Operation Condor (i)

'Condor' (i) was the German culmination of the operation begun as 'Salam' to place two Abwehr agents, Johannes Eppler and Peter Stanstede, in Cairo to monitor and report anything relevant to the 'Campaign for the Western Desert' (November 1941/July 1942).

Going under the name of Hussein Gaffar, Eppler had been brought up in Alexandria and Cairo after his mother had remarried to a wealthy Egyptian, whose name Eppler had thus acquired. Sandstede posed as Peter Monkaster, an American, as he had worked in the US oil industry before the war and could pass as a Scandinavian American.

After their arrival in Cairo by rail, the two agents rented a Nile river houseboat, on which Sandstede installed the team’s radio set in a gramophone cabinet. The two men then started to gather information on British troop and vehicle movements with help from a nationalist-inclined belly dancer, Hekmet Fahmy, who had known Eppler in earlier years, and other dancers and escorts in the bars and nightclubs of Cairo. Eppler frequently posed as a subaltern in the Rifle Brigade, and used forged British and Egyptian banknotes. Using a prearranged system of codes based on Daphne du Maurier’s book Rebecca, the agents made temporary radio contact with a German forward radio interception post in the Qattara Depression near near El Alamein, but communication problems forced them to seek aid from the Cairo-based Free Officers Movement, an Egyptian nationalist group that was at the time pro-Axis in the belief that the arrival of Axis forces would ensure the liberation of Egypt from the British. Anwar El Sadat (later a Egyptian president) was allocated to help with Eppler and Sandstede’s radio equipment, but the restoration of communication proved impossible as the German receiving station had been overrun by Australian troops on 7 July. It was Sadat’s belief that the two Germans had deliberately sabotaged their radio as they wished to enjoy themselves and live with two Jewish prostitutes.

The agents' extravagant lifestyles combined with a number of leads picked up by Allied intelligence to make it all but inevitable that their location was discovered and the houseboat boarded by British field security, who arrested both men after Sandstede had started to flood the vessel. Eppler and Sandstede confessed but were jailed rather than sentenced to death, as too was Sadat. Fahmy was also caught and sent to prison.