Franz Von Rintelen Biography

Franz Von Rintelen, a biography of a German spy who infiltrated the US during WWI.


Von Rintelen came from a banking family in Germany and his father had strong connections in the American banking community. Captain Von Rintelen also spoke fluent English and had a considerable understanding of commerce. Due to this reasons his superiors in German Intelligence, during World War I, picked him for a dangerous and daring in the United States.

The Mission

He was ordered to sabotage American ships carrying clothing, food and munitions to the British and French. In the U.S. he contacted Franz von Papen (who later became Chancellor of Germany). Von Papen had being running an already conservatively successful operation in the States. He had backordered vast quantities of American war then did everything he could to tie up the production of the companies he did business with. Added to this he established a dummy corporation, Bridgeport Projectile. Through this company he bought up gunpowder which he then hoarded and destroyed. He then competed for munitions contracts which he failed to deliver on when won. Von Rintelen found this all too sedate for his liking. He intended on taking a more direct approach.

With the help of a German sympathising technician he began seeding the holds of American freighters with time-delayed incendiary devices. The idea was not to sink the ships nor endanger life but rather to "╦ťencourage' the crew to dump the munitions overboard in order to save the ship.

He took a leaf from von Papen's book when he set up a dummy corporation which obtained valuable munitions contracts from the Allies. Not only this prove successful in its aim but also provided him with a reasonable capital to maintain his operations. Taking advantage of his newfound position von Rintelen founded the Labour's National Peace Council. This was a trade union on the waterfront and was responsible for numerous strikes which further halted the Allies' war effort.


One German who was not happy with von Rintelen's success was von Papen. He felt that he was over shadowed by his compatriot. He sent a telegram to Berlin accusing von Rintelen of being a liar and a loose canon. The telegram was picked up and deciphered by British Naval Intelligence. Some commentators argue that von Papen used a code that he knew had been broken by the British, he wanted von Rintelen out of the picture. As von Rintelen sailed back to Germany on a neutral Dutch ship he was captured at Southampton, England. He was interned there until sent to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, USA where he spent three years.


He returned to Germany in 1920 a forgotten man, blaming von Papen for his capture. Disillusioned he moved to England where he died in 1949.

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