Karl Respa and German Espionage in Canada


  • Grant W. Grams Department of History, University of Alberta


When Canada declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, it created an opportunity for members of the German Foreign Office in the United States to organize sabotage activity. While the United States remained neutral until April 1917, the German Foreign Office carried out intelligence work throughout North America. Certain Germans were successful in their plans by delaying military aid destined for Europe in the early stages of the war. Germans targets included transportation links such as bridges, canals, railway hubs, communication centres, power plants, vessels on the Great Lakes and in coastal harbours, recently departed ships returning to Europe, and in Canadian factories. This article will deal with one German saboteur, Karl Respa, and his actions to help Germany through espionage in Canada.

Author Biography

Grant W. Grams, Department of History, University of Alberta

Grant W. Grams has a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan (1989), M.A. Albert Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany (1995), and Ph.D. Phillips University, Marburg, Germany (2005). Dr. Grams is currently adjunct professor at the Univerisity of Alberta. His research interests and publications examine various aspects of German and Canadian relations between the two World Wars.