3. Blanka Kaczorowska: The Polish Resistance Fighter turner Nazi informant and communist Collaborator
Blanka Kaczorowska betrayed her homeland not once but twice: firstly to the Nazis and later to Communist Russia. However, she began her covert activities with the best of intentions. In 1942, she joined the Polish Home Army, the main organized force of resistance in Poland. Operating under the codename “Sroka,” Kaczorowska became a member of an underground group operating in Warsaw, under the command of her then-husband, Ludwik Kalkstein.
However, the Nazi’s captured the couple and Kalkstein, and Kaczorowska turned. Together, they were responsible for the betrayal of at least fourteen underground officers to the Gestapo, including the Commander of the Home Army, General Stefan Grot-Rowecki in June 1943. On March 25, 1944, a special military court of the Home Army sentenced Kaczorowska in her absence to death for her treason. However, they never attempted to carry out the sentence because she was pregnant. Kaczorowska remained under German protection until the end of the war. Then she disappeared.
She re-emerged in Warsaw in 1948 as a student of art history. Here, Wlodzimierz Sokorski, a polish communist official who was the Soviet appointed Minister of Culture and Art took Kaczorowska under his wing. Sokorski was responsible for implementing Stalinist doctrine in Poland during some of the darkest post-war days and strictly controlled the media. Under his auspices, Kaczorowska became a Master of Art History and took up a post in the State Institute of Folk Art and Folklore Research.
Eventually, however, her past caught up with her. In 1952, she was arrested and tried for her wartime activities and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Kaczorowska only served five years. She was released in 1958 and promptly became a collaborator again, this time for the communist Polish Security services. She remained in this position in 1971 when she left for France where she remained until her death.
2. Ethel Rosenberg: The American Housewife Executed by the US for passing on nuclear secrets
In 1953, Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg followed her husband Julius to the electric chair after being convicted of passing on information about the construction of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Both Rosenbergs were committed communists and identified as part of a spy ring by the FBI in 1950. Evidence against Ethel was initially thin. However, this changed when two other members of the group, Ethel’s brother and sister-in-law, David and Ruth Greenglass testified that it was Ethel who had typed up the stolen secrets from notes taken from David. It was this evidence that sent Ethel to the electric chair.
The Rosenbergs waited for 26 months for their sentence to be carried out, during which time they were offered a reduced sentence if they implicated others. Neither cracked. Outrage followed the execution as people regarded the couple as scapegoats of McCarthyism. The couple’s orphaned children agreed. In adulthood, they began to collect evidence that showed that the Rosenberg’s connection to a Soviet spy ring was peripheral at best. Julius had only passed on military information to the Russians during the Second World War when the US and the USSR were allies against the Nazis. However, he was dropped as an agent after the war because he no longer worked for the US army.
As for Ethel, the Soviets had never registered her as an agent. However, Ruth Greenglass was. It was Ruth who typed up the notes made by her husband, David Greenglass- not Ethel. David only implicated his sister after pressure from the federal prosecutors. Many years later he admitted he lied at the trial to cut a deal that saw him and his wife walk away free. It seems the only reason Ethel was arrested in the first place was to pressure Julius. When she refused to co-operate, a US prosecutor said that despite the weak evidence against her, Ethel should be convicted and given a stiff sentence. Essentially, Ethel Rosenberg joined her husband in the electric chair because unlike her brother; she refused to be bullied.
1. Shi Pei Pu: The Spy who lived as a woman and who inspired the story of Madam Butterfly.
Strictly speaking, our last female traitor was not a woman. However, Shi Pei Pu lived as a woman and even managed to convince his male lover, Frenchman Bernard Bouriscot that he was one. The couple met in Beijing in the 1950s. Shi was an opera singer and Bernard was an employee at the French embassy. Although Shi was dressed as a man when they first met, he managed to explain this away to Bernard by attributing it to his father’s desire for a son.
Shi must have had convincing female features because the pair began a passionate if intermittent twenty-year affair, with intimate relations conducted in the dark. Shi even adopted a son who she managed to convince Bernard was his biological child. During their relationship, Bernard passed on 150 classified documents through Shi to the Chinese government. However, the couple’s espionage was discovered in 1983 after Shi moved to France. The couple was sentenced to six years in prison for espionage in 1986.
Ultimately, however, Shi’s treachery was to Bernard, by hiding the truth about himself- even though he later claimed he never told Bernard he was a woman. The trial, however, revealed that truth to the world and made Bernard a laughing stock in France. He was so distraught when he learned the truth about Shi’s gender, he tried to slit his throat. After his release from prison, Bernard slipped into welcome obscurity. He showed no sign of grief when he learned his former lover died at the age of 70 in 2009. Shi’s however, had returned to the opera after his release from prison. He refused to speak of the affair with Bernard. However, his story was immortalized in the 1988 Broadway show “Madame Butterfly.”