A glamorous Russian ballet dancer who doubled up as a Nazi spy was responsible for one of the worst defeats for the Allied forces in the Second World War, causing a political upheaval in Britain, according to classified intelligence files released by M15 on Thursday.
Marina Lee, described as “aged around 40, thin, with very blonde hair, natural hair, blue eyes (and) very pretty legs”, was the “secret weapon” the German deployed to win a key battle against British forces in Norway in 1940.
Lee, who had settled in Norway after fleeing Russia during the revolution and was head of the School of Ballet in Oslo at the time, infiltrated the British command in Norway and stole secret battle plans that she passed to the Germans days ahead of an Allied attack on Hitler’s forces at the Norwegian port of Narvik in May 1940.
With the help of the plans, the Germans, despite being “undersupplied” and “outnumbered” by British forces, were able to inflict a humiliating defeat on them, sending shockwaves through the Allied camp. The then
British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign and was replaced by Winston Churchill as Britain’s war-time leader.
The files indicate that MI5 first got the “astonishing” account of Lee’s role from a captured German spy Gerth van Wijk. He had heard it from another German spy Hans von Finckenstein, and his account was later confirmed by two more prisoners. But it was only in July 1945 that a full description of Lee emerged through a French intelligence report.
At first, she was not named but only described as a “blonde, tall, beautiful, figure, refined and languid in her behaviour” . It was only in later accounts that she was identified as Lee, a Russian ballerina with a ``passion
for telling fortunes by cards’’ and ability to speak several European languages.
MI5 last spotted her at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid in 1948.