The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Johnny


A Spy's Life R. S. Rose and Gordon D. Scott
  • Copyright: 2009
  • Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25
  • Page Count: 512 pages
  • Illustrations: 73 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03569-7
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03570-3
“This book provides fascinating insight into the activities of an agent of Britain’s foreign intelligence service (SIS or MI6) that historians of intelligence have long wanted to know more about. It should be read by anyone interested in intelligence history or the history of international relations.”
“Johnny is a blue-collar spy whose real-life exploits are more daring than those of any fictional James Bond, and who is on the scene at more history-making events worldwide than Woody Allen’s peripatetic ‘Zelig.’ His story is a primer on the spy’s tradecraft as well.”
“Johnny fought against injustice and tyranny all his life. We are lucky to have had him in Brazil, and he is one of many unsung heroes in the ‘silent service.’ Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Cliff Harvison stated, ‘Thank God he’s on our side.’”
“In spite of the considerable research which went into it, Johnny retains many of the virtues and vices of an autobiography. Its story is a compelling narrative with the coherence that a single life brings; moreover, the frequent use of the subject's own words provides the specific insights which are often left out from more general histories. . . . [Johnny is] a superb contribution to the field of history, a well-researched piece of scholarship with an engaging story to tell.”
“This is an engrossing story, well told from beginning to end. . . . I could not put it down until I reached the final pages.”

Johann Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf, known as Johnny all his life, was born on May 11, 1894, in Nordenham, near Bremerhaven in northwest Germany. He died at age eighty-six on December 2, 1980, in Brockville, Ontario, where he and his wife ran a tourist lodge. That he lived as long as he did is miraculous, considering that he had spent many years acting as a double agent—pretending to work for Soviet intelligence while really functioning as an operative for Britain’s MI6.

His life had many twists and turns, and murder, treachery, intrigue, and violence were never far from his doorstep. Eventually joining the Spartacus Bund (which evolved into the German Communist Party) in 1919, he later became a staunch anti-Communist and played a key role in undermining the efforts of Communists in Brazil to oust the government of Getúlio Vargas in 1935. After retiring from MI6, he even volunteered his services to the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover in 1950.

Based on documents from multiple government archives as well as many interviews, the most important of which was a series that Gordon Scott conducted with Johnny in 1975–76, this story of the life of a spy who hid behind sixty-nine different aliases during the course of his colorful career is a gripping tale of espionage and counterespionage during a critical period of the political history of the twentieth century.

R. S. Rose, an American, took his doctorate from the University of Stockholm. He teaches criminology and criminal justice at Northern Arizona University, Yuma.

Gordon D. Scott, a Canadian author, resides with his wife on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


List of Illustrations



Explanatory Note


1 Wilhelmshaven

2 Merchant Marine

3 Conscripted

4 Osowiec

5 Germany in Chaos

6 Die KPD

7 The Moscow Student

8 Assignment Romania

9 British Missions

10 Berlin and Prague

11 Manchuria and China

12 Brazil One

13 Argentina

14 The Return to Moscow

15 Brazil Two

16 The War’s First Years

17 The Montreal Nests

18 A Man from the Sea

19 To Catch a Submarine

20 The Control Commission

21 Home


. . . and the others





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