“The spies in history who can say from their graves, the infomation I supplied to my masters, for better or worse, altered the history of our planet, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Richard Sorge was in that group.”
Born October 4, 1895 in Baku, Russia, son of Wilhelm Sorge, a German mining engineer and his Russian wife Nina. Wilhelm moved the family to Berlin, Germany in 1898.
Grew up very patriotic and nationalistic towards Germany, leaving school and enlisting in the German military in 1914. Served valiantly in battle, being wounded on three occasions. On the third occasion he suffered severe injuries when shrapnel ripped through and broke both of his legs, the injuries causing him to endure a slight limp for the rest of her life. Shipped back to Germany to recover, he began reading the teachings of Karl Marx, for whom his great Uncle had once worked. Disillusioned by the war and the nationalism that existed at the time in Germany, he left the military and focused on obtaining an education. Studying at several schools (including the University of Berlin, University of Kiev and University of Hamburg) received a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1920. At about the same time, he joined the German Communist Party.
So profound was his belief in Communism that he began teaching it to his students while he was a teacher in Hamburg and then to fellow coal miners when he took a job in the mines year later. He was terminated from both jobs. His actions were noted by the German police who labeled him as a Communist spy. As they prepared to arrest him, he slipped out of the country and headed to Moscow where he met Dimitri Manuilsky, the head of Intelligence for the Comintern. Manuilsky set in motion Sorge's training as a spy, encouraging him to learn English, French and Russian languages.
After significant training, Sorge returned to Germany where he married Christiane Gerlach in May 1921. While his wife was not aware of his espionage work, Sorge was taking more steps to establish himself in that field. He was ordered to move to Frankfurt where he would help to gather intelligence about members of the intellectual community as well as local officials. While in Frankfurt, he also worked to recruit new members into the Communist Party.
Spy Sorge (Teaser)
In 1923 Sorge met with Russian scholar D. Riaznov who was looking to obtain original documents authored by Karl Marx. Sorge's uncle, Frederich Sorge, had previously served as Marx's personal secretary and Sorge was in possession of several of these documents. After providing these to Riaznov, Sorge was introduced by the scholar to a number of high ranking Russian intelligence officers.
Sorge and his wife soon traveled to Moscow where he met with Communist Party officials and received his official Communist Party membership card. After being assigned to the OMS division of the Orgburo, Sorge undertook numerous intelligence operations. His wife, unhappy with the time consumed by his new duties divorced him.
Began working for the GRU in 1930, serving in the Fourth Bureau under General Yan Karlovich Berzin. Sorge was sent to Shanghai in 1930 to help in the attempt to initiate a Communist revolution in China. He gathered intelligence about Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters. Posed as an agricultural researcher and was able to travel throughout China. Worked with underground Communist groups gathering information.
Was introduced to fellow agent Agnes Smedey in late 1930. Smedley put Sorge in contact with her boyfriend, news correspodent Hotsumi Ozaki, from whom Sorge would receive intelligence information for several years. Sorge also worked with a friend of Ozaki's named Teikichi, also a correspondent, working for the Shanghai Weekly. Passed the information he gathered from these contacts and passed it on to another agent, radio operator Max Klausen. Was briefly involved with Soviet agent Ruth Kuczynski.