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Rudolph “Lucy” Roessler was a German spy in World War II and the secret and central part of the Lucy spy ring, an anti-Nazi operation based in Switzerland. He was a refugee from Germany and began the small publishing firm known as Vita Nova. His intelligence led to vital tactical moves by the Soviets.

Early Life and Career

Rudolph Roessler was born on November 22, 1897, in Germany. He received his education at in Augsburg, Germany and served in the German Army during World War I. After his service, Roessler started a career as a journalist. He first worked as a reporter in Augsburg. He moved to Berlin and changed to literary criticism. Roessler’s work entailed mixing with many of artists and authors within Berlin. His friends included those whom the Nazis sought to persecute and put him on the opposite side of the Nazis.

Rudolph Roessler’s unwavering ability to push on in the face of dire circumstances aided his many difficulties imposed by his Nazi opposition.

Rudolph Rossler suffered the effects of this negative association and, in June 1933, he lost his employment as the managing director at different local theaters. He also lost his positions as chairman of the supervisory boards for several Christian, conservative stage group, including the Silesian Stage, the East German Stage, the Prussian Stage, among others. Roessler was also banned from membership with the film and art committees in Berlin. Further unfortunate circumstance included the loss of his job as editor of several theater magazines, including The National Theater, his dramatic series, Schauspiel der Gegenwart, and many other popular creative endeavors.[1]

Move to Switzerland

Rudolph Roessler then moved to Lucerne, Switzerland and ran the small publishing company, Vita Nova. He maintained a connection with this social circles in Germany, even while in Switzerland. This allowed him to know the true situation in Germany even with the Nazi’s media monopoly. [2] He understood the importance of the developing German militarism and began to document Hitler’s rise to power. Rudolph Roessler compiled a library specializing in the Nazi military and saved around 20,000 newspaper excerpts and press releases. On top of keeping contact with friends from within Germany, he also discussed the German political situation as often as possible with German-Swiss tourists. He included all of this anecdotal evidence in his archive as well.

When the war broke out and his publishing business took a hit, Rudolph Rossler decided to find a commercial use for his archive. He contacted Dr. Wallner, a confidant of Swiss Hans Hausamann in the middle of 1939 to share his knowledge. Hausamann was a member of an anti-Nazi secret service working to prevent Germany from overpowering Switzerland and went by his code name, Büro Ha. Roessler relayed information given to him by his German friends at home and added to that from his own archive. He first made 80 reports for the Ha office. He made 130 copies in the end and received a fee of 1,550 francs. Max Waibel, the General Chief of Staff and main section head for the secret service in which Hausamann was a member, sought out Roessler’s information as well for the NS 1.[3]

Spy Rudolph “Lucy” Roessler

Rudolph Roessler’s archival data reached the Swiss MI and the British SIS before reaching the Soviet Main Intelligence Agency (GRU) run by Alexander Rado. Roessler bore no Communist sympathies and agreed to the connection with GRU only his complete anonymity and communicating through a middle-man known as “Taylor.” In May 1941, “Lucy” Roessler gave the Soviets his biggest piece of information yet, Operation Barbarossa. The details included the German invasion of the Soviet Union. When the invasion occurred in June 1941, “Lucy” earned the highest status possible for a source and spent the next two years delivering key information to the Soviets.

In fall 1942, “Lucy” again informed the Soviets about Case Blue, or the operations Germany planned against the Caucasus and Stalingrad. [4] Moscow managed to receive the updated decision from Berlin in 10 hours or less. On a particularly fast occasion, the message reached Moscow in only six hours, which was only a little less time that it took for the message to reach the German front lines. This required the unwavering dedication of Rudolph Rossler and those involved with Rado’s network. One of Rado’s men in particular, Allan Foote, bore a large burden as Rado’s main radio operator.[5]

Alexander Rado’s extensive network enciphered and sent several hundred messages a month during the peak of its operation. The majority of these messages came from Rudolph “Lucy” Roessler. Roessler did not have the luxury of a team to help him receive, decode, and evaluate the “Lucy” messages passed back to him before relaying them along. It required all of his time and became a full-time job.[6]

“Lucy’s” final major message occurred during the summer of 1943 when Roessler transmitted Germany’s Operation Zitadelle. The plan entailed a summer attack against the Kursk salient giving the Soviets time to prepare. The Operation resulted in a German defeat and the Battle of Kursk [7]

Discovery of the Lucy Spy Ring

The role Rudolph Roessler played in providing the Swiss information may have helped lessen the severity of his punishment.

Eventually, Germany realized a spy existed and their network was insecure. They deduced that the information passed through Switzerland to the Allies and turned to the Swiss for help. Since Switzerland still feared a German invasion, the Swiss government attempted to placate the Nazis by arresting many of the Lucy Spy Ring members. Rudolph Roessler was one of the spies apprehended and spared a trial by the Nazis. Instead, Roessler was tried in Switzerland and found not guilty of espionage. They released him in September 1944 and allowed him to return to his publishing company as the war started to end.[8]

Later Life and Death

Rudolph “Lucy” Roessler continued on with his life. In the 1950s, in the post-war era, he faced financial difficulties and was accused of selling innocuous intelligence regrind Allied occupation forces. He found himself on trial for espionage again, but this time he was found guilty. He spent one year in prison before returning to his publishing company for the second time. Rudolph Rossler lived out the rest of life working and impoverish in Switzerland until he died in 1958.[9]



Knightley, P. (1987). The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Long, M. Rudolph Roessler. SpyMuseum.com.[1]

Read, A., & Fisher, D. (1981). Operation Lucy: The Most Secret Spy Ring of the Second World War. New York: Coward McCann, New York, New York, U.S.A.
 Spiegel Online. (2007, July 10). “Werther hat nie gelebt” - DER SPIEGEL 29/1972. Der Spiegel.[2]


  1. Read & Fisher, 1981
  2. Read & Fisher, 1981
  3. Spiegel Online, 2007
  4. Read & Fisher, 1981
  5. Knightley, 1987
  6. Knightley, 1987
  7. Read & Fisher, 1981
  8. Long, n.d.
  9. Long, n.d.

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