Profumo had relationship with ‘glamorous Nazi spy’ before 1960s sex scandal

MI5 papers suggest disgraced Tory minister consorted for decades with model who worked for German intelligence

John Profumo
Former Tory minister John Profumo
(Image credit: Jimmy Sime/Getty Images)

John Profumo - the former Tory minister forced to resign over a high-profile sex scandal in the 1960s - had a long-running relationship with a “glamorous” Nazi spy whom he met at Oxford, declassified MI5 documents suggest.

Profumo was a student at the university in the early 1930s when he first encountered German-born fashion model Gisela Winegard, who worked for German intelligence in Paris during the Second World War, Sky News writes.

Profumo, who died in 2006, continued writing to Winegard - described as a “Hitler-loving model” by the Daily Mail - until the 1950s, although she was captured during the liberation of Paris, held in a French jail and later married the American who oversaw her imprisonment.

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“In the letters, Winegard’s American husband, Edward - who was her jailer when she was convicted of espionage - claimed that the couple separated in 1950 because of her ‘endearing letters from John Denis Profumo... written on House of Commons notepaper’,” the BBC reports.

Dr Stephen Twigge, from the UK’s National Archives, told the BBC that the relationship could have exposed Profumo to blackmail. In the event, he resigned in 1963 after it was revealed that he lied to MPs about an affair with another model, his mistress Christine Keeler.

What was the Profumo affair?

In the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, then war secretary Profumo shared a mistress - model Christine Keeler - with Russian military attache Yevgeny Ivanov. Several politicians raised security concerns and Profumo initially lied about the nature of the relationship.

“His fall from grace is often considered a contributory factor to the fall of the Macmillan government,” the BBC says. “Labour would win under Harold Wilson’s leadership in 1964.”

Could there be more revelations to come?

Possibly. The Guardian reported in July that a series of “top secret and strictly personal files known as the cabinet secretary’s miscellaneous papers” - which include information on the Profumo affair - were kept “unregistered and uncatalogued under lock and key in the Cabinet Office until their existence was officially acknowledged for the first time in 2015”.

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