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Orwell's comrade in Spain 'was double spy'

Ben Fenton / London Telegraph | May 30 2006

George Orwell's commander and close confidant in the Spanish Civil War was an agent for both MI5 and the Vichy regime that controlled France on behalf of the Nazis, new research has revealed.

Georges Kopp - who biographers of the great socialist writer previously believed had an affair with Orwell's first wife, Eileen - had fought in Spain as a company commander of the POUM, the Marxist militia that attracted Orwell in 1936.

Papers discovered by a Belgian researcher and published in The Lost Orwell by Peter Davison, editor of the complete works of the author of Animal Farm and 1984, shed new light on Kopp.

Prof Davison told The Daily Telegraph: "He seems to have worked for the Vichy Deuxième Bureau [secret service] at the same time as providing information for MI5 during the war.

It is also clear that, when he was working for MI5, his case was run by Anthony Blunt, who had by then been working as a [Soviet] spy for several years, so the situation was even more complex."

Kopp, who was born in Russia but brought up in Belgium and trained as a chemical engineer, seems to have been willing to work for anyone who would support his career as an inventor.

Orwell, who was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903, put great trust in Kopp, who helped to save his life after the author was shot in the throat during a fight with Franco's fascists.

In a previously unknown letter written by Eileen Blair to a friend, she admitted that "Georges was more than 'a bit gone' on me", but indicates that they were never lovers.

She wrote: "The last time I saw him he was in jail waiting, as we were both confident, to be shot, and I simply couldn't explain to him again as a kind of farewell that he could never be a rival to George."

Kopp was captured in Spain and tortured, but somehow survived when most officers of the POUM were being executed either by the fascists or by soldiers of the pro-Stalin Spanish Communist Party.

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