Elyesa Bazna

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Elyesa Bazna
Elyesa Bazna (Cicero)
Born Elyesa Bazna
(1904-07-28)28 July 1904
Pristina, Kosovo Vilayet (now Kosovo)
Died 21 December 1970(1970-12-21) (aged 66)
Munich, Germany
Nationality Albanian
Other names Cicero
Known for Espionage for Nazi-Germany

Elyesa Bazna (Turkish: [ˈeljesɑ ˈbɑznɑ]), born Iliaz Bazda (Albanian: [iliaz bazda]; July 28, 1904 - December 21, 1970), was a famous World War II secret agent. He was an Albanian from Kosovo who spied for the Germans during the Second World War, and was widely known by his code name Cicero. Principally motivated by a feeling of power, he sold information to the Germans through their attaché Ludwig Carl Moyzisch (and then through the ambassador Franz von Papen), in Ankara, Turkey in what became known as the Cicero affair. The information that he leaked is believed to have been potentially among the more damaging disclosures made by a Second World War spy but conflicts inside the highest echelons of the German government meant that little if any of it was acted upon.


Of Albanian origin, Elyesa Bazna was born to Albanian parents in Kosovo (at the time part of the Ottoman Empire) and moved to Turkey at a very early age. He served as a valet first to the Yugoslav ambassador to Turkey and then to a German counsellor who fired him for reading his mail.

From 1942, Bazna was the valet of the British ambassador Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen in Ankara. Sir Hughe had been the British ambassador in Riga, Latvia until the Red Army extinguished its independence in 1940. The embassy in Riga shared a building with the ambassador's residence and there he developed the habit of taking secret papers to his home. Bazna began photographing these secret British documents in Ankara on 21 October 1943. He approached Ludwig Moyzisch, an attaché at the German Embassy in Ankara, indicating that he wanted £20,000 for fifty-six documents he had photographed. He became a paid German agent in 1943 and was given the codename "Cicero".

He claimed that his hatred of the British was because his father had been killed by a Briton. This was untrue. His father died peacefully in his bed.[1] His real motive may have been money, or perhaps that he was also working for the British. Bazna cherished no illusions. He admitted that he came from a poor background, with minimal education, no polish, little imagination and unprepossessing appearance. But he had the courage to take chances and was happy to get out when the going got dangerous. He was also cheated by his Nazi paymasters who paid him in counterfeit sterling.

Spying for the Germans

Bazna obtained important information about many of the Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin conferences and an instruction to the British ambassador to request the use of Turkish airbases in order to bomb the Romanian oilfields at Ploiești. He gave information on planned bombing raids, possibly including the first Ploiești raid in August 1943 by the USAAF, which was met by heavy concentrations of flak, and successive raids on the Bulgarian capital Sofia from 17 November 1943 until 14 April 1944. Targets were a closely guarded secret, revealed only to the squadron commanders involved a day or two before a raid and subject to change due to weather. If Bazna passed over target information from the British ambassador's safe, it is possible that this was provided in order to build up his reputation so that later false information about something much more important could be fed through the same channel.

Bazna later provided only fuzzy information about "Operation Overlord", the codename for the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

British intelligence gave the impression that it believed that Bazna could not speak English and furthermore was "too stupid" to be a spy. Bazna claimed to speak Turkish, Serbo-Croat and French. He knew a little German from singing Lieder and said that he could read basic English but had difficulty in speaking it. Much of his conversation in both embassies was in French, then the standard language of diplomacy. Moyzisch, in his 1950 book, pointed out that Bazna was both intelligent and daring, he was also convinced that the spy had someone else helping him to locate and photograph the documents but the second man could never be identified. Perhaps that was because he was a British intelligence operator. According to Moyzisch, the German Foreign Office did not make much use of the documents, because officers there were divided about their reliability. Antipathy between the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and von Papen added to the inefficiency.

Von Ribbentrop showed the photographs to Hitler, (the two accepted 'Cicero' documents as useful intelligence). The material came either in a sealed diplomatic bag or by coded radio messages which were being read by the British. Franz von Papen believed that the Cicero documents helped postpone Turkey's entry into the war. Hitler entered a conference of OKH officers with some 'Cicero' materials in December 1943 and declared that the invasion of France would come in spring 1944. He dismissed the likelihood of staged attacks on Norway as a feint.

Hitler persisted in his belief that the Allies would attack somewhere in the Balkans. He feared that Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria might defect to the Allies, as Italy had done (in the Armistice of Cassibile). It could also threaten the flow of oil, copper and bauxite into the Third Reich.

During the first three months of 1944, 'Cicero' supplied the Germans with copies of documents taken from his employer's dispatch box or his safe. Photographs of top secret documents were generally handed over in Moyzisch's car, which was parked inconspicuously on an Ankara street. On one occasion, this led to a high-speed chase around Ankara as some other organisation was taking an interest in the hand-over. Bazna, who had perhaps been tailed, escaped.

When the 'Cicero' documents predicted Allied bombing missions in the Balkans, which took place on the predicted date, the authenticity of the information was supported and his reputation enhanced. Moyzisch told 'Cicero' that at the end of the war Hitler intended to give him a villa. The use the Germans made of the information was limited and Cicero's role has been exaggerated in spy literature.[original research?]

British Intelligence had an operation known as "Double Cross", which used double agents and fake documents to mount a series of deception operations to confuse the OKW, OKH and Hitler about Allied plans. In 1943, it needed to conceal the target of the first Anglo-American landings on continental Europe. Sicily was the obvious target, as it was well within range of British fighters based in Malta and a short distance from North African ports for landing craft. Cicero's role in Turkey, another neutral country with some pro-German members of the government and armed forces, appears to fit into the Double Cross strategy, with many of the same patterns. Franz von Papen, the German ambassador was close to Hitler, whilst not a Nazi. Moyzisch, an Austrian Nazi, was known to be diligent and effective. Documents leaking out of the embassy would quickly find their way to Hitler. 'Cicero' perhaps unwittingly played a supporting role in the deception over Sicily. His papers suggested that the invasion would be in Greece and that the British ambassador was involved in attempts to persuade Turkey to join the Allies in the attack.

The Abwehr was rightly sceptical of 'Cicero', believing that he might be a double agent. They were at that time already running 'Garbo' (Juan Pujol), 'Zig-Zag' (Eddie Chapman) and 'Tricycle' (Dusan Popov), supposedly German agents, to whom they were paying large sums but who were working for the British by supplying true and false information. 'Cicero', an Albanian like 'Tricycle', who was a Yugoslav national, had good reason to hate the Germans because of events after the Axis invasion of his country. It was obvious that such important papers should not have been left in the insecure embassy residency safe. It should have been inconceivable that any mere ambassador would have been given access to top secret invasion plans.

'Ultra', the British code-breaking system based at Bletchley Park was routinely reading messages between German ambassadors and von Ribbentrop in Berlin, coded by the "Enigma" machine. They would have known about 'Cicero' from the same source. Their inept attempts to foil his thefts appear altogether too incompetent.

The biggest wartime deception was over Operation Overlord, where the use of a British naval officer,[who?] apparently embittered into becoming a turncoat, (but the son of von Ribbentrop's doctor and so personally known to him during his pre-war stint as ambassador in London), helped to persuade Hitler that the actual attack would come in the Pas de Calais. In this case, some of the true information provided to the Germans seems to have concerned the timing and placing of the disastrous raid on Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) by Canadian forces in 1942. If 'Cicero' were in fact a trusted double agent, he could have been deployed as a supporting actor in this dramatic delusion also. With the British aware from Ultra and Miss Kapp (Moyzisch's new secretary) that he was working for the Germans, he would only have known about Overlord, about which the British ambassador to Turkey would never have been informed, just what Department XX of MI6 wished to reveal. British Intelligence believed that the repeated presentation of many clues in multiple locations served to increase the illusion of authenticity.

End of spying career

Bazna found it increasingly difficult to carry out his spying activities. A new alarm system in the British Embassy, required him to remove a fuse whenever he wanted to look in the ambassador's safe. Moyzisch hired a new secretary named Nele Kapp (known in the book as Elizabeth or Elsa for short), the daughter of a German consul and anti-Nazi who had spent most of her early life in Calcutta and Cleveland. Nele was neurotic and difficult to work with and Moyzisch decided that she had to go. What he did not know was that this was an act. Nele hated the Nazis and had been supplying information to the British and the American OSS. She eventually defected and was helped by an OSS agent to board the Taurus Express from Ankara to Istanbul but alighting before the city, was taken to an air base that the RAF was building in Turkey. From there she was driven to Izmir and then by Greek caique to Cyprus and thence to Cairo, where she was furious to learn that she was to be interned as a German. She eventually reached America where she settled in California and married an American. Fearing Miss Kapp would pinpoint his operation, Bazna left Sir Hughe's service. Although she knew that he telephoned the German most Fridays when the code room doors were locked so that he could report to Berlin, she knew him only as 'Cicero' and that he had a British connection.

Fritz Kolbe, a German diplomat and courier based in Berlin who had become an American spy after a meeting in Bern, Switzerland with the OSS, also provided information about 'Cicero'. It seems clear that MI6 would have had all the information that they needed in order to identify Elyesa Bazna, if they had wished to do so.

By April 1944, Nazi forces in the Crimea were in full retreat. The Turkish Government worried that the advancing Red Army might drive through Bulgaria and seize the Turkish Straits, which the Russians coveted. Turkish policy had been to wait and see which side would win, before making any move. Now that they saw the need to reach some accommodation with the Allies, the Turks replaced their pro-German army chief Fevzi Çakmak with Kazım Orbay who was pro-British.

In August 1944, Turkey severed diplomatic relations with Germany and by February 1945 had declared war, when Cicero's usefulness had ended.

After the war

Bazna was paid £300,000 by the Abwehr which he kept hidden. After the war he tried to go into business but when his sterling notes were checked by the Bank of England they were found to be mostly counterfeit (see Operation Bernhard). Bazna later tried to sue the West German government for outstanding pay. He lived in Istanbul for the rest of his life, giving singing lessons and working as a used car salesman. After Moyzisch published his book Who was Cicero? which raised a few awkward questions, British Intelligence assisted Bazna in writing I was Cicero the English edition of which was published by André Deutsch, a Hungarian publisher in London, who also published von Papen's memoirs and was later asked to publish the memoirs of Kim Philby.[2]

In popular culture

Cicero's handler Ludwig Moyzich, published his memoirs in 1950 with a book named Who was Cicero? Franz von Papen and Allen Dulles, wartime head of the OSS, suggested that there was more to the story than what had emerged in the book. Neither elaborated. Twelve years later, in 1962, I was Cicero was published by 'Cicero' himself. This book was part of a British intelligence operation to protect the Double Cross System and the Ultra Secret long after the war. Sir John Masterman's The Double Cross System, revealed that Bazna was a British agent from the first, controlled by the group under Masterman that ran Eddie Chapman, Dusko Popov and Juan Pujol Garcia (Garbo). Masterman, an Oxford history don, had been an exchange lecturer at Freiburg University in 1914 and spent the Great War in prison.

As well as feeding the Germans false information, Bazna was used to hide the fact that the 'Enigma' code machine at Bletchley Park, coupled to Alan Turing's Colossus computer, could read German secret correspondence. After the war, the British wished to continue to conceal this from the Russians. Ian Fleming was nearly prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for From Russia, with Love when he wrote about Bond stealing a Russian code machine the Spektor (renamed Lektor in the film), and came too close to revealing the truth. It was eventually decided that prosecuting him would generate too much publicity. The 'Ultra' secret was kept until the early seventies.

A film based on the book Operation Cicero by L.C. Moyzisch was made by 20th Century Fox in 1951. It was titled 5 Fingers and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Bazna, renamed Ulysses Diello, was played by James Mason. The 1971 Eastern Bloc co-production Liberation also portrayed the Cicero affair, with East German actor Fred Alexander as Bazna.

See also


  1. Take Nine Spies by Fitzroy Maclean, published in 1965
  2. "Elyesa Bazna". Bofhcam.org. Retrieved 2014-04-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • François Kersaudy: L’affaire Cicéron (ISBN 2-262-01921-5)
  • L. C. Moyzisch: Der Fall Cicero (Palladium Verlag, Heidelberg, 1952)
  • Ian Colvin: Chief of Intelligence (Gollancz, 1951)
  • Richard Wires: The Cicero Spy Affair (New York: Enigma Books, 2009) ISBN 978-1-929631-80-3
  • John Masterman The Double Cross system in World War II 1939-45

External links