Sometimes the theft of all the necessary formulas, blueprints, and instructions would still not enable Soviet engineers and inventors to construct a complicated mechanism or duplicate a production process. They would need the human component, the special skill or engineering know-how. In such cases officers of the Division for Industrial Intelligence would, with offers of additional rewards, persuade the appropriate foreign engineers to make a secret trip to Russia to instruct the Russian engineers or supervise the laboratory experiments on the spot. Precautions were taken to insure that the traveler's passport should not bear any border stamps or other traces of his visit to the Soviet Union: the engineer would travel with his own passport only to the capital of an adjacent country, where he would turn it over for safekeeping to the local Soviet agent and get from him a false one on which he would proceed to Russia; then on the return trip he would turn this in and pick up the genuine passport where he had left it. The fees paid by the Russians for such trips ran sometimes as high as ten thousand dollars for a few days, but the savings realized amounted to millions of dollars. The following is a typical such operation.
A Worm Turns
In view of the fact that the Soviet government was spending huge sums of money on industrial diamonds needed for the expanding oil industry, metallurgy, and various geological projects, it was naturally interested in an offer made by the German Krupp concern to supply newly invented artificial diamonds almost as hard and good as natural ones. The new product was named "vidi," from the German wie Diamant, "like diamond." The Commissariat of Heavy Industry bought some of the vidi, tested them in drilling operations, and was amazed at their high quality. It decided to buy the patent from Krupp and have German engineers build a plant to produce them in the Soviet Union.
Soon a delegation of German experts headed by two Krupp directors arrived in Moscow. Knowing how badly the Russians needed industrial diamonds for the five-year plan, they demanded a staggering price for this technical aid. When the deal was being discussed at the Politburo Stalin turned to the head of the NKVD and said: "The bastards want too much money. Try to steal it from them. Show what the NKVD can do!" This challenge was taken up eagerly, and one of the chiefs of the Foreign Department was charged with the operation.
The first step was to find out the location of the vidi factory and the names of the inventor and the engineers in charge of production. This task was assigned to a German agent, scientist Dr. B. In the Berlin Technische Hochschule, with which he was associated, Dr. B. looked up all the available treatises on achieving hard metal alloys and then approached a noted professor who had written some of them. From him he learned that a Krupp inventor had succeeded in attaining the hardest alloy known and that this was being produced in a plant on the outskirts of Berlin.
Dr. B. now went to the site of the plant and dropped in at a beer hall frequented by its technical personnel. After visiting the place a few times, he engaged some of the technicians in conversation. He represented himself as a scientist who was writing a book on hard metal alloys. "Oh, then you are working with our Cornelius," said one technician. Dr. B. said no, but he had known a Professor Cornelius. "No," said the technician, "he is not a professor, he is only a foreman in our plant, but he is a man who could teach the professors how to make industrial diamonds."
Through an inspector of the Berlin Polizei Presidium, another secret Soviet informant, the Russian residentura obtained information on Cornelius, including his home address, and the next day Dr. B. rang the doorbell there. He was admitted by Cornelius' wife, who told him that her husband had not yet returned from the plant. This Dr. B. knew; he had come early on purpose, hoping to learn something about Cornelius rrom his wife. He told her that he was a Doctor of Science and was writing a treatise on hard metal alloys and that his colleagues at the Technische Hochschule advised him to see Herr Cornelius, who might be helpful to him. He added that if Herr Cornelius was really an expert in that field and if he was willing to contribute to the research he might earn some money on the side.
Frau Cornelius, flattered that a scientist from the famous Technische Hochschule should come to seek advice from her husband and stimulated by the prospect of earning extra money, began to praise her husband's abilities and high reputation at the plant. She said that the engineer who had invented the process for producing artificial diamonds had trusted only her husband, because he alone knew how to handle the specially built electric oven. and now that the inventor had fallen out with Krupp and quit. her husband was practically in charge of the whole thing. He could demand from Krupp any salary he wanted, and they would have to give it to him; but he was not that kind of man. For him devotion to the company came first.
When Cornelius returned home Dr. B. restated the purpose of his visit and, in order to underscore his purely scientific interest in the matter and allay any possible suspicion, invited him to his personal room at the Technische Hochschule for the following Saturday. On Saturday, after a talk at the Hochschule, he took him for dinner to his luxurious tenroom flat in the eight-story apartment house which he had inherited from his father. He had seen at once that Cornelius was too illiterate technologically to be able to explain in scientific terms the secrets of production, even if he wanted to. He was only a foreman trained by the inventor to operate the oven. What Dr. B. wanted was to find out the name of the inventor, his whereabouts, and the history of his break with the Krupp concern. After an excellent dinner and a few glasses of brandy, Cornelius enjoyed telling the story to his genial host.