Friedrich Rudolf Stallmann (April, 1871 - October 3, 1946), alías Baron de Koening, Rodolphe Lemoine, Fritz Kolmann, Alberto Colman, Federico Stagni or Von Rosdbel, codename REX, was a spy, con man and hitman in service indistinctly to France and Germany who starred in the time of gunfighting in Barcelona in the period immediately after World War I and played a key role in the decipherment of Enigma.
Friedrich Rudolf Stallmann was born in 1871 in Potsdam, the son of a Berlin jeweler. At the age of 18, to avoid a penalty for robbery and murder, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. After defecting he returned to Europe where he devoted himself professionally to gambling, setting up a cabaret-casino in Brussels. Shortly the following he adopted the false title of Baron of Koening, with which he became known in casinos frequented by the ruling classes of the time. In 1902 he was expelled from French territory on charges of being a German spy, moving to Argentina. In the southern country he met and married the daughter of a Parisian physician named Renée Lemoine, for which he invented the title of Baroness René Scalda. Together, playing the role of refined luxury-loving aristocrats, they swindle wealthy people in various countries.
In 1905, Maurice Salis Schwabe, previously implicated in the Oscar Wilde's trial, was sharing a Buckingham Gate flat with Baron von Koenig, described as "a business partner of Mr Schwabe in some business, something to do with a gold mine." While living together, Schwabe and Koenig conned a friend of Lord Alfred Douglas, Freddie Manners-Sutton, in two different events. Both times, Douglas suggested Manners-Sutton to search the help of a compliacent lawyer, and to resolve the question without making it public.
Until 1910 there is evidence of his time in Venezuela, Turkey, Egypt, Persia, India and South Africa. In 1910, Baron de Koning and Baroness Scalda returned to Europe, settling in Britain and also operating in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, appearing in the Dutch press in 1911 as Koening der Spieler. In this period he is tried several times for multiple scams and at least two murders, never getting into prison. The reason for his impunity was that at least since 1904 he had been on the salary of the French Deúxieme Bureau and, since 1910, the Abteilung IIIb, the Military Intelligence Service of the German Empire.
In 1915, and always under the name Baron of Koening, Stallmann crossed the Spanish border accompanied by his wife, settling in Hondarríbia. The coast between San Sebastian and Biarritz had become in the first two decades of the century, a favorite summer resort for aristocratic classes across Europe. With the outbreak of World War I, a large number of wealthy families had sought refuge in the area: that concentration of money and power was one of two reasons for Stallmann to settle in that area. The second reason was the accelerated conversion of Spain, and in particular the coastal and border areas, into the main playing field for the espionage of European powers immersed in the conflict. Using his gifts and contacts, Stallmann became the epicenter of local social life: his first public event consisted of donating 500 pesetas of the time to the City Council for distribution among those in need. In addition, he generated anticipation and scandal by appearing openly with his wife and with a young lover shared by both. His notoriety franked him by being appointed director of the Casino of Fuenterrabía (present-day Kasino Zaharra) in February 1916. Over the next twelve months Stallmann amassed a fortune by systematically scamming the Casino's wealthy assistants, while fulfilling various missions for both Germans and French. One of these is paradigmatic in understanding the baron of Koening's way of operating: in 1917 the owner of the canteen of Irun Station, named Antonio Calvo, from which Stallmann had earned his trust through his continuous rail journeys to both sides of the border, entrusted him that he had given accommodation and clothing to a group of German prisoners of war evaded from a French camp that had appeared early in the morning. Stallmann informed the French Secret Service that he had found a "evade support network" and, under a pretext, invited Calvo for a yacht ride. Once on board, he was driven at gunpoint to Hendaye, where he was handed over to the French authorities. They, after summarily judging him, shot him in February 1917 and Stallmann pocketed a large prize for the success of the operation. However, in mid-1917 the rumours about the systematic expolium of the Casino de Fuenterrabía became indismulable and the civilian governor of Guipúzcoa, López Monis, decreed the arrest of Baron de Koening. This one, warned by one of the many policemen he had on the payroll as informants, disappeared from the city along with his wife.
In September 1918 Stallmann, always under the alias Baron de Koning, made his appearance in a convulsive Barcelona. The City of Barcelona was the scene of strong social tensions between organized workers (with preponderance of the powerful CNT) and employers' organizations. In addition, during the previous four years, it had been the main scene of frantic espionage activity by opposing sides in World War I. In order to do so, criminal structures mounted to influence public opinion, neutralize local authorities and have access to strategic information were uncoded and willing to offer the highest bidder. The best known is the network of informants woven by Isaac Ezratty (a German spy of Jewish origin operating under the alias Baron Ino Von Rolland) and headed by Commissioner Bravo Portillo, who went on to serve, under the name La Banda Negra, as the armed arm of the Barcelona employer, organizing various attacks against trade union exponents, blowing up strikes or raiding newspapers, always with the collusion of the authorities. Stallmann joined that organization and, following the assassination of Bravo Portillo by an anarchist action group in September 1919, became its boss. Under his leadership, patronial gunship established six months of terror in the city, killing numerous trade unionists and workers with impunity. The Baron of Koening established his headquarters in an elegant apartment located at number 6 of the Rambla de las Flores, under the cover of a detective company called BKS (Baron Von Koening Services). The Black Gang had 70 thugs and both weapons and carry licences were supplied directly by the city's civil government. The situation overflowed when Stallmann began free trading, extorting a number of entrepreneurs who demanded a heer sum in exchange for "ensuring their safety." When on January 5, 1920 his men attacked the president of the almighty Catalan Patronal Federation, Félix Graupera, his empire crumbed. The President of the Government himself, Eduardo Dato, ordered his immediate expulsion from the country, which took place in May 1920 on charges of not owning the papers in order. Not only did the Baron de Koening leave Spain with impunity, but he also left for Irun where he "was dismissed with honors by the Spanish authorities".
Friedrich Stallmann and Renee Lemoine moved to Paris; during this period he continued on the payroll of the Deuxieme Bureau while continuing to frequent casinos and gaming rooms. In 1926 he acquired French nationality and, from that moment, in the French archives appears as "Colonel Rodolphe Lemoine", legally changing his surname to adopt that of his wife. In 1931 Stallmann/Lemoine managed to befriend Hans-Thilo Schmidt in Belgium, a German subject working in the ultra-secret Encryption Department of the German army's High Command. Earning his trust and taking advantage of Schmidt's gambling debts, Stallmann managed to get Schmidt to begin passing highly secret information on to French intelligence. Stallmann was in charge of Schmidt's "handling", acting as an interpreter between Schmidt and his own control officer, Captain Gustave Bertrand. Schmidt worked with the ultra-secret Enigma encryption machine. In October 1931 he handed Stallmann the instruction manual of it and a key book; in September 1932 he was able to pass on technical details regarding the arrangement of the machine's interchangeable keyboards and rollers. Until 1938, when he was changed from destination, Schmidt continued to pass information through Stallmann: the importance of it had enormous weight in the course of World War II. The French government shared the enigma data with Poland and the United Kingdom. The Polish Szyfrów Biuró used the information obtained by Stallmann to decipher the codes of the first generation of Enigma machines and, after the defeat of his country at the hands of Nazi Germany in September 1939, he was evacuated to Britain, where he joined the Bletchley Park-based cryptographic team (formed, among others, by Alan Turing). Enigma's total decryption in Bletchley Park conferred a decisive strategic advantage on the Allies, who were able to intercept all German communications until the end of the war. In recognition of the role played by Stallmann/Lemoine, the head of the Dexieme Bureau, Paul Paillole referred to him as "the known French spy, feared, admired and wanted by the world's special services". In 1937 the German Gestapo finally identified REX as Friedrich Stallmann/Colonel Lemoine, issuing a search and capture order accompanied by one of only two images preserved of him.
In the midst of the collapse of France, on 20 June 1940 Stallmann passed to Britain in a minesweeper of the Royal Navy. Just three days later, and by direct order of the director of French Intelligence he crossed the country again, settling in Saint Raphael, a municipality on the French Riviera located in the Zone Not occupied by the Germans. For the next two years he survived by selling fake passports and safe conduct on the black market, permanently monitored by the Intelligence of Free France. In late 1942 he tried to sell an Italian secret code through intermediaries to the Germans. These, who after the seizure of French intelligence files, were on his trail, arrested him on 27 February 1943, moving him to Paris. Stallmann, on his own initiative, told the gents his life, giving up Hans-Thilo Schmidt (who was arrested and committed suicide in prison days later). Stallmann/Lemoine was not tortured or mistreated; on the contrary, he was invited to join the German secret service, which he accepted, revealing the names of several Gallic secret agents to the Gestapo. After the Nazi unconditional surrender he was arrested in Germany by French troops, being interrogated in Bald Wildbab. Friederich Rudolf Stallmann, alias Rodolphe Lemoine, alias Baron of Koening died in his cell in 1946. The cause of his death, according to the French secret services, was "a hemophilic complication." He was 75 years old.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE