Boeselager and his fellow conspirators came late on the scene; the group in Anne Nelson's wrenching and illuminating RED ORCHESTRA (Random House; 392 pages; $27) were there from the beginning. The so-called "Red Orchestra" (the name eventually applied to them by the Gestapo) started forming in the early '30s as Hitler rose to power. They were academics, journalists, artists, and show-business people — "elitists" we might call them today — who came together through bonds of friendship (the '30s equivalent of Facebook, perhaps) and were united by their mutual loathing of tyranny and their need to fight for justice and liberty. Non-ideological, in other words, and so both the Western Allies and the Soviets held them in suspicion and most of their espionage work was wasted — not the least being the detailed plans of the invasion of Russia that they delivered to the Soviets weeks before it happened.
Their lives ended on the gallows and beneath the guillotine. But what lives they were! Harro Schulze-Boysen was a dashing Luftwaffe officer, devil-may-care and fearless as he brazenly passed on military secrets. And his beautiful socialite wife, Libertas, covertly archived incriminating photos of atrocities while working at the propaganda ministry. In the inevitable movie version, I see, oh, Robert Pattinson and Miley Cyrus . . . Am I being cynical? As a character in TheArms Maker of Berlin says, "Let's face it, the swastika sells."
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