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TITLB: The Life And Work Of Stephan Haller AUTHOR: Patrick R. Boiler
VOLUME: 3 ISSUE: Summer
A collection ol articles on the hrstoneal. operational. oOcuinai. and ihcoretrcai aspects ol intelligence.
All statements of faci. opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence arc those of
the authors They do not necessarily reilect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations
THE LIFE AND WORK OF STEPHAN HALLER Patrick R. Beller
This true biography of an tnUUigcntx officer istudy in intelligence: It showsoodly endowment of intellectual equipment, the honing of scholasticismatholic diversity of interests and experienceide none tooase for intelligence work, but indeed create the potential for extraordinary success Holler's contributions to VS. intelligence began inh the OSS. Often unorthodox in his methods buteffective in his stubborn onslaught on the workhim, heareer that is now part of the tradi-turn of the VS. intelligenceradition that he and many of his colleagues have been building since the days of World War II.
Stephanrnathematician, and politicalnot the model intelligence officer, because there is no such thing. The job is so vast that in addition to that firstkind* of persons and talents art needed. But Holler combined more talents than most men-combined them and controlled them, so that even seemingly disparate traits were fitted together Hehoughtful and sensual, purposeful and humane man.
But trying to measure him is like trying to measure other natural forces, likeioZ as so many
aTtnbuleV'W"ld'thrust- Be more thanof Stephan Holler was not his reale did not leant publicity or acclaxm. he wanted to do his job. Those of us who knew htm know that he would not only have chosen anonymity; he would have insisted on it for opera, tumat reasons. His identity and character merged tvith the work to which he was devoted, shaping it an?shaped by it The work is his memorial. And because u* share tn the work, we also short in his story.
seudonym to uM here because hi.re mOH mrUv* mrerel of bto operate eonUm- lo bea.^
Stephan Bailer was the second ol two sons borniddle-dal^uSe ol German Jews. Manired and Margarete Haller were iX in Fr^kfurt am Main with their three-year-old
Emll in St, the year of Stephen's birth.was born. Manfred Hallerhad finished grammar school, the family moved Graduation from Uittelschule at
ermany; young Stephaner*84 he continued bis studies in Braunschweig, and two years later he took his firstS, at Marburg/ Lahn. The next five years were spentumber ofinside and outside Germany. The young mansshowed the breadth of his interests. He became skilled in mathematics and statistics, physics, psychology, sociology, and political science; and he read widely in other subjects. His father was lean, bearded, and strictly orthodox, whereas
Stephan's broad Interests and his studies in the sciences had
increased his natural curiosity and his scepticism. The result
was frequent clashes between father and son. But although
Stephan argued from materialistic concepts, one of his closest
friends has said that later to his life he was deeply rehg.ous.
a fact he tried to conceal. In any event, the Rabbi and his
younger son were never Intimate to their association Margarete Haller diedhen Stephan was seventeen
Ten years more, and the Nazis were to put bis father In acamp. Later the Rabbi, his daughter, and his older
son all managed somehow to reach South America Stephan
Politician and Propagandist
European students have always been more precociousWe than their American counterparts. Younghimself with the Social Democratic Party whennineteen, and scon became very active in5hen he was forced tohe was much occupied with politics and tbe
tional programs of the German labor movement. Forthose years he was chairman of the Social DemocraticMovement at the University of Frankfurt and athe movement's national board of chairmen. He was also
district leader o( this movement for southwest Germany, which included the Universities of Marburg, Frankfurt,Heidelberg, and Munich, as well as the Polytechnicat Darmstadt. At the same time he took part in the educational program of the Oerman labor unions, serving both as educational director and as teacher at various large plants. Including I. O. Farben, throughout Hesse.
Haller also became intensely and practically interested in the theory and uses of political propaganda. It was thisthat brought him into intimate contact with KurtOllenhauer. and other leading Socialists. Heember of the SPD Propaganda Committee for Hesse, which worked under the direction of Reichstag Deputy Dr. Carlo Mier-endorff. For three years,0his committeeontinuous survey and analysis of the effect upon the German people of the propaganda of all the political parties. Tbe purpose of the survey was to improve SPDand reduce the effectiveness of that of all opponents. Stephan Halter's education thusittle closer to his future work.
During the same period he put his analyses to use,as the SPD speaker athousand political rallies held all over Germany. About half of these were meetings of national is tic groups: the Stahlhelm. the German National Party, and of courseAP. the Nazis. He sharpened his wits and skills in debate against men whose names were later heard In intercession andHitler'schief; Baldur von Schlrach. Nazi youth leader; Dr. Franz Seldte. founder of the Stahlhelm. Selected as ato the SPD's national convention, be twice ranfor office, once for the Hessian Landtag and once for tbe Reichstag. Politics Is not an easy life anywhere; Itard and rewarding schooloung Jew in thepre-Hitler Germany.
A statement written by Haller for the OSS in4 includes this comment:
I shall not dwell upon thethat to the court* of the above mentionedc-oM not fall toather thorough knowleds* of the Oerman party systemhole, of tbe structure, history, methods of propaganda and action of the Oerman national parties, particularly the Nazi Party.
the German National Party, and of the league* andeither connected to or collaborating with them; aa well aa,ertainersonal knowledge of many known leaders of these organizations.
He also learned how to assess people and how to deal with them, when to be friendly and kind and when to be hard or austere, whom to praise or reassure and whom to treat with just the right degree of that superciliousness so effective with certain Germanic types- His convictions gave him reason to act; his studies and political research had taught him how; and now experience was teaching him the hardest lesson, when to act.
Adolf Hitler became Reichschancellor onhe night before the Reichstag fire, onebruary, HallerungenUy anti-Nazi speech at Darmstadt. Two days later the SS storm-troopers came to the Haller home. They did not findoung student ofirl, had somehow learned what was coming and had warned him. The troopers smashed up the household, arrested the Rabbi, and hauled him off to the Sammellayer.
The Wandering Jew
For six months Haller lived and worked underground with anti-Nazis in southwest Germany, the Ruhr, and Berlin. In September he escaped into Luxembourg. Here he continued his anti-Nazi work until the German government pressured the small duchy to arrest him and returnarrant for his arrest was Issued, but he escaped again, to the Saar, which was then administered by the League of Nations. (Much later, at the war's end. Haller went back towith the American forces. He looked up the chief of police and identified himself: he understood, he said,arrant for his arrest and extradition was outstanding.)
He stayed in the Saarlandhen it wasGermany. When tbe Nazis marched in be walked out,There he resumed, at the Sorbonne, his studiesmathematics, sociology, and political science.
olunteer statistician for the Pasteur Instituteember of the National Center of Scientificranch of the French Ministry of Education. He was offered an assistant's post at the Institute of Atomic Physics of the
University of Lyon, despite the fact that45 France was suffering from unemployment, employed aliens were required to have work permits, and there were many times more refugees than permits.
When World War II started, all Oerman aliens In France were arrested and confinedetention camp. SoonHaller and some fifty other Oerman and Austrianwere released and formedurious organization known as the Prestation Savante (Service of Scientists),by the French Ministry of War and attached to the University of MontpeUier. where they worked under the orders of the Ministers of War and Education. The organization was semi-military, and the scientists were dressedompromise between soldiers' uniforms and the garb of monks. During this period Haller made friendsumber ofwhom he later recruited and used as agents. Precisely what work was done by the Prestation until the fall of France Is not clear now.
When France went under, Haller fled again. Both theand the Vichy militia were looking for him. Thererice on his head. He went south, to the unoccupied zone. During his long sojourn there he became fluent In French and improved his accent sufficiently to passelgian. After the Franco-German armistice, the French set updepots at which French military personnel could be demobilized upon request. Their proof of bona fides was the uniform; upon discharge they wereew thousand francsivilian suit. Haller managed to go through the process three times In three different towns, living in each on his severance pay.
Finally picked up and placedamp for demobilized French soldiers, he escaped and made his way to theConsulate in Marseilles, where he obtained an Emergency Intellectual Visa to the United States.rief delay in Spain in the summere reached New. York via Cubaefugee ship. He arrived in wretched physical condition.
Rebel in Uniform
Ten months later, at Fort Dlx, New Jersey, he was
into the United States Army. The Haller legend has Itdifficulty with the military psychologists ensued: asked
by one of Ihcm if he could sing, he repliedorfuiimo rendering of Die Wacht am Rhein. This opening scenesome later events. Assignedtudent to an army engineering school in Kentucky, he was placed in an elementary class. The Instructor made frequent errors, and Sailer's helpful corrections were appreciated neither by the teacher nor by the commanding officer. The latter had Haller on the carpet and informed him incisively that he was not the assistant instructor. Haller explained that he did not know anything about the army but did know mathematics, whereas the Instructor's specialties were obviously theompromise was effected: he was to remain silent In class in exchangeightly pass.
From2 until4 he was assigned to Ove different Army posts, usually instructing inomputer, while the OSS was frantically looking for men who knew Germany well. At last an IBM run turned up Stephen Haller; he knew the language, had detailed area knowledge,ell-known SPD member, knew Important personages. Almost all the holes in the card were in the right places.
The OSS brought him to Washington and gave himtraining. In4 he was shipped to London and assigned to the labor division of the BACH section, anwhich supplied cover stories and documents for agents working behind enemy lines. In August he was transferredorward combat area in France. He served with one of the first OSS field detachments that accompanied the armies from the Normandy landings to the war's end. Theseprovided liaisono OSS headquarters, ran border crossers, recruited spies from POW cages, briefed and debriefed agents, and performed many other intelligence tasks, nailer's exceptional capabilities led to hisommission- The recommendation Included the following Job description:
n chars* olBACH research work it Fieldnd acts as Immediate uslstant to tbe CO Id all intelUgencee <a) qwxUeos officials .prisoners of war. deserters, and escaped foreignb) collects and analysese) prepares writtenovertDg such topics aa: The Oerman RaUonlns
unt Inerman Ward) nipervUes the wort of tlx other meraben of th*
When Haller's commanding officer was to id to have him ready to appear before an ETOUSA commissioning board, be was advised to ensure that "Haller's actions tn front of the board be strictlynd to be sure that the candidate could salute and about-face correctly, that his uniform was neat, clean, and pressed, and that his buttons shone. Perhaps the candidate was aided less by the coaching than by hisAt any rate, ontephan Haller wasa second lieutenant In the Army of the United States
For the next few months his principal task was to interview prospective agents and work out their cover stories.his intimate knowledge of Oerman. Germans, and Germany was his painstaking care in details, an incisively logical mind,uiet devotion to duty. He went from Verdun to Luxembourg to Belgium. In May his unit moved to Wiesbaden, where his pay and allowances were furtherby two free bottles of champagne each month.
In Wiesbaden, where the unit was known as "Field Base C" oraller located old SPD friends and began to pick up the broken threads of Oerman politics, while at the same time busy with counterintelligence work During this period he established the unorthodox operational pattern which he usually followed afterwards. He installed himselfouse well away from the base, living alone and working with his agents there. This pattern of activity was threatened with abrupt termination by an order from Security that he be separated, but his commanding officer and others who knew hlra welleversal. During the argument over this order the acting chief of the area wrote. "We have no one in Europe today who has his scientific background" andforrilliant career.
"Baron" Ualter at Bochlieim
The prediction proved right In the years after tbe war Haller obtained extremely valuable political and scientific
technical intelligence. Although promoted to first lieutenant
ine asked to be given civilian status, and in7 became an employee ol CIG He was graded atndargainhere ever was one* By this lime be was established at Hochhelm am Main, anamarble halls and statuary, walls covered with damask and leather,ellar full of champagne. Thus ensconced in "Schlosshich was listed In official recordsolitical researchbe began to exploit the intelligence potential of the EPD against East Germany and the USSR and to follow French activity in the French Zone of Germany and even in France itself. This second task, apparently carried out through friends made during the days of his exile, produced almost the only information available about Socialist activity In France and won htm an official commendation
The three years that Haller spent in Hochhelm werethe happiest of his life The talents with which he was born, tbe scope and depth of his formal education, and the diversity of his International experience, both civil andnow came into focus. He was working hard. At times he did not leave his apartment on the second floor of the "Schloss" for two or three weeksow. He held Intense political discussions with visitors, many of whom wen* not agents but unwitting sources, friends and acquaintances who hut known him as an SPD leader and who were more than willing to help him in the 'political research" which he was now doing for the Americans. Among his visitors wereODenhauer. Heine, and other German SocialistIn fact, Haller even arranged formal meetings of the SPD Party Directorate in his quarters. The result of these meetings and discussions was unexcelled political reporting.
Hard as he worked, Haller also found time for fun and games He was popular with both his colleagues and the townspeople, from the Mayor down. He always sat at the Mayor's table at civic festivities and was In demandance partner among the wives of the local dignitaries. He drank and smoked with zeal, but few people claim to have seen him the worse for alcohol. His cellar was kept well stocked with champagne and the still wines of the Rhine and Moselle Be evenalse bottom installed in his car, so that whenever his driver was sent to the French Zone be could smuggle back
a lew dozen bottles of Hoch. And his major domo. Kurt, was sometimes detailed to escort one or another fair young lady to the Schloss of an evening and drive her home again the next morning.
His pleasure in the present did not keep him from planning for the future. He suggested to his superiors that forpurposes he renounce. citizenship acquired through military service anderman again. He would then re-enter tbe SPD and thus give the newlyCentral Intelligenceigh-level penetration of one of the two most important political parties in Germany. This position would make him an ideal agent, he felt, for both intelligence collection and [xilitie.il action. It would not be suspected that his renunciation of American citizenship and renewal of old ties were not genuine; the same thing had been done by others,ormer mayor of Hamburg. But Haller also made conditions. He wanted to keep his VS.was quite proud of being anhe wanted assurances that when the time came he could return to the United States, his citizenship reactivated. Thiswas not accepted. He frequently referred to it in later daysissed opportunity.
Haller was intuitive as well as logical. Heemarkable ability to smell out Communist penetrations of the various civil governments set up in the German states. He felt sure, for example, that the Minister of the Interior for Land Hesse, Hans Vcncdry.ommunist; and with his customary pertinacity ho set out to prove It. His efforts led the Military Governor to complain to Haller's superior: heood little government going there and Haller was upsettingt seems apparent that Haller thenalk with the SPD leadership, for Venedey was expelled from the SPD for acts injurious to the party. He re-emergedunctionary of the German Communist Parly.
From Pontics to Science
In9 CIA headquarters for Haller's area moved from Hcidelburg to Karlsruhe, and Haller set up shop incastle, at Pforzheim. In part his work here was aof the three years at Becbhehn. His old SPD friends continued to visit him and furnish valuable political Informa-
tioo. These visils also gavehance to explain his own views, which were of course those of the TJ.S. Government, and thus to combine Intelligence collection with politicalBut some of his duties were new. Because of hisbackground, he was placed in charge. program for paying subsidies to German scientists, partuch larger operation designed to deny German scientific talent to the Soviets. This assignment required him to establish andew cover, one suited to its purpose.
is cover well established, he was shifted to Berlin, there to direct operations against scientific targets in the East Zone of Germany. As usual, heouse which served as both living quarters and base of operations. He responded to the tighter operational environment bypersonal control. He rarely went to parties now. He refused to let anyone else handle his agents, even when he. He did not like to put on paper the mass ofaccumulated In his head.
He began work, with others, on an operation designed to hinder the Soviet atomic energy program by inducing large-scale defection among German specialist craftsmen in the East Zone. These workers made the fine nickel wire mesh used for the essential separation of uranium Isotopes. The scheme worked; technicians and their families defected in droves and were flown to West Germany. But Haller wasto learn later that the Soviets were onlynot thwarted. The vanished craftsmen were replaced. His own part in the operation, however, was well done, and in1 headquarters sentongratulatory wire. One of his chiefs at about this time took written note of his lone-wolf tendencies, but all were unanimous that his work, and particularly his reporting of scientific intelligence, was excellent.
The German and Austrian scientists who had served with Haller in the Prestation Savante in France soon after theof Worldowool of assets. For two more years he worked with some of them In acquiring scientific and technicalove affairoung German actress ended when she married his rival, but his disappointment did not impair his work. The quality and
quantity ol his. output is evidenced in the repeated efforts of his superiors to get him paid more nearly what It was worth:
mahenomenally high, and the many cases he runs are dntlnfrulshed for tbe professionallsm evident In their conduct Although outstandingly qualified lafor conduct of poelttve intelligence operation* covering technical and sctenUfle aublecta, he hat demonstrated marked ability In conducting other kinds of poUUve intelUccDee and Cathould like to underline tbe fact that In the handling, of agent* and tbe production of Intelligence,In the scientific and technical field. In Uus area, RaUer Is, In my opinion,eer.
His scope expanded as scientific conferences In Switzerland and elsewhere enabled him to discuss the meetings with old fnends who had attended, professors and other Intellectuals. Both the briefings and the debrlefings of this period are classics. In5 he debriefed Leo Bauer, former leading functionary of the East German Communist Party, whoof his personal acquaintance with Haller had refused to talk to any other American official. He also debriefed Erica Glascr Wallach. who had gone to East Germany to locale her foster-father, Noel Field.
His friends remember only one interview that left him shaken. Dr. Gustave Hertz, one of the leading Germanwho worked on the Soviet atomic energy program, had returned to Germany with his secretary, Ellen Mueller, her husband, and their four children. The family was rushedafehouse, and Haller was called. As he began bis careful questioning, little hands started tugging at his trouser-legs and dutchlng at his coat Soon one and then another child, chomping bard candies, had struggled into his Up. While their mother beamedride that wasactor in her cooperallveness, the two continued the ascent, reaching Haller's sagging shoulders and making room for the other two members of the expedition. Haller has been calledan's manady's man, but no one ever calledhildren's man. Somehow he struggled through theHe emerged perspiringittle stunned, as though he had been kicked In the stomach. Perhaps he had. All future dealings with Frau Mueller were handled by his
The Sheer Pinnacle
By now he was near the peak of his career. He was using fully his keen intellect, depth of recall, sensitivity, practical astuteness and imagination, his background in languages, science, and politics, and his feel for operations. His ability to deal with people amounted to genius. He was good at it because he was patient and, above all, because he wasIn people. Unlike most refugees, be had no political or personal axe to grind. He was an accurate observer and reporter. He could talk to all classes of Oermans, from artists and professors to farmers and laborers, each to their ownindispensable skillountry to which speech differences mirror both social levels and geography. Hiswith his contacts were on twofriendlyparticipation and of impassivethe latter being evident to them. Perhaps his membershipace recently and bitterly persecuted by the Germans strengthened this faculty and sharpened his ability to use Oerman agents for the purposes of his new homeland.
He did not grow careless or conceited with success. Hea meticulous craftsman. Before heource, he mastered the subject to be discussed. His agents were made comfortable not only by his cigars and beer but also by the easy flow of communication. And he did not end until he had every last scrap of useful information. He never failed, moreover, to remain alert for operationalagents, counterintelligence indicators, propagandaWhen Haller was finished, there were no more questions to be asked. And though he groaned over the chore of putting It on paper, his reporting becamemore than thorough,he rarely failed to makecomments. Despite the bulk of his reporting he wrote everything in longhand.
His work remained consistently solid, even brilliant. Some of it was considered sufficiently important to be brought to the personal attention of the Director of Central Intelligence. The Director, Impressed, thought that the promotionsis superiors had got for him were nottephan Haller thusan promoted to the top of Civil Service ranks not because he was an exceptional execu-
had never occupied an executivesolely because he was an exceptional case officer. The Director sentersonal letter of congratulation, and shortlywhen he was called to headquarters,uncheon in his honor. Haller was deeply moved. He often spoke later of the great honor conferred on him in Washington. His life and work reached on that day the topocket-like trajectory. It was foroment of true glory.
After his return to Germanyeriod of hard work in Berlin, he went ino Darmstadt to visit friends. Awakeningtrange room, in the middle of the night, he reached out for the light, but on the wrong side, and fell out of bed. The fall broke hiserman doctorin in the fracture, but the leg kept on giving him trouble. He wentospital in Munich, where leeches were used in an effort to reduce his blood pressure. The results were not good. He developed phlebitis.
These physical misfortunes would not have been theof the end for most of us, who can learn to be satisfied with past achievements and past honors, financial comfort,amiliar circle of family and friends. Stephan Halleran of different breed. With all the intensity of hishe had wound his life around one thing, his work. Work and the feeling that what he did was recognized were hispsychological sustenance. Now that appeared to be gone.
Lying month upon month in bed to the Army Hospitalhe grew ever more depressed, thinking of howdo nothing now to justify those honors heaped onhow little he would ever be likely to do again.that It had once been only his performance which hadfrom the Security axe, he evenrowinghe would be released from the service, after thirteenhe had stopped producing. No amount offriends and fellow-workers could dispel this irrationalof his frustrated energy. Bis collapse was sohe was returned to Washington In7
treated at the George Washington University Hospital. About irSSjt
a month later he was discharged.
He took an apartment on Sixteenth Street. Far fromEurope, out of touch with his world of operationalHaller fell victim of that sense of .uselessness with which the jealous gods, perhaps, had visited him at the summit of his life. On7 he was strickeneart attack and died.Original document.