The Spy With No Name by Jeff Maysh is a 59 page Kindle Single published 02 January 2017 by Kindle Digital Services LLC and available through the Kindle Unlimited subscription system. It is a true spy story which I find a near contradiction in terms. If it is a true espionage tale, how can anyone verify the truth? A reader can at best accept an interpretation of what happened.
Vaclav Jelinic was the real name of the “Spy With No Name.” Recruited from the Czech Ministry of the Interior, Jelinic was given extensive training and by 1967 rose to the rank of lieutenant in the StB, Czech intelligence. Chosen for an undercover mission in England, he needed a new name. This was provided by one of his handlers, Deputy Colonel Josef Kafka. Maysh also interviewed this primary source. Vaclav Jelinic became Erwin van Haarlem, an orphan who had gone missing during WWII.
The real Erwin van Haarlem had been given up for adoption by his mother, Johanna van Haarlem, at the insistence of her father in October of 1944. Erwin’s father was a Nazi soldier. This was considered a disgrace even though Johanna’s father, Isaak van Haarlem, had worked as a Nazi official. She later married and had an additional son. Her husband knew of the abandoned Erwin but forbade any mention of the child. Erwin would be lost to Johanna for 28 years until, her marriage dissolved, she began efforts to find her son.
But she would not find her son. She would find an actor, Vaclav Jelinic who claimed to be her son. He was working undercover in London. Deceiving Johanna became an additional and necessary task for the man named Erwin. He resented the additional job but knew it was necessary for him to convince Johanna of his identity if he was to be able to carry out his intelligence mission for the Czech StB.
But Erwin had a real family in Czechoslovakia. They wondered why he could only visit them infrequently from his assignment in the Soviet Union. This was the cover story he used with his parents. Although he worried about them and their declining health, he also enjoyed the high life and money that went with his secret life in London.
Erwin’s undoing, his discovery, capture, and imprisonment came about due to increased counterintelligence activity by Western intelligence services in the wake of their discovery of sleeper agents and moles inside the Western services. Erwin was captured due to his own nervousness which resulted in increased surveillance of his activities. He was captured in part due to his unwillingness to further act as an agent. Once Erwin was captured, Johanna also played a part in his unmasking. There is even a suggestion that Johanna may have been an unwitting agent of the West.
Many writers with the shadowy intelligence world as their subject use secondary and tertiary sources to find their facts. Maysh uses these sources as well. One frequently mentioned source is only published in the Czech language. But Maysh also uses a primary source. He met Erwin van Haarlem, the spy with no name, in Prague in 2016. And even though that is not his real name, that is the name of the man Maysh met, a true primary source. The reader has to keep in mind that this primary source was a highly placed spy. There is a certain amount of truth to the commonly held wisdom “You never actually stop being an intelligence professional.” An agent might be, at best, inactive.
This will be a fascinating read for ex-intelligence and ex-military types. Maysh presents an excellent summary of cold war concerns that prompted this flurry of spy-vs-spy activities. The book has almost 45 pages of references as Maysh tries to convince the reader that this is the final, definitive, true account of the spy with no name.