein takes pains to point out, "the present Russian government seems intent on whitewashing Stalin's atrocities and the history of the Soviet security services." -- The Washington Times
, Feb 28, 2012
Vadim Birstein's SMERSH: Stalin's Secret Weapon
has won the inaugural St Ermin's Hotel Intelligence Book of the Year Award 2012
. Birstein's title is "a very absorbing, thoroughly readable, extraordinarily detailed account of an organisation that...had a terrible, bloody history " according to the judges.--The Bookseller, 13 June 2012
"Dr. Vadim Birstein has written an authoritative and much-needed new study of the Soviet Union’s feared SMERSH counterintelligence agency
bringing to life the increasingly forgotten harsh reality of the Communist police state."Richard R. Valcourt, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence
From the Inside Flap
SMERSH, an acronym of "Death to Spies", is primarily known to readers in English as James Bond's sinister opponent in several of Ian Fleming's spy novels. Yet SMERSH was a real organization and just as diabolical as its fictional counterpart. No information was available on the super-secret organization until the fall of the Soviet Union, and its importance to Second World War history is almost completely unknown to scholars and history readers alike.
Ostensibly a military counter intelligence organization dedicated to fighting Nazis, SMERSH spent considerable time and effort terriying its own servicemen including author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was arrested for writing a letter to a fellow office. Its activities also often strayed into the politcal phere, exemplified by the arrest of many political leaders and foreign diplomats in Eastern Europe, including the famous rescuer of Hungarian Jews Raoul Wallenberg at the end of the Second World War.
While it was formally part of the Defense Commissariat, SMERSH was not under the control of the military hierarchy. In reality it was a secret service independent of the other Soviet security organizations, the NKVD and the NKGB. Its head, Viktor Abakumov, a shadowy and powerful figure whose biography is revealed here for the first time, reported directly to the dictator Joseph Stalin on a daily basis.
Based on a huge number of documents and memoirs available only in Russian, the book details all the known activities of SMERSH:
- its clever 'radio games', which used captured German officers to lure German intelligence into traps
- its mass vetting of Soviet troops who had been prisoners of the Germans
- its arrest and persecution of Red Army generals
- its infiltration of Nazi spy schools
- its participation in military tribunals and 'Special Board' of the NKVD
- its participation in the Nuremberg trials and the 'Sovietization' of Eastern Europe
- its investigation into Adolph Hitler's death and the discovery of his body.
The book also includes many archival documents translated by Dr. Birstein and includes a number of charts and figures that are extremely useful for understanding the complexities surrounding SMERSH.