Spy of the Century

Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary

John Sadler, Silvie Fisch

* The first full biography in English of Alfred Redl, who has been called the arch-traitor of the Habsburg Empire

* A story of intrigue, secrets and corruption in Vienna just before the outbreak of the First World War

* Fascinating insight into espionage and counter-espionage a hundred years ago

* Based on information long hidden in Austrian
Date Published :
March 2017
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
20 illustrations
No associated books available.


‘The Redl Affair had everything: sex, espionage, betrayal, a fall from greatness and a sensational climax in which Redl went to his death like a figure of high tragedy.’ The New York Times

‘A story like that is truer than history.’ István Szabó

‘The army was shocked to the core. All knew that in case of war this one man might have been the cause of the death of hundreds of thousands, and of the monarchy being brought to the brink of the abyss; it was only then that we Austrians realised how breathtakingly near to the World War we already had been for that past year.’ Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday

During the night of 24 to 25 May 1913 three high-ranking military officials wait for hours outside a hotel in the centre of Vienna. At around 2am they hear the shot of a Browning. They know that one of their own has just ended his life: Colonel Alfred Redl, the former deputy head of the Evidenzbüro, the Austro-Hungarian General Staff’s directorate of military intelligence, and confidant of the heir to the throne. His suicide note reads: ‘Levity and passion have destroyed me’.

What no one had known: for almost a decade he had betrayed significant and damaging secrets to the Italians, the French and the Russians.

But what had been his motives? Redl owed everything to the army he deceived. Was he trapped into treason by blackmail? There were no definite answers for almost 100 years. The true story has only recently been reconstructed, after Austrian historians rediscovered long-lost records. A tragic story emerges – of a man who was forced to hide his homosexuality and used his wealth to please his young lover.

The scandal was huge, and it has never completely died down. Myths and legends have spread, and Redl’s story still fascinates today.

About The Author

John Sadler's main specialty is in military history, as an accomplished author, lecturer, battlefield tour guide, heritage professional and historical interpreter. He is a visiting lecturer at the University of Sunderland Centre For Lifelong Learning since 1998. He lives in the North East of England.


"In the decade leading up to war, Colonel Alfred Redl, deputy head of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff's directorate of military intelligence had betrayed his country's secrets to the Italians, French and Russians. At 2.00am and 25th May 1913 he took his own life with a single shot from a Browning. This book tells his story for the first time following the rediscovery of long lost records. A tragic story emerges of a man forced to hide his true sexuality and who used his wealth to please his younger lover. The scandal was huge and spawned many myths and legends. Now, for the first time, after more than 100 years the true story has been pieced together.
Fascinating work. 10/10"

- The Great War Magazine, January 2017

“The authors have… managed to give us what is probably be the best account of Redl’s life and military career so far, while throwing some light on the military, social, cultural, and intelligence milieu in which he thrived.”

- The NYMAS Review, Autumn 2017

“Sadler and Fisch do an excellent job of describing Redl’s life and his situation as a perpetual outsider—a non-aristocrat homosexual of modest means, modest family background, and high intelligence. Combined with the stultifying culture of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its army, they make a convincing case for their explanation of Redl’s motivations for betrayal… a valuable addition to the histories of the Empire, of WW1, and of espionage itself.”

- World War One Illustrated, Summer 2018

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