In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico 1908 to 1914

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Henselstone Verlag LLC, Nov 1, 2012 - 496 pages
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Felix A. Sommerfeld moved through the Mexican Revolution (1910 to 1920) like a wraith. Neither his contemporaries nor scholars throughout the past hundred years have been able to piece together a clandestine career that relegates the exploits of James Bond to mere child s play. Appearing on the scene in Mexico from obscurity, Sommerfeld became the personal confidante of Mexican President Francisco Madero in 1911. Unbeknownst to his peers, Sommerfeld had worked for the German secret service since 1908. German agents had maneuvered him close to the future president of Mexico. From that position, Sommerfeld managed to climb to become the highest placed German asset in the Mexican government. While working for President Madero, and most likely with his tacit approval, Sommerfeld acted as the intelligence liaison for the German ambassador in Mexico, Rear Admiral Paul von Hintze, and provided him with valuable intelligence on Mexico, Europe, and the United States. His clout helped focus German foreign policy towards Madero and his successor Huerta. Sommerfeld's organizational skills and the help of his contacts at the highest levels of the American Government produced a notorious network of agents along the Mexican-American border. When Mexican army general Victoriano Huerta usurped the presidency in February of 1913 and killed Madero in a bloody coup d'Etat Sommerfeld re-activated his secret service organization along the U.S. - Mexican border to join the battle against the usurper president Huerta. With the help of his connections in Germany and the United States, Sommerfeld became the linchpin in the revolutionary supply chain. His organization along the border smuggled arms and ammunition to the troops in amounts never before thought possible, while his contacts in the highest echelons of the American and German governments shut off credit and supplies for Huerta. Surprising to most but not illogical, the U.S. government fully cooperated with Sommerfeld and turned a blind eye to the blatant violations of U.S. laws.

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User Review  - feilitzsch - LibraryThing

For years I have hoped that someone would disentangle Sommerfeld’s role in the Mexican Revolution. You have done that and much more – utilizing a most impressive range of archival sources. “In Plain ... Read full review

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This current work is not only a must-read for people interested in history but also highly recommended for those who like to get a glimpse into the causes and motives of human activity and historical events. In a brilliant style the author takes the reader on a trip back in time, where he illuminates the relationships between Mexico, the United States, and Germany in a new approach not seen until now. As the author writes, „This book is not designed to provide a complete recollection of the causes and course of the Mexican Revolution.” Instead he describes a man, whose „ name appears in almost every work on the Mexican Revolution“, Felix A. Sommerfeld.
Though minute correlation, and analysis of original archival sources, some of which had never been used before, the author succeeds in painting the picture of a man, who grew to become the „most influential“ and „most effective“ spymaster. He succeeded in tying together „Mexican, German and US interests“ in an inimitable way. Von Feilitzsch proves beyond doubt that Sommerfeld had a complicated and peculiar character. He was conservative, yet had „no ethical problems with giving information to Germany…his intelligence was instrumental in changing German attitudes and foreign policy.“ He thirsted for power and influence, collected information and used it according to his own discretion. Consequently, he built Mexico’s secret service, which was so effective that parts of the organization became absorbed into the FBI.
As a German agent working on behalf of the Mexican revolutionaries, his activities coincided with the interests of the US and German governments. Using this knowledge Sommerfeld succeeded in manipulating everyone around him. As a result it came as no surprise that Sommerfeld through the network of his connections in America, Germany and Mexico finally „became the highest placed German agent in North of America.“
This short summary alone should create curiosity about reading the whole, over 400 page manuscript. Most impressive in addition to the story is the use of the sources. Rarely has it been possible to document motivation of secret agents in such detail and so accurately. This fact alone pays tribute to the author and makes this work so significant.
Prof. Dr. Guenter Koehler, Emeritus Humboldt Universitšt Berlin
 

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About the author (2012)

Heribert von Feilitzsch grew up in Germany, only yards from the East German border, the "Iron Curtain." In 1988 he came to the United States as a student. Fascinated with the Mexican-American border, he pursued a Masters Degree in Latin-American History with focus on Mexican-German-American relations at the University of Arizona. The Mexican-American border, devoid of self-shooting machines and mine fields, still constitutes a barrier that divides two cultures, two distinct national identities, and creates a complicated economic and political framework worth studying. While pursuing a business career in later years and adding an MBA from Wake Forest University, he remained committed to writing about the Mexican-American border. After twenty years of painstaking original research in the U.S., Mexico, and Germany, von Feilitzsch authored four books on the German naval intelligence agent Felix A. Sommerfeld and the German secret service in the United States between 1914 and 1917. He lives on a farm in Northern Virginia with his wife and children.

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