THE TERRIBLE SECRET
Review by Joseph T Major of DOUBLE LIVES: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West
by Stephen Koch (Free Press; 1994; ISBN 0-02-918730-3; $24.95)
"How far back his treachery goes, who can guess?" said Gandalf. "He was not always evil. Once I do not doubt that he was the friend of Rohan; and even when his heart grew colder, he found you useful still. But for long now he has plotted your ruin, wearing the mask of friendship, until he was ready. In those years Wormtongue's task was easy, and all that you did was swiftly known in Isengard; for your land was open, and strangers came and went. And ever Wormtongue's whispering was in your ears, poisoning your thought, chilling your heart, weakening your limbs, while others watched and could do nothing; for your will was in his keeping.
"But when I escaped and warned you, then the mask was torn, for those who would see. After that Wormtongue played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty: dulling men's wariness, or working on their fears, as served the occasion. . . ."
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Chapter VI
Starting before that horror and going on after it had ended, another such horror took place at a lesser intensity. However, some things still stay the same; while these horrors were going on, they were firmly and vigorously denied. Once they became incontestable, those who had denied their reality now denied that they had ever denied that.
On October 22, 1940, near Grenoble, two French hunters found a long-dead and decayed corpse. Once upon a time, and not so very long ago at that, those ashes had been a man of vast power and exalted importance, someone who hobnobbed with the movers and shakers, a guest and more than a guest in the salons of the literati, a critical node in the beating heart of the world.
"Why, in a collapsing world, would several governments have so interested in this middle-aged man from Germany? Who was Willi Münzenberg?" Koch rhetorically asks [p. 5]. Willi Münzenberg had been a leading figure in the progressive concerned movement. Forward-thinking groups had burgeoned and flourished under his benign auspices. For fifteen years, ever since the days of the Sacco-Vanzetti Trial, through the terrors of the Nazi jackboot in the human heart, up to the horrors of the Nazi-Fascist crushing of the Spanish Experiment in freedom, Münzenberg had been there, guiding the right thinkers, the concerned of the earth, the vanguard of humanity and progress. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Sinclair Lewis, and other literary lights melded with their overseas comrades like André Gide and Maxim Gorky to praise the future that worked, and denounce the past that threatened humanity under a brown tide of reaction, under the genial auspices of Willi. And now he was a rotting corpse beneath a tree in France.
However could it have happened? Did the Nazis get him?
Now that the archives that were to have been preserved forever are being opened, if irregularly and erratically, new revelations are forcing a recasting of history. For fifty years the progressive concerned wave of the future derided and denounced as reactionary lies the revelations of Walter G. Krivitsky (né Samuel Ginsberg) of what he had done while In Stalin's Secret Service (1940); but as more and more emerges from the secret chekist archives, one thing is becoming more and more obvious: So it was true, and more besides.
And in this case, it is now becoming impossible not to acknowledge that Willi Münzenberg was more than just the progressive concerned activist that he painted himself as being at the time. He was more than just the fellow-thinker of Stalin that such "backwards, reactionary, blind bigoted Bourbons" like Eugene Lyons made him out to be (see Lyons's The Red Decade (1941), a book that is as well a guide to the treatment of Cuba, China, Nicaragua, North Korea, etc. by the progressive concerned thinkers of the world since that red decade).
Willi Münzenberg was the direct, centrally-controlled, transmission belt for the orders and needs of the Soviet Union to the counterrevolutionary world out there. And he was also a recruiter of spies. For there was another link between those two pals, the State Department Official and the First Secretary of the Embassy, who met so often in 1945 and 1946 to handle the world situation for their superiors, and who did their best to tip it in favor of their real one against their nominal ones. One branch of the front organizations fostered by Willi had reached out to tap a promising young Cambridge Apostle named Donald Maclean. Another ran through the bisexual product of a dysfunctional family from Long Beach to an elegant patrician product of the best law schools and most promising government agencies, which case is now being opened up by even more devastating revelations. But then, denial is nothing new to Alger Hiss.
And in a still more controversial assertation, Koch advances the disturbing theory that the two devils who needed opposing demons set about covertly coöperating even as they overtly squabbled, in a bizarre parody of capitalist exchange between the brown bolsheviks who denounced capitalism as a Jewish plot to enslave the Aryan race and the red fascists who denounced capitalism as a Jewish plot to exploit the proletariat. The Nazi-Communist collaboration, Koch asserts, dates back not to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939, or even the Tukhachevsky Plot forgeries of 1937, but to the Reichstag Fire. That Comintern activist Georgi Dimitriov was deliberately inculpated so as to give the Nazis a "Bolshevik plot" to marshal the fervor of the masses, and that Dimitrov was exculpated so as to have on hand a useful victim of a "Nazi plot" to marshal the fervor of the masses, and that the whole thing was already agreed upon by the parties involved, seems a bit much. But it hangs together too well, and makes too much cynical sense. Radek did make that approach to Hitler then.
Where did it all begin? Willi was something of a revolutionary whiz in the early teens of this century, and it was not surprising that he would draw the attention of Trotsky, who in turn introduced him to Lenin. Within a short time, Willi had also met two Poles who would be his principal inspirers. One, Karl Radek, would become known as the glib rationalizer of the Revolution, inside the Soviet Union its principal jokesman, and outside it its principal spokesman. The other would be as secretive as Radek was overt, as believing as Radek was cynical, as grim as Radek was cheery. But while Radek drew admiration, this other drew abiding faith and commitment from the most religious of people. Whittaker Chambers, for example, has witnessed to how this man's moral example inspired him; a visionary, a bringer of justice, a paragon of idealism. You have to understand this depth of feeling to understand the moral power, far and above the physical power of the Cheka, that Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky wielded.
When the Revolution triumphed in Russia, Willi came into his own. Lenin believed that Russia was not enough and hoped to use it as a base from which to spread the Revolution to all the world. Thus came about the Third International, the Communist International, better known as the Comintern. Its beginnings were absurd, with a hodge-podge of progressive pilgrims being swept into a hall to proclaim themselves the representatives of the world proletariat. Its end would be equally tawdry, with Stalin disbanding it as a political concession, having already liquidated its principal figures, including Willi. (And then, it would be revived as the Communist Information Bureau, the Cominform, which would in due time transform itself into the International Department of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.) In another curious example of mirror-imaging, of the sort that would help and hamper the Soviets in their final days, recently released KGB documents show that they would refer to the Socialist International as the "Socintern". This seems a curious lapse of insight, almost as great as the one by which the "Socintern" seemed curiously committed to supporting the progressive policies of the Soviet Union in places such as Nicaragua. Willi has had a persistent legacy.
But these were the appearances, the outward semblance. The real Comintern was a covert action department of Soviet policy. At first, it was actively active; Krivitsky described how the Comintern laid plans to take advantage of the pre-revolutionary situation in Germany during the great inflation of 1921-3, and how in fact the "Red Hundreds" of revolution struck on November 8 of the latter year. That no one else noticed was perhaps a sign indicating that that strategy would not work. (It was, of course, also the time of the Beer Hall Putsch.)
Thus, that Willi had been put down in 1921 (Zinoviev had thought he was getting uppity) meant that he was not associated with failure. This meant that he was ready to take the lead in the new strategy, the strategy of Innocents' Clubs that he had designed and would lead.
There was a terrible corruption in this, one that yet persists:
Except in this forum, high, serious, honorable moral commitments found themselves joined, covertly, to profoundly sinister events. Münzenberg served Stalinism with every resource of propaganda and invented more, from the protest march to the mock-trial, to the politicized writers' congress to the politicalized arts festival to the celebrity letterhead to the ad hoc committee for causes numberless. . . . Early in this century, Willi had uncovered the tremendous power available to those who know how to set the agenda of the Good. But he also knew, as his fate demonstrates, that this is a form of power that can be used for evil ends.
Double Lives, pp. 14-15
You will be interested to learn how one of Willi's methods reached out and touched science fiction. "Swallows" have been a noteworthy method of chekist action, but rather than threaten to embarrass their victims with damaging revelations, Willi's women would engage their affections. One of these agents was Baroness Moura Budburg, and one of her lovers was none other than H. G. Wells.
This played off a persistent theme in the world-view of writers. If "The Emperor of Everything" is a too-common theme in writing, it is because writers seem to see the world as a place where a all-powerful ruler can take charge and turn it around. The writer is the all-powerful ruler of the world taking shape in the story; it seems not that much of a logical jump to extrapolate that relationship to the world in which the author lives. For every writer on politics like Fletcher Knebel or Allen Drury who comprehends the complex interaction of competing views and interests that makes up politics, there are a myriad (or a myriad myriad) who think that the big boss, the Emperor of Everything, can step in, take charge, and have everyone else jump to attention and start doing it his way, with just enough ignorant soreheads (without any real motivation; ask Anne McCaffrey) in opposition to provide literary conflict.
Like, for example, in Wells's The King Who Was a King (1929), where the reforming monarch institutes socialism (English Socialism? Naah) in his country and then, through control of a key resource, throughout the world. That such a plan of action would more likely turn out to be a disaster like in The Autocracy of Mr. Parham (1930), where a leader imbued with a spirit of autocracy throws out Parliament and sets up the Rule of Duty Paramount, only to lead Britain into a destructive war, is not to be considered. (These are two of Wells's lesser-known science fiction works, and rightly so!)
Of course, Wells had a special predisposition in the matter. Those bright shining clean palaces of white porcelain and clear glass that the People of the Future were to live in would be run by The People When the Sleeper Wakes it is to be to a socialist system, for the creation of which he was indirectly responsible. And one of the Things to Come from Wings Over the World would be a socialist system, which social renaissance would begin in Basra. (Curiously enough, the Arabic for "renaissance" is "baath", a term with which the inhabitants of Basra have become well acquainted.) This holds true for the other Father of Science Fiction, as M. Verne had also hoped for socialism, an opinion obscured by the initial translations which sacrificed fidelity, especially fidelity to potentially sales-curbing opinions, to speed.
Willi's first task was to deal with the famine-relief of 1921, the aftermath of the Russian Civil War. Having capitalists like Herbert Hoover come in and rescue the Soviet people could have been a great black mark, and it was to Willi's credit with Lenin that he managed to make the Soviets look good, paper over the relievers, and prevent the formation of an anti-Soviet cell of people with foreign contacts.
This led to the defining progressive event of the twenties, one which would set the pattern for the Innocents' Clubs: the Sacco-Vanzetti Case. By now it shouldn't be a surprise that lists of legal injustices still include the dynamic duo of Braintree. Their posthumous defenders have been reduced to such desperate shifts as quoting unreferenced and unverifiable sources saying that "we switched the guns" (which wouldn't have done any good unless they had also been able to get to the bullets). While the issue was aided by such feelings as Vanzetti's declaration that his death was immeasurably valuable as publicity for The Cause, the organs found the Case a valuable boon.
At first, their defense had been run by a lone white knight, Fred Moore. Moore was assisted by a young would-be journalist named Morris Gebelow. When it came time for Morris to write The Life and Death of Sacco and Vanzetti, someone thought that a more WASP-ier name below the title was in order and so Morris was no longer Morris. Later on, Eugene Lyons would turn with a vengeance, as The Red Decade, this book's precursor, would show.
But Moore's passion was spent. Sometime before 1923, he had learned that Sacco's innocence was, let us say, questionable beyond a reasonable doubt. Then, that year, while temporarily insane, Sacco fired him. This left the Case in the lurch. Enter Willi Münzenberg; after Willi latched on to it, the Case became News with a capital N again. Progressive concerned writers and activists packed the Massachusetts streets demonstrating for Truth and Justice. Workers opened their pinched pocketbooks and donated. Curiously enough, of all the money raised by Willi's men, a half-million dollars in the U.S. alone, the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee saw only $6,000. Comrade Dzerzhinsky's fund-raising expenses had been pretty high.
But the pattern for the Innocents' Clubs had been set; the prominent Names thrilled to be slumming with real-life revolutionaries, the vast sums of money poured out (with vaster skims off the top to fund the operations of the chekist House No. 2), the grandiose rewriting of history, obliterating truth in the name of Truth. Greater events would arise in the train of this event.
Yet curious happenstances happened, matters which one would think would have caused re-evaluations by critically-minded people. The Amsterdam Congress Against War was held in August of 1932, run by Willi at a discreet distance from his Reichstag seat in Berlin. (The Nazis had found that the biggest benefit of a Reichstag seat was the government-paid unlimited rail pass, suited for traveling to rallies nationwide.) Prominent peace activists demonstrated and fulminated against the great world threat to peace the counterrevolutionary actions of the capitalists against the Socialist Motherland, that is. The events over the eastern border seemingly were of no concern.
Stalin was known as (among his multitudinous other titles) The Great Master of Daring Revolutionary Decisions and Abrupt Turns. And never before did he do more to deserve that title than when the Nazis achieved total power. Before those epochal days of early 1933, the other parties of the left, the Socialists of various hues, the Social Democrats, the various Progressive parties, the Labour and Liberal parties, had all been "social fascists", even worse and far viler than the overt Fascists because they cloaked their evil fascist repressive nature beneath a deceptive semblance of being for the People.
But one fine morning the Soviet Union, the Comintern, and their Innocent's Clubs all woke up and discovered that they had been deceived! Yes, the other parties of the left were now the natural allies of the Communists. The Popular Front, the mechanism of preventing the People from the Nazis and Fascists, had been born. Social Fascist Franklin D. Roosevelt was quickly rebaptized as Progressive Ally Franklin D. Roosevelt. A Farmer-Labor Party had been founded by the Communists to be a palatable front in 1924; another would be proposed as the proper progressive ticket for FDR in 1936. (For the strange birth of the National Farmer-Labor Party, see Lyons's The Red Decade, pp. 43-4; for its odd recrudescence on FDR's behalf, see Fred Pohl's The Way the Future Was, pp. 50-51.)
Yet, apparently, while Stalin was struggling with the Fascists with one hand, he was shaking on it with the other. In a thrilling, dramatic dash, Willi had fled first to the Saar, shielded by the French, and then to Paris, from whence he would orchestrate a campaign against the Nazis, directed by Radek. Who at the same time, "Judeobolshevik bloodsucker" or not, was negotiating with the Nazis for an upgrading and revision of their Rapallo mutual aid process: "Only fools can imagine we would ever break with Germany," Radek told Krivitsky.
Those who saw the Soviet Union spend the sixties and seventies being Egypt's best friend in all the world, while Nasser kept Egyptian communists rotting in GULag-on-the-Nile, and then Sadat added to them (after the failure of the Soviet-sponsored attempt to replace him with Ali Sabry), and then the seventies and eighties being Iraq's best friend in all the world, while Saddam kept the Iraqi Communist Party locked up, shouldn't have disbelieved that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union could have disagreed with its revolutionary policy. There were sound internal reasons for this two-faced policy:
Of course both fully intended to destroy the other but each feared any premature military confrontation. This fear was the grounds for their collaboration. Hitler was not entirely unafraid of an attack by Russia; and he was actively fearful of a preemptive strike by the Allies. Hence the illusion of confrontation and the secret fact of collaboration. To this, Stalinists added moral co-optation of Western anti-fascism to their new myth; a myth given depth by the work of espionage and the simultaneous establishment of the networks and cadres in Germany and Eastern Europe essential to establishing Soviet power and eliminating all non-Stalinist rivals once the time for seizing real power came, after 1945.
Finally, there is the perverse logic of revolution itself. The notion that fascism was a necessary rite of passage toward revolution was widely held by Marxist-Leninists of the time. So was the recognition of a close proximity between the two ideologies. Fascism the "icebreaker of the Revolution." It was a favorite Marxist cliché. Münzenberg himself used to speak of how the urban underclass that filled the Nazi ranks was composed of exactly the same people who provided the communists with their mass base.
"Brown on the outside," as he said. "Red on the inside."
Double Lives, p. 61
Which made Spain peculiarly interesting. Among the experts from the Socialist Motherland rushed to Spain to aid the nascent Republic was GRU chief Jan Karlovich Berzin, secret commander of the Republican armies. Another expert was even more secret, known only by his code name of "Nikolsky". Comrade Nikolsky would engineer the theft of the Spanish gold reserves, the looting of Spanish art treasures (with appraisal for the fences by Anthony Blunt), the purge of the deviationists in Barcelona that did not get to Eric Blair (so there could be a Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell), the purge of unreliable elements in the International Brigades, and The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes but not those of Commissar of State Security Alexander M. Orlov, né Leon L. Feldbin, alias "Nikolsky".
But Stalin was willing to sacrifice his ace GRU chief; Berzin was recalled to Moscow and liquidated. (Whereupon his liquidator Yezhov became chief of the GRU as well as the NKVD; such an accumulation of power was not to be tolerated, and Yezhov soon followed Berzin.) He was willing to sacrifice his premier public relations official, Karl Radek. Radek participated in the Trial of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center in January 1937, eagerly accusing himself and the other defendants and doing more to advance the prosecution than even chief prosecutor Andrei I. "Vicious" Vishinsky. For his coöperation with the prosecution, he got a tenner, while his fellow defendants were sentenced to be shot. Nevertheless they got him all too soon, though reports vary as to how the Revolution devoured this child.
And yet some people would be surprised at the theory that Stalin was willing to sacrifice Spain itself, as a bargaining chip in his foreign policy. It was a no-lose setup for Stalin; either the fascists won, in which case he had a reserve whipping boy, or they lost, in which case he had a progressive ally. Meanwhile, he would drain Spain for resources, and his servant Willi Münzenberg would marshal the Innocents' Clubs into providing their due tribute, their mead of support cash, and innocents who could themselves be milked, for money, for passports to steal and usefully reuse, and for their own lives.
The events in Spain were in many ways a crucial nexus. The progressive concerned literati of the world trooped there. Papa Hemingway himself paraded his heroic violence there, for example. And lesser figures like John Dos Passos were also present. Likely they would have, had they had the opportunity, set upon and torn to shreds any reporter who was with the fascists, and unborn generations would have, had they known, thanked the assassins of Kim Philby.
Which brings us to another theme, another fruit of Willi's labors, the notorious examples of which being the stammering reporter just mentioned and his college chums. "The recruitment of the Cambridge spies and similar agents in all the democracies was based on this simple insight: The adversary culture is an elite." [p. 154] And a disinherited elite, too. They, who should run all, reduced to groveling for sustenance. In a properly run world the best and the brightest they themselves would be the ones in charge. So Willi and his subordinates serpented along to this anti-paradise with a fruit of knowledge of good and evil in hand. Far too many accepted it, in spite of the contradictions of that world of Stalinist bliss outside their garden:
Double Lives, p. 20
Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess seems to have been a living emblem of the Movement. Koch is only the latest testifier to his charming, repellent nature. Some others had their say first: "Guy Burgess fired people's imaginations. The descriptions of him are so poetic and artistically creative that they survive like works of art," said one commentator on the career of Burgess and his friends [Verne W. Newton, The Cambridge Spies, p. 263]. "Guy was an extraordinary mixture of loathsomeness and charm," said no less of an expert on the subject than Guy's brother Nigel Burgess. And Koch's verdict?
In preparing this book I have met many agents of influence who worked for various governments within the Münzenberg tradition. More than one has left me with a troubling, nameless afterimage, the sense of some shadow hovering over our talk. I'm tempted to call that lingering shade the ghost of Guy Burgess.
Double Lives, p. 197
Whence came the moral impetus that drove Burgess into the Soviet orbit? The Cambridge spies came from the second generation of the Bloomsbury group. That frustrated political elitism sprang from a frustrated literary elitism. Koch's choice for the theorist of this revolution is Lytton Strachey, the godfather of Bloomsbury.
The central constituent of Stratchey's ideology was "friendship". But this was only a cover word, a guise to lull the suspicions of the uncomprehending outsiders. "Stratchey genuinely believed that as a homosexual he belonged to an erotic elite that had passed beyond the crudity and grossness of heterosexual manhood into the realms of finer feeling." [p. 186] And so Guy Burgess and his colleague and probable recruiter Anthony Blunt, this devil's disciples, used their own secret clan to recruit for a wider secret clan. Quoting Sir Isaiah Berlin, Koch refers to it as the "Homintern". (Lyndon LaRouche uses "Homintern" as a smear of his political targets such as Ed Koch and Henry Kissinger. This use may cause some confusion.)
Not all the spies were homosexual. Philby was not and neither, no matter what Nixon says (Nixon thinks that the Case that gave him his start in the political world stemmed from a lovers' quarrel), was Hiss. The blessed sanctimony of Stratchey's attitude, though, persists. Blunt, for example, held capitalist society in contempt. He held communist society in contempt, too. In fact he held most things in contempt. Yet he didn't hold everything in contempt; during the degrading days that followed his unmasking by Andrew Boyle (in The Fourth Man (1979)) Blunt was reduced to blubbering childishness by the thought of losing the Queen Mum's esteem.
Another focus of Willi's efforts was Hollywood. He might well have endorsed the spirit of Hollywood vs. America (Michael Medved, 1992) from the opposite perspective. "The aim . . . . was to Stalinize the American glamour culture, while simultaneously giving the apparatus an cash cow capable of producing a large, untraceable supply of much-needed American hard currency to finance various operations around the world." [p. 211] Looking over the more recent travels, or pilgrimages, of the Hollywood elite to Managua and Havana, I would say that it worked better than anyone could have hoped for.
Still another factor was the recruitment of the literary elite. Spain was a great magnet, producing such works like For Whom the Bell Tolls. (Though Papa certainly lived long enough, as far as I know he had had nothing whatsoever to say about Homage to Catalonia or even In Stalin's Secret Service.) Other attractions were proffered to such as Sinclair Lewis. The recruitment of the great novelist of social protest, whose pen produced that searing indictments of Babbitry and other bourgeois prejudices was a high priority. When the marriage of true minds came about with Dorothy Thompson, another high-priority recruting target, Willi had it made. At least until the honeymoon in the romantic Soviet Union, which inspired Thompson to follow in the footsteps of Eugene Lyons. One would think with such ill omens the marriage was doomed, and be right, though it took a few years.
Willi's Man in Hollywood was Otto Katz, a Sudeten German communist who would be his greatest recruit, and his eventual supplanter. Katz used to brag, "Columbus discovered America, but I discovered Hollywood." The twists and turns of the Hollywood war against fascism could fill a book larger than this, The Red Decade, and The Cambridge Spies combined. The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League was absolutely unmoved as it became the Hollywood League for Democratic Action as a result of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Fred Pohl could be bothered by the liberation of Paris by the workers' armies of Guderian, von Manstein, and von Rundstedt, but the revolutionary vanguard of the cinematariat gave it no thought whatsoever:
Eugene Lyons, The Red Decade, p. 250
John was one of the drinking buddies of Papa Hemingway. As a writer, he was not much. But one of his colleagues in another field was Harold Ware, the godfather of the Ware Group, the conspiracy of the Hiss brothers, Harry Dexter White, Nathaniel Weyl, Noel Field and Whittaker Chambers. And Field would add his own long-term damage to Hiss's case.
Josie had her own curious commitment. When William Donovan set up as Coordinator of Information for Roosevelt, among the staffers who worked for him was Josie Herbst. She held a position on the German desk, where her main effort seems to have been to criticize the propaganda effort. Not to assist in it, just make fun of it. Then, when her Stalinist ties came out, she was let go. That was the sum and total of her action against fascism.
Another such item was the real purpose of the Communist Party U.S.A.; it was not a revolutionary party, fit for taking power as the revolutionary vanguard of the American proletariat (c.f. All Times Possible by Michael Kurland, where a timeline-traveling Party Activist does that, only to be supplanted by a Huey Long stand-in). It was an agency of Stalin's international policy. One could have guessed that when Jay Lovestone had won the votes of 90% of the delegates to become Chairman of the CPUSA, but Earl W. Browder believed in one man, one vote the one man being Stalin. So Browder became Chairman, and Lovestone started an odyssey that would lead him out of the Party to become eventually an informant of James Angleton's.
Slipping back to earlier action against fascism; the transition from the Comintern to the Popular Front signaled doom for Willi. Like Krivitsky, like "Ludwik" Ignatz Reiss, né Erwin Poretsky, the defector whose murder by a "Wet Affairs" team galvanized Krivitsky, like Orlov, like Jan Berzin, Willi was becoming surplus. Willi was associated with old ways. Stalin's retirement plan saved on pensions.
He was clever, though; those old revolutionaries were. From 1935 to 1940 Willi staved off fate, never going back to Moscow again after October of 1936. To no one's surprise, he was expelled from the Party for being insufficiently devoted to the Popular Front.
Like Chambers at Time Magazine, he established a public persona, becoming too well known to be casually bumped off. As part of this, he set about actually organizing anti-Nazi groups. But even then, the chekists and their friends kept after him. And in the end, they got him. Koch recounts the tale of his final days, and speculates on the secret history of this crime.
Otto Katz survived and flourished. After the war, he became a significant member of first the Czech Communist Party and then after the coup in the new government. But then he was to fall in turn to a succeeding spin of the Stalinist wheel. In 1952, he participated in one of those revivals in the provinces of the Great Purge Trials of the thirties. With Slansky, Eugene Loebel, and the rest of the Stalinist believers who had just finished purging capitalism from Central Europe, he confessed that he had all along been a secret counterrevolutionary and an agent of foreign intelligence services. And as a horrible joke, he named the man who had recruited him for British Intelligence: Nöel Coward.
Another Nöel, Field, is more relevant in this context. While Slansky and Katz were hanged as agents directed by this horrid spy, Field escaped. Left in the AVO archives in Budapest was his secret confession, the one naming Alger Hiss and recounting that interesting conversation about Krivitsky (Field said he was worried that Krivitsky might uncover him; Hiss said he would have it taken care of; then Krivitsky was found dead), while for public display they released the usual one about reactionaries, revisionists, countererevolutionaries, foreign intelligence services, Allen Dulles (Field had been an assistant of his in Switzerland), and so on. "Field was arrested a few days before Hiss's trial for perjury begain in New York; he was released from prison the day Hiss left Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary." [p. 325] Do you think there could be a connection?
Like that curious Hungarian, Gyula Alpari, Willi's sometime Paris contact. He looked just like the man who recruited Whittaker Chambers in New York in 1927 for the Comintern spy rings. Meanwhile, over in Cambridge, Kim Philby was studying a Magyar language course before leaving to meet Alpari in Paris. Was Alpari yet another link between Chambers and Philby? It haunts the mind.
Among all the devastation there were a few less-scathed survivors. One was Babette Gross, whose connection to this was startling; she was Willi's widow. Once burned, she became twice shy, having made the long passage from communism to anti-communism. By a satisfying trick of fate, she went to Berlin for medical treatment in the fall of 1989, and so was there when the first dying gasp of the Evil Empire could be seen. Koch had worked hard to gain her trust, to do the research for this book, finally meeting her in July 1989, and was rewarded with her friendship as well. She died in January 1990, more fortunate than most of those those tales are recounted here.