Presentation “Double Agent Heinz Felfe Discovers America”

Denver © Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag Denver © Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag

Tue, 04/10/2018

Goethe-Institut Washington

1990 K Street NW, Suite 03
(Entrance on 20th Street NW, lower level)
Washington, DC 20006

Dr. Bodo Hechelhammer, the Chief Historian of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), will give a presentation at the Goethe-Institut on his new book about the double agent, Heinz Felfe. In addition to his talk, he will show photos and documents from the BND archives of Felfe’s CIA-sponsored trip through America.

In autumn 1956, employees of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) visited their American colleagues from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the US. Over several weeks they travelled across the country from west to east, trying to gain a better understanding of American history and culture. However, among the BND staff there was also an undercover spy: Heinz Felfe. He explored America on behalf of the KGB.

In the 1950s, the CIA began fostering a cultural program for West German intelligence officers. Selected members of the German secret service traveled through the United States for several weeks. The idea behind this program was to show the size and diversity of the country as well as its technological and economic superiority.

This book is the first to describe the journey of 1956, using previously unpublished photographs, travel notes and documents from the archives of the BND and CIA. His book shows the American society and culture of the fifties through the eyes of the German Secret Service. Heinz Felfe was exposed as a Soviet mole just years after his trip to the USA. This unmasking caused a scandal that was possibly the largest in the history of the BND, with his visit to the US playing a decisive role in his unveiling.

Bodo V. Hechelhammer, the chief historian of the BND, details the origins of the German foreign intelligence services under the guidance of the American secret service. He explains the travel program of the CIA as well as the BND group of 1956, and he describes the specific places that were visited on the way from Washington, DC to San Francisco to New York. In the preface, his American colleague Kevin C. Ruffner places the book in a historical context.

The book describes a previously untold chapter from the German and American history of the secret service. It also shows the mysteries about this trip through the USA that still exist today.

Dr. Bodo Hechelhammer is the chief historian of the German Federal Intelligence Service. In 2000, he received his doctoral degree from the Justus Liebig University Giessen and TU Darmstadt, and he has worked at the BND since 2002. Since 2010, he has been the director of the “History of the BND” research team, and in 2016 he became the chief historian of the BND.