Richard Christmann

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Person.png Richard Christmann  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
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BornNovember 13, 1905
Died1989 (Age 83)
NationalityGerman, French
Interests • France
• Algeria
• Tunisia
• Abwehr

Richard Christmann was a German intelligence agent who mainly worked against France. A former legionary in the French Foreign Legion, he then worked for the secret services of the German Third Reich, before continuing in the intelligence agencies of West-Germany after WW2. [1]

A childhood without history

Son of Richard Henry Christmann, an ethnic German, and Anne-Marie Tobien, of French ethnic origin, Richard Christmann was born in the outskirts of Metz, a lively garrison town of the then Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen, a contested province on the French/German border. With its fortified belt, Metz was then the primary stronghold of the German Reich, and constituted a real breeding ground for exceptional soldiers. His father served as an officer in the Imperial German Army during World War I. When Elsaß-Lothringen became French again after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Christmann would later rely on his place of birth to hide his true identity. When German officials were evicted from the area after WW1, he stays in Moselle with his grandparents.

Foreign Legion

After finishing school, Christmann had to do his military service in France, which he refused out of political conviction[2]. In 1926, he was arrested by the French police, while trying to get to Germany, and jailed for insubordination. Having to choose between prison and the French Foreign Legion, he enlisted in the Legion in February 1926. He was assigned to 1 st Cavalry Regiment abroad, a motorized regiment. Despite numerous acts of indiscipline, which earned him two additional years of service, Christmann seemed well integrated into the Foreign Legion, which at that time had nearly 50% German soldiers. Having learned to shoot and ride a horse, he served in North Africa, especially in the Anti-Atlas mountains, until December 1932. His knowledge of the country will be useful to him later.

Political commitment

Back in France, Christmann becomes technical sales representative for a factory in Lyon. In 1932, he went to Osnabrück in Germany, to pay a last visit to his father, who died shortly after. Christmann married in 1933, in Paris, with a mathematics teacher. In 1936, he joined the fascist Francist Party of Marcel Bucard. His political commitment made him to be expelled to Germany in 1937, where he was recruited by the Abwehr, through his sister Hilde, a member of the NSDAP since 1929. He joined the Nazi party at that time. In March 1939, the Abwehr hatches a plan to allow Christmann, as an alleged deserter, to contact the French secret services, after a simulated escape to the Netherlands. The ruse works perfectly, allowing Christmann to infiltrate the French secret services.

In the service of the Abwehr

During the Second World War, Christmann worked in occupied France, for the Abwehr, the German counter-espionage, as an intelligence agent in the occupied zone and in the free zone (Vichy|Vichy-zone). His perfect knowledge of French and his birth in Moselle makes him a perfect double agent. He thus became one of the best German agents in occupied Paris, known under the pseudonyms “Richard” and “Markus”. He specializes in Moslem affairs, weaving from this time on bonds with separatists in the French North African colonies. These links with the Tunisian and Algerian separatists enables him to obtain information. In particular, he is in contact with Mohamed Seghir Nekkache, Mohamed el-Maadi and Mohammedi Said.

Serving the Bundesnachrichtendienst

Like many former Third Reich agents , Richard Christmann was recruited after the war by the Gehlen organization, and worked with Hermann Josef Giskes. In 1954, he worked for this organization in Saarland, a border area of Germany then a French protectorate. The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)), the intelligence service of the West-German government, which sometimes works with the CIA against the French and British secret services, as was the case at the time of the Suez Canal Crisis, at that time had many former Nazis in its ranks.

From 1956 to 1961, Richard Christmann, alias "Salah", worked with Hans Merz for the BND in Tunis, where he secretly supported the FNL and the independence of Algeria, in particular by facilitating the delivery of weapons. He recruited 39 top officials as agents, including cabinet members and the leader of the secret service[3]


In 1959, Richard Christmann might have learned[4] of a planned Algerian liberation movement FLN's terrorist attack on French soil, targeting the Malpasset dam.[5] The incident, where 423 people died, was, and is still, officially classified as an accident. Christmann would have warned his superiors, who did not inform the French secret services. This theory is considered improbable by many specialists of the era[6].