Intelligence gathering by countries is an age old practice. The mere thought of spies conjures up thoughts of dark and mysterious men in trench coats rummaging through secret documents. But this is not always the case, and other methods are often used.
In modern times we have been alerted to intelligence gathering methods used by governments. It’s more often than not collected by digital means and electronic surveillance. Today’s technology however hasn’t always been with us, and in time gone by other methods had to be employed. One such unusual method for collecting sensitive information was deployed in WWII Germany. The SD, a branch of the SS ran, of all things, a brothel for intelligence collection, known as Salon Kitty.
Salon Kitty was a brothel in Berlin ran by Kitty Schmidt during the 1930’s. During that time she had been sending money to British banks with refugees that had been fleeing WWII Germany. When she herself tried to flee, she was arrested and taken to Gestapo HQ and offered an ultimatum to co-operate or be sent to a concentration camp. She decided on the former over the latter and the brothel would soon close for renovations.
In the time it was closed for renovations, the SA installed hidden microphones that ran to an underground cellar where they were monitored.. They also arrested and selected 20 prostitutes that could be trained and used as agents. The plan was to loosen up foreign diplomats using sex and alcohol and use the prostitutes of Salon Kitty to gather intelligence. Even though the conversations were recorded, the prostitutes had to relay every detail of their encounter to SA officers.
In 1942 Salon Kitty was bombed. The brothel was moved to the bottom floor of the building, and the program was abandoned by the SA in 1943.