Paul Ernst Fackenheim was a soldier of Jewish descent who participated in the First World Warin the ranks of the army of the then German Empire, being decorated with the Iron Cross (for services rendered during the war) and that he would establish a friendship, during those years, with Hermann Goringwho later would occupy positions of great responsibility in the Third Reich.
This war veteran, because he was Jewish, was imprisoned like hundreds of thousands of others during the Nazi anti-Semitic persecution and holocaustbeing sent to Dachau extermination camp and being assigned the inmate number 26336. And it was precisely that old friendship with Göring, during the IGM, that saved Paul Ernst Fackenheim from dying in that place.
In 1941, two years after being imprisoned, he received the disconcerting news that he could be released voluntarily (one of the very few cases in which the Nazis released a Jewish prisoner). Of course, that liberation was not something free and Fackenheim should reciprocate the favor becoming a spy in the service of the Third Reich in Palestine.
That operation to free Fackenheim, as a prisoner in the Dachau camp, had been prepared by members of the Abwehr (German intelligence service), who urgently needed to send an agent to Palestine and he had to be Jewish, the only way that would not arouse any suspicion among the British who administered those territories.
Fackenheim should create a network of spies that would help discover the plans of the United Kingdom with which he wanted to disrupt the takeover of the Suez Canal by the German military under Marshal Erwin Rommel.
While in the Dachau camp, Paul Ernst Fackenheim was taken by the guards to one of the offices of the compound and there two Abwehr agents were waiting for him, who addressed him with total courtesy and politeness, something that surprised him very much, in view of how they had been treating him since the arrival of Nazism in the German government and establishment of the Third Reich.
Those two intelligence service agents told Fackenheim that they were aware of his military past, decorations he received and the patriotic defense he had made of the empire during his participation in the WWI, proposing that if he wanted to continue serving the nation loyally in this new war, they could guarantee that their closest relatives (wife, son, mother…) could be safe and out of the persecution that was being carried out towards the Jewish people.
In exchange, Fackenheim would have to collaborate with the Reich by working as an agent of the Abwehr and his destination would be Palestine. There he should collect information regarding the British who controlled these territories, in addition to capturing other citizens who were willing to collaborate with Germany.
Paul Ernst Fackenheim was the ideal candidate to carry out the espionage operation on Palestinian soil due to his knowledge and perfect use of the Hebrew language, so he would not raise suspicions.
Over the following months he received exclusive training, in which he learned, among other things, to encrypt and decrypt messages in code, use secure radio communications and everything he needed to know to avoid being discovered while carrying out espionage tasks.
The plan was that, once in Palestine, he would have to pass himself off as a refugee who had come there fleeing Jewish persecution by the Nazis in Germany. An entire operation calculated to the millimeter and that took place from October 10, 1941, the date on which he was parachuted from a Heinkel 111 bomber.
If intercepted, he would explain that he had come to Palestine by sea from Greece by boat, having escaped from Germany a few months earlier.
He was given false documentation, stating as ‘Paul Koch’but after a few days in Palestine he was intercepted by the British authorities, who were already aware of the plan (thanks to a tip), being arrested and taken to Cairo to be tried for espionage.
The problem was that, seeing the surname on the false documentation, the British believed that it was the SS general, Erich Kochdespite the fact that Paul Ernst Fackenheim explained to his captors who he really was and the operation he had been forced to carry out by the Nazis, offering to collaborate as a double agent for the SIS (Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom).
He was finally able to prove his true identity, thanks to a woman who recognized him from when he lived in Germany and was able to confirm that it was not the Nazi Erich Koch. Despite this, he spent the years that WWII lasted locked up in a prison camp (accused of espionage in the service of the Third Reich).
But having been intercepted and taken prisoner by the British caused the Germans not to keep their word, arresting the family of Paul Ernst Fackenheim and when he was released (after the end of the war) upon returning to Germany it was found that they had been killed by the Nazis.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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