Tag Archives: Honigmann

The Tales of Honigmann

‘The Tales of Hoffman’ (no relation)

I recently read Barbara Honigmann’s memoir about her father, Georg, originally published in 2021. (Barbara was the child of Georg and Litzy, née Kohlmann, who had been married to Kim Philby between 1934 and 1946. See https://coldspur.com/litzi-philby-under-the-covers/, https://coldspur.com/kim-philby-always-working-for-sis/, and https://coldspur.com/life-with-the-honigmanns/ for a comprehensive background to his story.) It was a fascinating experience, challenging my facility with the German language, which had lain largely unexercised for more than fifty years. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to resort to a dictionary on more than a handful of occasions. The text reflects the German predilection for long, but mostly carefully crafted, sentences containing multiple subordinate clauses (although I was occasionally surprised by the running-on of separate main clauses in a single sentence, without any co-ordinating conjunction). In this report I reproduce key passages from the book, provide my own translations, and offer some commentary on controversial items, and those of particular interest for what they shed on Honigmann’s career. Ms Honigmann’s study relied on both oral and written evidence from her father, as well as communications with other relatives and friends.

‘Georg’, by Barbara Honigmann

P 11     “Außerdem hatte er in Laufe seines Lebens noch viele Geliebte, von denen ich, wie gesagt, manche traf, von manchen nur wusste oder hörte, und von anderen wurde mir erst nach seinem Tod erzählt, dass er nämlich zum Beispiel, als er nach dem Krieg aus England nach Deutschland zurűckgekehrt war, während meine Mutter, die zu dieser Zeit seine Frau war, noch in England darauf wartete, dass er in Berlin eine Wohnung fand, sich dort auch sofort wieder eine Geliebte angschafft hatte.ˮ

Besides, in the course of his life he had several lovers, many of whom, as I said, I met, of many I merely learned of or heard about, while others were described to me only after his death, for instance that he had in fact immediately found a new lover when he returned from England to Germany after the war, at the time that my mother, who was his wife at this time, was still in England, waiting for him to find accommodation in Berlin.

This is an extraordinary statement by Barbara Honigmann, claiming that Litzy was already Georg’s wife when he absconded to Berlin. It directly contradicts what she writes later, and it is amazing that neither she nor her editor picked up the anomaly. Whether Georg carelessly provided such information is, of course, impossible to determine, but the fact that he was not married to Litzy at the time casts a slightly different moral shadow on his romantic affairs, while confirming his reputation as a ladies’ man.

Pp 19-20 “Später in England unterzog er sich einmal ein paar Wochen oder Monate einer psychoanalytischen Kur, wahrscheinlich hatte ihm Ruth, die damals seine Frau war, dazu geraten, denn Georg litt seine ganzes Leben an Depressionen, verstummte and versteinerte dann fűr einige Tage oder Wochen. Das haben alle seine Frauen so erlebt, sie haben es mir so berichtet, Ruth, Litzy, Gisela und Liselotte  . . . ˮ

Later in England he once underwent a psychoanalytical course of treatment for a couple of weeks or months: Ruth, who was his wife at the time, probably advised him to do so, for Georg suffered his whole life from depressive attacks, and would lapse into silence or impassiveness for days or weeks at a time. All his wives experienced it, as they let me know, Ruth, Litzy, Gisela and Liselotte.

Gisela was Gisela May, a famous German actress, who married Georg in 1956. They divorced in 1965, after Gisela had an affair in Italy that was particularly painful to Georg. Barbara constantly refers to her simply as ‘die Schauspielerin’, the ‘actress’.

P 20     “Aber auch űber die Analyze bei Winnicott hatte er nur Schlechtes zu berichten und tat diese Seelenkur, die den Theorien und der ärtzlichen Praxis seines Vaters so nah war und der er sich offensichtlich gegen seinen Willen, nur unter dem Druck seiner Frau unterzog, als Unsinn ab, spottete noch jahrelang darűber. Vielleicht haben dieser Spott und die Ablehnung zur Trennung von Ruth beigetragen, die, nachdem sie wie er Journalistin gewesen war, in England noch einmal Medizin studierte, sich auf die Psychiatrie spezialisierte und dann viele Jahre am Charing Cross Hospital in London an der Heilung gestörter and kranker Menschen arbeitete. Im Gegensatz zu Georg konnte sie kein Heil in der politischen Bewegung entdecken, die er später durch Litzy, meine Mutter, in London kennengelernte – den Kommunismus. Georg aber fűhlte sich vom Kommunismus offensichtlich ebenso angezogen wie von Litzy selbst, und der wurde dann zur ‘dritten Sacheʼ des neuen Paares, die sie einige Jahre zusammenhielt.ˮ

Yet he had only bad things to say concerning Winnicott’s analysis of him, abandoned as absurd this therapy, which was so close to the theories and medical practice of his father, and which he had undertaken openly against his desires only because of the influence of his wife, and ridiculed it for years afterwards. Perhaps this scorn and rejection had contributed to his split from Ruth, who, some time after she had become a journalist, like him, specialized in psychiatry, and then worked for many years at Charing Cross Hospital in London, treating mentally ill and sick persons. In contrast to Georg she could find no solace in political agitation, something that he later became acquainted with in London through my mother Litzy – Communism. Georg felt himself attracted by Communism as much as by Litzy herself, and it then became the ‘third person’ in the new couple’s relationship, which kept them together for some years.

Douglas Winnicott was an influential paediatrician and psychoanalyst who apparently had his own psychological problems. The timing of Georg’s intimacy with Litzy is intriguing: this fragment suggests that Georg was indoctrinated into Communism well before he was interned in Canada, where he apparently came under the influence of Leopold Hornik, and that the relationship with Ruth had by then broken down – contrary to the impression that Georg gave to the Home Office when he was seeking his wife’s release in late 1940. Milmo’s report on the PEACH case indicates that Litzy began living with Georg only in 1942, but Philby had declared that the pair were living together when he arrived back from France in the summer of 1940. Thus we can probably safely conclude that Georg and Ruth were indeed estranged by the time the policy of internment was more aggressively pursued in June 1940, and that serious differences over Communism had contributed to their disaffection. Ruth became a loyal British subject, married Henry Blunden (or Blumenthal) in January 1946, and lived in the United Kingdom for the rest of her life. She died on December 5, 1984.

P 23     “Es war noch vor dem Bau der Mauer, und so fuhren sie einfach los und verbrachten ihre Ferien in ihrer verlorenen Heimat und zeigten sich gegenseitig die Orte, wo sie Kinder gewesen waren.ˮ [Die Schauspielerin]

It was still before the construction of the Wall, and they [Georg and Gisela] were able simply to go away and spend their holidays in their lost home, and they showed each other the places where they had grown up as kids.

The Berlin Wall was built in August 1961, and transit to the West was possible before then. Clearly no restrictions were placed on the Honigmanns’ movements – something that might have alarmed the Home Office and MI5 should they (or Litzy) have wanted to visit the UK, where Georg had several relatives. MI5 later showed some alarm when Litzy was reported to be planning a visit to the UK.

P 49     “Und doch ist es so gekommen, aus dem Bohemien war ein Kommunist geworden. Georg selbst konnte den Zeitpunkt und den Ort genau bestimmen, an dem es geschehen war: während seiner zweiten Ehe, der mit meiner Mutter in London, und dann im Internierungslager in Kanada 1940, wohin die Engländer die enemy aliens verschifften.ˮ

It thus came about that a Bohemian turned into a Communist. Georg could himself accurately pinpoint the place and time where and when it occurred: during his second marriage, that with my mother in London, and then in the Internment Camp in Canada in 1940, where the English shipped out the enemy aliens.

Again, the lie about Georg’s marriage to Litzy is reproduced, and astonishingly overlooked. Moreover, Georg’s clear memory of the conversion is sharply undermined by the fact that he qualifies it with the later experiences in Canada that involved Leopold Hornik.

P 55     “Zu Beginn der Nazizeit konnten seine Eltern noch eine Stelle in Barcelona finden, nach dem Franco-Putsch jedoch fűhlten sie sich dort auch nicht mehr in Sicherheit und schickten deshalb ihre beiden halbwűchsigen Söhne nach London, wo sich Georg als älterer Onkel – immerhin was er mehr als doppelt so alt und hatte eine Frau, eine Arbeit und eine Wohnung – um sie kűmmerte und den jűngeren der beiden Brűder, Andreas, schließlich auch zum Kommunismus hinűberzog, von dem er selbst gerade erst von seiner neuen Geliebten, die später meine Mutter wurde, űberzeugt worden war. So erzählte es Andreas.ˮ

At the beginning of the Nazi era, the parents of Andreas [Georg’s cousin] were still able to find a place in Barcelona, but, after the Franco Putsch, no longer felt safe there and therefore sent their two adolescent sons to London, where Georg, in the role of an older uncle – after all, he was twice their age and had a wife, a job and a flat – took care of them, and eventually converted Andreas, the younger of the two, to Communism, to which he had just been won over by his new love, who later became my mother. That is how Andreas told it.

At last Barbara indicates that Litzy was not yet his wife when he converted to Communism. The circumstances of the acceptance in Britain of his cousins are not clear: Georg’s MI5 records do not reflect their presence at any time, so far as I can tell.

P 60     “Es war Zufall, dass während meines ‘Asylsʼ in Ilmenau auch Andreasʼ Bruder, der nach dem Krieg in England geblieben war und sich seither John nannte, gerade zu Besuch war, und beide Brűder erzählten wieder davon, wie fűrsorglich sich damals Georg ihrer angenommen hatte, als sie 1939 noch als halbe Kinder, ohne Geld, ohne Ausbildung und ohne die Sprache zu kennen, in dem völlig fremden London angekommen waren.ˮ

It was by chance that, during my refuge in Ilmenau, Andreas’s brother, who had stayed in England after the war, and since then was known as John, was visiting at the same time. Both brothers further explained how Georg had welcomed them, when in 1939 they had arrived in the utterly strange city of London as mere children, unprepared, without money, and not knowing the language.

Further startling facts about Georg’s extended family.

P 62     “So kam Georg 1931 als Korrespondent der Vossischen Zeitung nach London, lernte schnell Englisch, ‘denn wenn du Latein kennstʼ, sagt er, ‘lernst du alle anderen Sprachen im Handumdrehenʼ, lebte mit Ruth im gutbűrgerlichen Westen Londons zwischen Hyde Park und Holland Park, und dort heirateten sie endlich auch.ˮ

Thus Georg arrived in London in 1931 as correspondent for the Vossische Zeitung, quickly learned English, ‘for, if you know Latin’, he said, ‘you can learn other languages in a heartbeat’, lived with Ruth in a posh area of London between Hyde Park and Holland Park, and there they eventually got married.

Before being despatched to London, Georg had apparently bluffed his editor at the newspaper about his knowledge of English. Yet another lie appears: from his account, and the records in his Personal File, he returned to Germany to marry Ruth in December, 1932, in Frankfurt-am-Main.

P 63     “1936 hatte er gemeinsam mit Ruth die britische Staatsbűrgerschaft beantragt, die ihnen jedoch verweigert wurde. Seine deutsche Heimat sah er eben siebzehn Jahre später wieder.ˮ

In 1936, along with Ruth, he applied for British citizenship, which was, however, denied to both of them. He did not see his German homeland until seventeen years later.

This statement, rather curiously, excludes the German Democratic Republic as part of his homeland, but does fix a year (1953) in which he and Gisela visited West Germany.      

P 64     “Der Horizont des Kontinents verfinsterte sich mehr und mehr, vor allem nach der Kristallnacht 1938 trafen immer mehr Freunde, Bekannte und Verwandte aus Deutschland in England ein, die Vettern und Cousinen aus Breslau, Hans und Franz, Ernst, Emil, Hedwig und Antonia mit ihren Kindern und einige Kinder und Jugendliche ohne ihre Eltern, wie Andreas und John, der damals noch Hans hieß.ˮ

The horizon of the Continent became darker and darker. After Kristallnacht in 1938, especially, many more friends, acquaintances and relatives arrived in England from Germany, the nephews and cousins from Breslau, Hans and Franz, Ernst, Emil, Hedwig and Antonia with their children and some children and young persons without their parents, such as Andreas and John, who was still known as Hans at that time.

The hitherto anonymous character of the extended Honigmann family and circle is quite remarkable.

P 65     “Von der großen Reportage-Reise durch die USA, die Georg zu dieser Zeit unternahm, hat er später wenig erzählt, zwar erwähnte er manchmal eine Amerikareise, ohne sie aber in eine Zeit einzuordnen oder mit einem Ereignis zu verknűpfen, eigentlich hat er immer nur ganz allgemein vom Autofahren auf den Highways erzählt, was fűr ein Vergnűgen das gewesen sei . . . ˮ

Georg said little about the extensive reporting trip he through the USA that he undertook at this time. He did indeed mention an American visit from time to time without placing the date it took place or connecting it with any particular experience. He always spoke very generally about motoring on the highways, and what pleasure that had given him  . . .

The visit took place in 1938.

P 67      “‘Bevor ich deine Mutter kennenlernte, war ich weit davon entfernt, ein politischer Mensch zu seinʼ, hat mir mein Vater in einem seiner Briefe aus der Kur in Bad Elster geschrieben, die der nun űber sechzigjährige Mann so gut wie jedes Jahr in Anspruch nahm.ˮ

‘Before I met your mother, I was a long way from being a political person’, my father wrote to me in one of his letters from the spa in Bad Elster, treatment that the now sixty-plus year-old claimed for himself practically every year.

A reinforcement of the influence that Litzy reputedly had over him. But can it be trusted?

P 67     “Meine Mutter ist er in London begegnet, geheiratet haben die beiden aber erst nach dem Krieg in Berlin, und dort ließen sie sich auch wieder scheiden. Litzy, die meine Mutter wurde, lernte er durch seinen Kollegen Peter Smolka kennen, der schon 1930 als Korrespondent der großen Wiener Tageszeitung Neue Freie Presse nach London gekommen war und dort zusammen mit seinem britischen Kollegen H. A. R. ‘Kimʼ Philby eine Presseagentur gegrűndet hatte, die die britischen Zeitungen mit Nachrichten aus Mittel- und Ost-europa belieferte und die er später an den Exchange Telegraph verkaufte.ˮ

He met my mother in London, but they did not get married until after the war, in Berlin, and it was there that they applied again for a divorce. He became acquainted with Litzy, who was to become my mother, through his colleague Peter Smolka, who had already arrived in London as correspondent of the major Vienna daily newspaper, the Neue Freie Presse, and who had founded in collaboration with his British friend H. A. R. Philby a press agency, which supplied the British press with news from Central and Eastern Europe, and which he later sold to the Exchange Telegraph.

At last Barbara acknowledges the fact that her parents married in Berlin. (But, concerning the divorce, why the ‘again’? Because they had both been divorced before?) The details about Smolka’s arrival in England are wrong. He was only eighteen years old when he arrived in January 1931, and he was registered as a student. Smolka did indeed, on November 15, 1934, when he was London editor for the Neue Freie Presse, request permission from the Home Office for him and Philby to set up London Continental News Ltd., a rather careless initiative that should have alerted the authorities to Philby’s political alliances. Why Barbara states that ‘Smolka’ later sold it rather than ‘Smolka and Philby’ is provocative, although Philby was in reality a ‘sleeping’ partner. And the origin and timing of his friendship with Kim are left unsaid.

P 68     “Die Frau von Peter Smolka war Lotte, Litzys beste Freundin noch aus Kindertagen, als sie zusammen in Wien zur Schule gingen, ebendie, die mir nach Georgs Tod noch so wűtend von seiner Affäre mit der spanischen Tänzerin erzählte, und Philby war Litzys Ehemann.ˮ         

            “Seit er meiner Mutter bekannt worden war, wurde Georg vom britischen Inlandsgeheimdienst MI5 beobachtet und bekam dort ein Dossier, weil er damit in Kreise eintrat, deren Nähe zu oder Mitgliedschaft in der Kommunistischen Partei bekannt war oder die gar der Spionage fűr die Sowjetunion  verdächtig wurden. Dieser Verdacht hat sich in den meisten Fallen bestätigt und stellte sich Jahre später sogar als noch viel begrűndeter heraus, als es sich der MI5 in seiner schlimmsten Albträumen auch nur hatte vorstellen können.ˮ

            “In dem engen Wiener Kreis um Peter Smolka, Lotte und Litzy traf Georg zum ersten Mal Menschen, meistens junge und viele jűdisch, die schon seit längerer Zeit politisch engagiert und aktiv in Vereinen organisiert waren, links oder zionistisch, oft beides, wie er sie wohl vorher noch nicht getroffen hatte.ˮ

Peter Smolka’s wife was called Lotte, Litzy’s best friend from her childhood days when they attended school together in Vienna, the very same woman who spoke so angrily, after his death, about Georg’s affair with the Spanish dancer. Philby was Litzy’s husband.

Ever since he became acquainted with my mother, Georg was watched by MI5, Britain’s domestic security service, and thus a file was opened on him, since by that relationship he entered social circles whose proximity to, or membership of, the Communist Party was known, and the circles might even have been suspected of spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. That suspicion was in most cases confirmed, and was exposed many years later as having had strong justification, in a way that MI5 could only have imagined in its worst nightmares.

In the tight Viennese circle around Peter Smolka, Lotte and Litzy, Georg met for the first time persons, mostly young and many Jewish, of the left or Zionist, frequently both, whom he could never have come across beforehand.

The important link between Litzy and Smolka is revealed, which explains how Philby and Smolka so easily started to conspire in 1934. (I reported last month that Smolka has been claimed as assisting Kim and Litzy in Vienna in February 1934, a story that Smolka’s family has promulgated orally, and one that has also appeared in the media, since Smolka’s godson, Peter Foges, avowed it in an interview presented in an on-line segment from Lapham’s Quarterly. I have started a research project to investigate this claim, and I shall be reporting more in January 2024. It has very dramatic implications.) Georg was in fact watched by MI5 as soon as he arrived in the United Kingdom, and his movements were noted: the assertions he made to his daughter may have been false, and Barbara, since she claims to have inspected her father’s file, would know about the earlier surveillance. The account of proven espionage is enticing, since it specifically does not include Philby. MI5 later stated that they knew that Litzy was a Soviet agent, yet ‘MI5’s worst nightmares’ would appear to be something of a hyperbole.

P 69     “Litzy und ihre Freunde waren schon vorher in der ‘Roten Hilfeʼ und der ‘Internationalen Arbeiterhilfeʼ organisiert und hatten Geld fűr sie gesammelt, Kleider und Essen verteilt und bei ihren Versammlungen revolutionäre Pläne geschmiedet, und in diesen dramatishen Februartagen wählten sie natűrlich die Seite des sozialdemokratischen Schutzbűndler und schließlich der Kommunisten, obwohl sie meistens aus gutbűrgerlichen Verhältnissen stammten, es war wohl auch eine Revolte der Jugend. Sie gaben sich kommunistische Träumen von Gleichheit und Gerechtigkeit hin, die dann fast ein ganzes Leben hielten, auch wenn sie dabei oft die Augen fest verschließen mussten. Vielleicht weil sie so jung waren, sind sie dabei in ihrem politischen Engagement sehr weit gegangen. Sie ließen sich gleich am Anfang vom Sowjetischen Geheimdienst rekrutieren und haben in den Jahren nach 1934 dann fűr ihn spioniert, nachdem sie in Asyl vor rassicher und politischer Verfolgung gefunden hatten, während der Zeit des Hitler-Stalin-Pakts, als Großbritannien sich Hitler gegenűber ohne Verbűndete fand, und später, als die Sowjetunion zum Allierten Großbritanniens wurde, und schließlich noch viele Jahre darűber hinaus, nach dem Sieg uber Hitler, während des Kalten Krieges.ˮ

Litzy and her friends had already been enrolled in the ‘Red Aid’ and ‘International Workers’ Aid’ organizations, and had collected funds for them, distributed clothing and food, and forged revolutionary plans at their meetings. In these dramatic February days they of course chose the side of the Schutzbund [the paramilitary Defence League] and eventually that of the Communists, even though most of them came from bourgeois backgrounds: it was indeed a youth revolt, as well. They indulged in communist dreams of Equality and Justice, which then lasted for almost all their lives, even though they had to close their eyes tightly while doing so. It was probably because they were so young that they drove their political engagement so deeply. Right from the start, they let themselves be recruited by the Soviet Secret Service, and consequently spied for it in the years after 1934, after they had found refuge from racial and political persecution, during the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, when Great Britain was facing Hitler without any allies, as well as later, when the Soviet Union joined Britain’s allies, and finally, for several years more during the Cold War following the victory over Hitler.

Enough said. Having been hooked in, they would not have been allowed to leave, even if they wanted to. Yet what is highly significant about this paragraph is the fact that it states that ‘Litzy and her friends’ ‘let themselves be recruited by the Soviet Secret Service’ in 1934. Since Lotte was Litzy’s closest friend, and she was married to Peter Smolka, and Litzy then married Kim Philby, it appears to confirm that all four became NKVD agents at this time.

P 70     “Als sie Georg durch ihre Wiener Freunde in London kennenlernte, war Litzy noch mit Philby verheiratet, hatte aber schon einen anderen Geliebten, und Philby hatten andere Frauen, ich glaube, sie lebten auch schon in verschiedenen Wohnungen. Georg war noch mit Ruth verheiratet, ihre Wege trennten sich jedoch bald.ˮ

When Georg got to know her through her Viennese friends in London, Litzy was still married to Philby, although she already had another lover, and Philby also had other women in his life. I believe they already lived apart. Georg was still married to Ruth, but they went their separate ways.

At some stage, Litzy had affairs with Michael Stewart and Anthony Milne: there may well have been others. This note would appear to confirm that the relationship between Litzy and Georg started early in 1940, after Litzy returned from France. Philby had affairs in Spain during his time there as a journalist during the Civil War. Part of the ‘living apart’ was the fact that they were both on assignments abroad for much of the late 1930s.

P 72     “Jedenfalls konnte ihm Ruth darin nicht mehr folgen, so bestätigen es auch die files von MI5: G. H. had no firm political views until he met Litzy.ˮ

In any case, Ruth could no longer follow him in his views, as the files of MI5 confirm: G. H. had no firm political views until he met Litzy.

Georg had claimed to believe in ‘pacifist humanism’ up till then. Thus the split between him and Ruth had much to do with political affiliation.

P 73     “Die Berichte der files und Akten aber erfanden fűr mich nun die Vergangeheit eines Mannes aus einer weit entfernten Lebensepoche, eines Mannes, der nicht mein Vater war.ˮ

The reports from the files and documents revealed to me, however, the past of a man from a long-distant period, of a man who was not my father.

This would seem to be self-delusion on Barbara’s part. Georg had pulled the wool over her eyes.

P 74     “Er ließ auch nie Zweifel daran, dass er Amerika England vorzog, und teilte nicht die pro-englische Euphorie seiner ersten Frau und eigentlich auch seiner zweiten, meiner Mutter. ‘Ja, die Engländer sind tolerantʼ, meinte er, ‘aber vor allem sind sie herablassend: ja, sie sind fair, aber nur solange du nicht die Grenzen ihrer Toleranz uberschreitest – da verstehen sie nämlich űberhaupt kein Spaß mehr, und ihr sprichwörtlicher Humor löst such in Luft auf. ʼˮ

He left no doubt over the fact that he preferred America to England, and shared neither the pro-English euphoria of his first wife, nor even that of his second, my mother. ‘Yes, the English are tolerant’, he would say, ‘but above all they are condescending: yes, they are fair, but only as long as you do not overstep the boundaries of their tolerance – in that event they don’t allow any more joking, and their proverbial humour flies out of the window’.

It is perhaps surprising that Litzy’s enthusiasm for England is disclosed: in her own conversations with her daughter, she emphasized her fond memories of Paris.  Thus she may have been a reluctant – but pragmatic – émigré to East Berlin in September 1946. Unlike Georg, of course, she had a British passport, and Georg forever had a grudge because the British appeared to have rejected him on account of his German/Jewish origins. The observations on ‘tolerance’ show the utter hypocrisy of those Communists who sheltered under Britain’s wing and then tried to undermine its way of life.

P 75     “Georg war nämlich zugleich misanthropisch and gesellig, bissig und charmant, immer witzig und zugleich immer ein bisschen traurig, widersprűchliche Eigenschaften, die vielleicht von den ‘miesen Erbschaftʼ stammten, dem ewigen Zwischen-den-Stuhlen-Sitzen.ˮ

Georg was indeed misanthropic and sociable at the same time, mordant and charming, forever amusing and yet always a bit melancholy, contradictory qualities that perhaps derived from his ‘wretched background’, the eternal ‘sitting-between-two-stools’.’

This item of pop psychology makes out as unusual what one could accept as normal behaviour from anyone accustomed to mixing successfully in varied company. Georg sought psychiatric help to no avail: he was perhaps not smart enough to grow up and sort things out himself, and instead blamed what he saw as his failings of character on childhood repressions.

P 76     “Über die Anfangszeit von Georg und Litzy als Paar weiß ich wenig, denn ihre Erzählungen aus dieser Zeit handelten fast ausschließlich vom Krieg, der Internierung in Kanada, den Bomben auf London und waren wohl außerdem von ihren Geheimdienst-Verstrickungen űberschattert.ˮ

I know little about the early days of Georg and Litzy as a couple, for their stories from this period dealt almost exclusively with the war, with internment in Canada, the bombs falling on London, and were besides overshadowed by their entanglements with intelligence work.

Georg was fortunate enough to avoid the Battle of Britain (July to October 1940), since he was interned in Canada throughout. Unless he was being creative, those memories must have derived from Litzy, who was trying to help engineer his release.

P 77     “Er sprach natűrlich fließend Englisch, er las Englisch und schrieb Englisch, aber ohne die Begeisterung meiner Mutter, die űberhaupt bis zum Ende ihres Lebens lieber englisch als deutsche Bűcher las; in den Gesprächen meiner Eltern mischten sich die Sprachen des öfteren, weil das Englische manchmal die bessere Formulierung bereithielt, so wie Georg die Hauswirtin in Hirschgarten die ‘Landladyʼ nannte.ˮ

He of course spoke fluent English, read it and wrote it, but without the enthusiasm of my mother, who overall preferred to read English books rather than German ones to the end of her life; when they chatted, my parents frequently switched between languages, since English often offered a better formulation, as, for example, in Georg’s calling the landlady in Hirschgarten the ‘landlady’.

More insights on the ‘Anglicization of Litzy’. Since the best translation of ‘Hauswirtin’ is ‘landlady’, this example would appear to be suboptimal.

P 83     “Obwohl er mehrfach die Britische Staatsangehörigkeit beantragt hatte und sich wohl bis zur Begegnung mit Litzy sehr gut ein weiteres Leben mit Ruth in London zwischen Hyde Park und Holland Park hätte vorstellen konnen, weigerte er sich hartnäckig, seinen Namen zu anglisieren, davon sprach er später immer voller Stolz wie von einer tapferen Tat, sondern beharrte auf der deutschen Schreibung des Namens und ließ nicht einmal das zweite ‘nʼ in seinem Namen fallen.ˮ

Even though he had applied for British citizenship several times, and up until his meeting with Litzy would have imagined very well an ongoing life with Ruth in London between Hyde Park and Holland Park, he obstinately refused to anglicize his name, and always spoke of that decision as if it had been a courageous deed. On the contrary, he insisted on the German spelling of his name and never let the second ‘n’ in Honigmann ever be dropped.

Fairly petty: ‘Honigman’ would still have looked very German. Maybe it was because he had been refused citizenship that he clung to the German formulation. He was, of course, stateless when in the United Kingdom, since the German government refused to renew his citizenship.

P 87     “Georg fűhlte sich wie viele andere zu den Kommunisten hingezogen, die sich vom ersten Tag an organisierten, manche von ihnen, vor allem die Österreiecher, kannten sich ja schon aus den Bűrgerkriegszeiten in Wien, und sie beeindruckten Georg vor allem dadurch, wie selbstbewusst sie gegenűber der Lagerleitung und Lageradministration auftraten, um bestimmte Bedingungen zu fordern, den unsinnigen Feind-Status abzuwenden und stattdessen den Status all dieser inhaftierten Männer als Nazi-Flűchtlinge anzuerkennen.ˮ

Like many others, Georg felt himself strongly drawn to the Communists who were from the first day well-organized. Many of them, above all the Austrians, knew each other from the civil war days in Vienna, and above all they impressed Georg by virtue of the fact that they confidently stepped up to the tasks of camp leadership and administration, in order to demand certain conditions, to overturn their absurd status as ‘enemy’ and instead to have the status of all internees as refugees from Nazism acknowledged.

This testimony from Canada might tend to undermine Georg’s firmness of convictions arising from his few months with Litzy.

P 88     “Mit diesen Erklärungen warben sie vor allem bei den jugendlichen Internierten, von denen vorher viele Zionisten waren, aber Zion war weit und kompliziert, und der Kommunismus was schließlich so einfach, wurde ihnen erklärt, und obgleich Georg gar nicht mehr jugendlich, sondern inzwischen fast vierzig war, ließ auch er sich vom Elan dieser Leute tragen, schließlich war er ja schon von Litzys Freunden aus dem Wiener Kreis in London, von denen sich auch einige unter den Internierten befanden, initiiert worden.ˮ

            “Jede der verschiedenen Gruppen in Lager konnte einen Kandidaten aufstellen, Georg wurde von den Kommunisten aufgestellt und mit großer Mehrheit auch von den anderen Gruppierungen gewählt, was er nie zu betonen vergaß, ‘auch von allen anderenʼ.ˮ

With these explanations they wooed above all the younger internees, many of whom had been Zionists beforehand. Yet Zion was distant and complicated, and Communism was at the end of it all quite simple, or so it was explained to them, and although Georg was no longer young, but at the time almost forty years old, he let himself be carried away by the spirit of these people. Finally, he had already been initiated by Litzy’s friends from the Vienna circle in London, some of whom were also among the internees.

Each of the various groups in the camp could appoint a representative. Georg was appointed by the Communists and elected as well, by a large majority, by all the other groups, something he never forgot to emphasize: ‘as well by all the other groups’.

Somewhat surprising for a man with an apparently diffident personality. Maybe his language skills, and tact, came to the fore.

P 90     “Wie so viele andere auch hat sich Martin jedoch 1968, nach dem Einmarsch der Sowjetischen Truppen in die Tschechoslowakie, mit seiner Partei űberworfen, und auch fűr Georg war dieses Ereignis ein Wendepunkt, von dem an er in seinen kommunistischen Überzeugungen deutlich nachließ und seine Enttäuschung gar nicht mehr zu verbergen suchte.ˮ

Like so many others, Martin had however fallen out with his party after the invasion by Soviet troops of Czechoslovakia in 1968. For Georg this experience was also a turning-point after which he distinctly abandoned his communist convictions and no longer attempted to conceal his disillusionment.

‘Martin’ (unidentified further in the text) was Leopold Hornik, who had been interned in Canada alongside Georg. One might ask why it took the two of them to wait until the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to discover a turning-point. Were (for example) the 1952 trials and executions of Slánský and others not enough? Why was the brutality of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 not an adequate stimulus? Perhaps it was not safe to show dissent before 1968, the year that Slánský was exonerated.

P 92     “Georg gehörte zu den ersten, die aus dem Lager in Kanada entlassen wurden, Litzy und seine Kollegen von Exchange Telegraph hatten Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung gesetzt, um die Entlassung zu bewirken. In einem seiner Lebensläufe, die er später während der zahllosen Parteiűberprufungen der frűhen fűnfziger Jahre in der DDR zu schreiben hatte und die ich in seiner Stasi-Akte fand, schrieb er: ‘Nach meiner Freilassung meldete ich mich in London bei der Partei und wurde anschließend als Mitglied aufgenommen. Alle beruflichen Fragen und Entscheidungen, wie beispielsweise mein Eintritt in die Nachrichtenagentur Reuter, wurden mit der Partei abgesprochen.ʼˮ

            “Als er Anfang des Jahres 1941 nach London zuruckkehren konnte, erwartete ihn dort Litzy, seine neue Geliebte, und er zog aus der Wohnung zwischen Hyde Park und Holland Park aus, in der er mit Ruth gewohnt hatte, und lebte fortan mit Litzy in einer Wohnung in St. Johns Wood.ˮ

Georg was one of the first to be released from the camp in Canada. Litzy and his colleagues at the Exchange Telegraph had tried to move heaven and earth to secure his release. In one of his autobiographical accounts that he was required to write during the countless DDR Party examinations of the early nineteen-fifties, which I found in the Stasi-Files, he had written: ‘After my release I reported to the Party in London and was firmly accepted as a member. All professional questions and decisions, for example my entry into the Reuter’s news agency, were disputed by the Party.

When he was able to return to London at the beginning 1941, Litzy, his new love, was waiting for him, and he moved out of the flat between Hyde Park and Holland Park which he had occupied with Ruth, and went to live with Litzy in a flat in St John’s Wood.

That Litzy had become a passionate supplicant on Georg’s behalf is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not found in his MI5 dossier, but points to the fact that she must have become besotted over him in the short time since they met (early 1940) before his detention (July 19). Honigmann’s statements after his own release attest to his devotion and dedication to Ruth’s liberation from internment, since he expresses a desire to be re-united with her and her mother in the family home, but that was evidently a charade. (The word ‘abgesprochen’ is ambiguous in meaning: it strongly suggests ‘refused’, but since Georg was indeed admitted to Reuters, I have selected the variant ‘disputed’ to indicate that no decision was made independently without Moscow approval.)

P 94     “ . . . das war es, wovon Georg und Litzy später am meisten erzählten, das war es, wovon ich wieder und wieder hörte, die Ruhe der Engländer, der Beistand, den sie gegenseitig leisteten.ˮ

            “Meine Eltern haben mir ein ganzes Epos űberliefert von dem stoischen Heldenmut, dem klaglosen Wegräumen der Trűmmer, den gegenseitigen Ermutigungen, und die Bewunderung, die sie dafűr empfanden, klang auch nach vielen Jahren noch in ihren Erzählungen nach und hat mein Englandbild fűr immer geprägt. Umso unverständlicher war und ist mir noch heute die Entscheidung Litzys und ihres Freundeskreise, in die sich Georg hatte hinziehen lassen oder von der er doch wenigstens Kenntnis haben musste, diese so bewunderte Land zu hintergehen und es fűr die Sowjetunion auszuspionieren. Sie haben mir diesen Widerspruch nie erklären können, später in ihrem DDR-Leben war das alles schon weit weg und lange vegangen, oder sie haben es einfach weit weggeschoben; ob sie sich dafűr je schuldig gefűhlt haben, habe ich nie erfahren.ˮ

 . . . that was what, what I heard again and again, and what Georg and Litzy talked about most, the calm of the English people, and how they helped each other out.

My parents passed on to me a complete epic story of stoical courage, of the removal of debris without complaining, of the mutual inspiring of courage. The admiration they felt for it resounded in their description of it to me many years later, and it has stamped my picture of England for ever. The decision made by Litzy and her circle of friends, into which Georg had been drawn, or about which he must have at least known, to deceive this wonderful country and betray it through espionage to the Soviet Union, was all the more incomprehensible to me then, and remains so today. They were never able to explain this contradiction to me: later in their life in the DDR everything was a long way away, and in the distant past, or they simply pushed it far into the background: whether they felt any guilt over it I was never able to determine.

This flattering appreciation of Londoners’ spirit during the Blitz displays a certain naivety on the author’s part. Once her parents had taken the decision to work for the Soviet Union, it was irrevocable. Otherwise they would have probably been found dead in a hotel room, with the symptoms of a heart attack brought about by some untraceable poison, like so many of Stalin’s victims. (Goronwy Rees just escaped assassination: Anthony Blunt alone remained unscathed.)  

P 96     “Der Club wurde jedoch, im Unterschied zu anderen, vor allem judischen Emigranten-Organisationen, mehr und mehr von Kommunisten dominiert, und das entging auch dem MI5 nicht, der trotz oder wegen der Allianz mit der Sowjetunion die neue Sympathie fűr die Kommunisten und deren Aktivitäten genau beobachtet, wenn auch nicht genau genug, um herauszufinden, dass die echten Spionen fűr die Sowjetunion sich nicht gerade in den offen kommunistischen Gruppen zeigten. ‘Mein Gott, wie naiv die Engländer warenʼ, sagte manchmal meine Mutter: sie wusste ja, wovon sie sprach.ˮ

In contrast to the other, primarily Jewish emigrant organizations, the Club was dominated more and more by Communists, and that fact did also not elude MI5, which, despite or perhaps on account of the alliance with the Soviet Union, closely followed the fresh sympathy for the Communists and their activities, though not closely enough for it to discover that the real spies for the Soviet Union did not show their faces in the open communist groups. ‘Dear Lord, how naive the English were!’, my mother used to say: she knew what she was talking about.

The Club was Der Freie Deutsche Kulturbund (the Free Germann League of Culture) which maintained a centre in Hampstead. Indeed, it was the strategy of Moscow Centre to have its espionage activities directed well away from the Party itself. MI5 persisted in believing that any dangerous element of Soviet subversion would automatically have been a member of the party at one time, and would have mixed with members.

P 100   “Die Partei hatte beschlossen, dass Georg und Litzy nach Deutschland zurűckkehren sollten, und zwar in die sowjetisch besetzte Zone, um den Russen zu helfen, dort auf den Trűmmern des nationalsozialistischen Deutschland ein international eingebundenes, das hieß, ein an die Sowjetunion fest angebundenes sozialistisches System aufzubauen.ˮ

            “Georg hat mir selbst einmal gesagt, ‘schon als ich bei Reuters war, habe ich fűr die Russen gearbeitetʼ.ˮ

The Party had decided that Georg and Litzy should return to Germany, to the Soviet zone, of course, in order to help the Russians construct out of the ruins of Nazi Germany a tightly bound international socialist system – that is to say, one inextricably linked to the Soviet Union.

Georg told me himself: ‘As soon as I was employed by Reuters, I started working for the Russians.’

If the Party decided that, why did it ordain that Georg should leave in April 1946, but Litzy not until four months later? After all, the rather airy and impractical Georg was perhaps not first choice for the task of ‘socialist reconstruction’, and leaving Litzy behind might have caused some great embarrassments if MI5 had been on its toes. I am sure that a very suspicious MGB was performing some strenuous due diligence. As for Georg’s joining Reuters, that appears to be another lie. He joined Reuters in December 1943, but had already been working for the Soviet cause for some time.

P 101   “Andererseits berichten die files vom MI5, das musste ihnen jemand zugetragen haben, dass Georg eigentlich gar nicht nach Deutschland zurűckkehren wollte und dass es wieder Litzy war, die ihn dazu űberredete: When, after the war she announced, that they would go to the Soviet sector of Berlin, he was obviously unwilling and held back.ˮ

On the other hand the MI5 files inform us (something that must have been reported to them) that George in fact had no desire to return to Germany and that it was again Litzy who convinced him of the necessity: ‘When, after the war she announced that they would go to the Soviet sector of Berlin, he was obviously unwilling and held back.’

This again sheds light on the paradox. If Litzy was so keen, why did she not travel with her lover? She no doubt informed Georg that it was too late to change his mind about the Communist cause now. But maybe Georg still hoped that a position with the Control Commission would allow him to live in the far more congenial British sector of Germany.

P 102   “Unter Litzys Einfluss jedoch und dem Druck der Partei, die das so geplant hatte, lief er zu den Russen űber und arbeitete fűr sie im Nachrichtenbűro der sowjetischen Militäradministration.ˮ

Under Litzy’s influence, however, and the pressure from the Party, who had planned it that way, he deserted to the Russians and worked for them in the news bureau of the Soviet military administration.

How voluntary this step was must be debatable. The Party did not apply ‘pressure’ as if it were a kind of soft influence. It threatened. And Georg may have been abducted by force.

P 104   “In dieser Zeit muss die Affäre mit der spanischen Tänzerin stattgefunden haben,  . . . ˮ

            “Litzy war zunächst noch in London geblieben, um zu warten, bis Georg eine Wohnung fand . . . ˮ

His affair with the Spanish dancer must have taken place at this time. To begin with, Litzy had stayed in London, waiting until Georg found somewhere to live.

The presence of attractive Spanish dancers in post-war Berlin is a phenomenon to be marvelled at. No doubt this particular example was spying on Georg during their affair. Equally amusing is the notion that Litzy would have been waiting for Georg to scout around and find a desirable accommodation for the two of them. This was rubble-strewn Berlin in 1946, after all, and the Party would have told him where to live.

P 106   “Georg und Litzy heirateten 1947, nachdem sie sich beide zuerst hatten scheiden lassen műssen, Georg von Ruth und Litzi von Kim Philby.ˮ

Georg and Litzy were married in 1947, after they had both evidently arranged their divorces, Georg from Ruth, and Litzy from Kim Philby.

A paraphrase of the facts. Georg had legally divorced Ruth on November 23, 1942. The ‘evidently’ suggests a belief that the Litzy-Kim divorce must have happened in order for the Litzy-Kim marriage to be legal, but no ‘evidence’ is offered.

P 109   “Von den höheren Partei-Kadren, die aus Moskau zurűckgekehrt waren und wussten, dass sie ihr Überleben dort einzig dem Zufall under der völligen Unterordnung unter die ‘Zentraleʼ zu verdanken hatten, zu deren Befehlsempfängern sie jetzt geworden waren, schlug ihnen ebenso großes Misstrauen entgegen, da sie sich nämlich in den westlichen Ländern des Exils vielleicht eine gewisse Freiheit bewahrt hatten. Von dieser letzten inneren Freiheit mussten sie gesäubert werden, und so zog nun eine Säuberungswelle die nächste nach sich, und in allen Ostblockstaaten wurden Prozesse gegen ‘Kosmopoliten, Zionisten und Agenten der amerikanischen Finanzoligarchieʼ inszeniert, in Bulgarien, in Ungarn, in Rumanien und schließlich in Prag, und sie trugen immer deutlicher einen antisemitischen Charakter.ˮ

The upper-level Party cadres, who had returned from Moscow, and knew that they could attribute their survival there only to the happenstance of their utter submission to ‘Moscow Centre’, whose messenger-boys they had become, exercised massive mistrust against them [the emigrants], since the latter had perhaps been able to enjoy a certain freedom in those western countries where they had been exiled. They would have to be purged of this last inner liberty, and thus a wave of purging followed closely after. In all the states of the Eastern Bloc trials against ‘cosmopolitans, Zionists and agents of the American financial oligarchy’ started, in Bulgaria, in Hungary, in Rumania and lastly in Prague, and they took on an ever more clearly anti-Semitic character.

The very sad, but real, fact about the suspicions of the Party organs concerning those who had survived the war in relative comfort, and had thus clearly been exposed to bourgeois influences. A true Stalinist philosophy. Ms Honigmann says nothing about the arrest and interrogation of Georg and Litzy in early 1953.

P 110   “In Georgs Stasi-Akte häufen sich die Berichte der Nachbarn und Ortsparteigruppen-Mitglieder aus Karolinenhof, die ihn ‘westlicher Kleidungʼ, ‘uberheblichen und arroganten Auftretensʼ, ‘Beherrschung der englischen Sprache in Wort und Schriftʼ, ‘reservierten Verhaltens‘, ‘mangelnden Parteibewusstseinʼ, ‘Kontakten zu Ausländernʼ beschuldigten und sehr wahrscheinlicher Verbindungen mit dem amerikanischen Geheimsdienst verdächtigen.ˮ

In George’s Stasi-Files reports from neighbours and members of local party groups in Karolinenhof pile up, accusing him of ‘western clothing’, ‘overbearing and arrogant behaviour’, ‘mastery of the English language, both orally and in writing’, ‘deficient party-consciousness’, ‘contact with foreigners’, and casting suspicions on him of highly probable connections with American intelligence.

Further evidence of the resentment and suspicion.

P 112   “Hätte ich nicht besser in London bleiben sollen, warum bin ich zurűckgekommen, wird er sich wohl gefragt haben, warum habe ich mich zur Kommunistischen Partei drängen lassen, wo ich doch nie űber Herman Hesse hinausgekommen bin.ˮ

‘Wouldn’t I have done better to stay in London?’, ‘Why did I return?’, he must indeed have asked himself. ‘Why did I let myself be forced into the Communist Party, when I had never really escaped from Herman Hesse?’


P 116   “Nach der Scheidung meiner Eltern im Jahr 1956, ich war gerade eingeschult worden, űbernahm Georg das Grundstűck und das Haus mit der Schauspielerin, und unsere letzte Begegnung zu dritt fand auch dort statt, nachdem ich gerade jugendgeweiht worden war.ˮ

After my parents separated in 1956, when I had just started school, Georg occupied the property and house with the actress, and the last meeting between the three of us took place there, just after I had celebrated coming of-age.

Jugendweihe is a German secular ceremony (Youth Consecration) celebrated about age 14 – hence the year would be 1963.

P 120   “Wir besuchten ihn [Wolfgang Gans Edler Herr zu Putlitz] manchmal in seinem Haus und gingen dann zusammen űber die märkischen Sandwege zwischen den Kiefern, Georg und er kannten sich nämlich schon aus England, diese Bekanntschaft is auch in den files des MI5 bemerkt, der Gans Edle Herr wird da Baron gennant.ˮ

            “Genau wie Georg setzte er sich später von der britischen Besatzungszone in die sowjetische besetzte Zone ab und bot den Russen seine Mitarbeit an, die ihn wahrscheinlich schon in der Zeit in London angeworben hatten.ˮ

We frequently visited him [zu Putlitz] at his house, and walked together along the sandy paths that bordered the Scotch pines. He and Georg knew each other well from their time in England, and this friendship is also noted in the MI5 files; the Gans Edler Herr was known as ‘Baron’.

Just like Georg, he deserted from the British occupation zone to the zone occupied by the Soviets, and he offered his cooperation to the Russians, who had probably already wooed him during his time in London.

Wolfgang zu Putltz

Zu Putlitz was another shady character who fled to the British side shortly after war broke out, when he was about to be unmasked as a spy. He was also dispatched (by MI6) to West Germany after the war, but had to return to the UK. Ms Honigmann’s account suggests that zu Putlitz’s and her father’s ‘desertions’ were contemporaneous, but, after taking British citizenship in 1948, zu Putlitz did not defect to East Germany until January 1952. The ‘Gans Edler Herr’ is probably a sarcastic pun: his name was Wolfgang Gans [goose] Edler [noble] zu Putlitz, but the formulation suggests ‘ganz edler Herr’, an ‘utterly noble gentleman’. Why the Soviets thought he might be worth wooing is not clear.

P 129   “Eine Anzahl ehemaliger Emigranten lebte dort, so John Hartfield und Wieland Herzfelde, Giselas und Georgs Nachbarin war Elisabeth Hauptmann, und eine Etage darűber wohnte John Peet, den Georg noch aus England kannte, wie auch dem MI5 nichtentgangen ist, das schon ihre Bekanntschaft in London und ihre Nähe zu den Kommunisten festgehalten hat.ˮ

A number of former emigrants lived there, such as John Hartfield and Wieland Herzfelde, Elisabeth Hauptmann was a neigbour of Georg’s and Gisela’s, and John Peet, whom Georg had known from his London days, lived on the floor above. MI5 had failed to notice their relationship, even though the Security Service had already established their acquaintance in London and their proximity to the Communists.

‘The Long Engagement’ by John Peet

Georg is recorded as deputising for John Peet on the ‘Democratic German Report’ in September 1952, while the latter was on holiday. Peet was a leftist journalist who, while working for Reuters, defected to East Germany in 1950. He wrote a quite amusing memoir titled The Long Engagement (1989). It does not mention Honigmann.

P 146   “Obwohl er in seinem Leben immer wieder Frauen, Freunde, Familie, Wohnungen und Orte verlassen hatte – die Partei verließ er nicht, den ‘stumpfen Kern des Kommunismusʼ hat er doch nicht wahrhaben wollen.ˮ

Even though he had during his life abandoned again and again women, friends, residences and localities, he never left the Party, while at the same time he never wanted to acknowledge the ‘indifferent heart of Communism’.

He was free to abandon his women, but not the Party. His daughter should have known that.

P 151   “Damals wusste ich noch nicht, dass die letzte Frau alles der Stasi zutrug, und ich weiß auch heute noch nicht, ob Georg davon Kenntnis hatte oder es gar tolerierte.ˮ

I did not know at the time that his last wife reported everything to the Stasi, and I still do not know to this day whether Georg knew about it, or even tolerated it.

His fourth wife (born 1930) was Liselotte Honigmann-Zinserling (née Bandow), an art historian, who died in August 2021. She must have been sucked into the Stasi information-gathering net.

P 155   “Als Deutscher bekannte er sich, er hatte schließlich das zweite ‘nʼ in seinem Namen unter den Engländern aufrechterhalten, so war er fűr die Engländer ein Deutscher gebleiben, aber fűr die Deutschen ein Jude. Fűr die Genossen war er zu bűrgerlich, nie űber Herman Hesse hinausgekommen. Fur die richtigen Bűrger war er zu bohèmehaft, er hatte ja nichts aufgebaut, angesammelt oder gar vermehrt, weder Titel noch Besitz, nicht einmal ein geordnetes Leben im einfachsten Sinne hatt er zustande gebracht mit all seinen Ehen und Scheidungen, und wie viel er herumgezogen ist, in wie vielen Wohnungen er gelebt hat, wegen Frauen und wegen Krieg. Er hatte Orte, Adressen und Ehen aneinandergereiht und außer seinen beiden Töchtern und den Bata-Schuhen nichts besessen, und am Schluss war er dann nur noch ein old man in a hurry, wie er seiner Ärztin, die ihn zum Tode hin behandlete, erklärt hat.ˮ

He acknowledged himself as a German: among the English, he decisively preserved the second ‘n’ in his surname, and thus remained a German to them. But to the Germans, he was Jewish. For the comrades he was too bourgeois, and had never escaped the shadow of Herman Hesse. For the real bourgeois he was too bohemian, and had never built, accumulated or created anything, neither a title nor an estate, and with all his marriages and divorces, had not achieved any organized life in any simple sense, no matter in how many places he had lived, because of his wives and because of the war. He had lined up places, addresses and marriages against each other, and beyond his two daughters and his Bata shoes had owned nothing. He was at the end simply ‘an old man in a hurry’, as he explained to his (female) doctor, who treated him all the time until his death.

The expression ‘old man in a hurry’ derives from Winston Churchill. This profile tends to confirm the persona of Georg as something of a ‘Luftmensch’, namely an impractical, contemplative person having no definite business or income. He clearly possessed a lot of charm, but portrayed little backbone, and was easily seduced into the perils of Communism, which really suited him not at all.


Contemplating the strange interlude in the summer of 1946, when Georg was separated from Litzy when in Berlin, I had hoped to learn from this memoir a little more about his relationship with the NKVD. Yet, almost predictably, he presents a very sanitized picture. He is contradictory and elliptical in his account of meeting Litzy and how he was converted to Communism, and avoids any explanation of the events of 1946. Just as Barbara’s mother declined to reveal from her daughter the truth about her work for the NKVD, so did Georg cloak his activities in vagueness and deception. It was as if the two of them grew increasingly regretful and embarrassed about their service with Soviet espionage and counter-espionage, but did not want to admit how cruelly they had been exploited.

Thus Georg’s role, and his importance to the NKVD, remain very enigmatic. Unlike many other emigrés who found themselves inextricably linked with Communist organizations and movements, he did not appear to have imbibed the red juice by the time he arrived in the United Kingdom. Perhaps his affair with Litzy was truly the event that solidified his allegiances, bolstered by his experiences in Canada. One must imagine that Litzy’s cohabitation with him must have been approved by her Moscow masters, as if it created a distance between her and Philby, and even gave her some tortuous ‘respectability’. But, in that case, why did the NKVD not insist that she divorce Philby, and why did they encourage Georg to draw a lot of attention to himself by consorting with the exile communist groups in London? He was not useful to them in other ways: he had no access to secret information, and he had no role as a propagandist for the cause.

As I have argued before, until 1944 Litzy was probably considered a much more important asset than Philby, who was in semi-disgrace, and had not even managed to secure a position in British Intelligence, when she started to live with Honigmann in 1940. Moreover, they might have believed (incorrectly) that Litzy would lose her residential status if she threw off her legal relationship with Philby. Yet they then involved Georg in the extraordinary clumsy business over the Control Commission post, and the subsequent ‘kidnapping’.

We know from the KASPAR/LAMB reports (if they can be trusted, obviously) that Georg for a while resisted Litzy’s strong appeals to him that it was their duty to move to the Soviet sector of Germany, and that they fell out over the idea. Eventually, Georg must have learned that he had no choice in the matter, and, when he accepted the job, he knew that he was not going to end up in a cozy position in the British sector. Yet it again strains the imagination to understand what the NKVD was up to, having him reside in Berlin throughout the summer of 1946, while Litzy and Philby were left high and dry, perhaps ready to be abandoned. Were they perhaps using Georg as an intelligence source, demanding he explain to them exactly what the loyalties of the other two were before allowing Litzy to join him, and only then approving and engineering a very dubious divorce? They must have received the answer they hoped for, but they left themselves exposed should the very unalert and sleepy MI5 have jumped on the bizarre goings-on. As Litzy frequently remarked (p 96 above): ‘How naive the English were!’

[added December 3, 2023]

Yet perhaps the most provocative feature of Barbara Honigmann’s book is the confusion she shows over her parents’ marriage. As the comments posted immediately after the original publication of this piece indicate, the records on the genealogical site Geni, maintained by her extended family, firmly state that Litzi and Georg were not married, but merely ‘partners’. If that were true, her vagueness about the date of their marriage could be attributed to three possible causes:

  1. She firmly believed that they were married, but was uncertain of the date (in which case she showed astonishing carelessness in the way she wrote about it, an oversight that her editors should surely have picked up).
  2. She was uncertain about the regularity of the union, and was putting out feelers to try to receive enlightenment.
  3. She knew that the marriage was illusionary, and was putting out crude hints that reinforced the fact of the sham.

And if they were not married (Litzi, in her discussions with her daughter, spoke of the marriage as fact, but always reflected an uneasiness about her relationship with Philby, sometimes expressing a desire that they get together again), a chain of logic might appear as follows:

  1. Litzi was unable to marry Honigmann because she had never been divorced from Kim.
  2. The very questionable claims made by Philby about a hastily-arranged divorce would thus be undermined.
  3. The marriage between Eileen and Kim on September 25, 1946 was illegal, took place probably with the collusion of the authorities, and Philby was a bigamist.
  4. Those facts would give credibility to the claims made by Anthony Cave Brown in his biography of Stewart Menzies that the marriage was fraudulent (assertions that he irresponsibly failed to follow up).
  5. If the marriage had been shown to be bigamous, Philby would have had to resign from MI6 immediately, and a public scandal would have arisen, thus revealing a number of ugly secrets that MI6 would have preferred to be kept concealed. (Philby denied this accusation virulently, as well he might.)
  6. It would explain the nervousness expressed by MI5 over the prospect of Litzi ‘Honigmann’ (actually ‘Philby’) returning at some time to the UK, and the consequent retention of HO 382/255, given the effect it would have on the status and emotional well-being of Philby’s children with Aileen Furse, and that of their offspring.

I shall follow up on this line of inquiry in due course.

(New Commonplace entries can be seen here.)


Filed under Espionage/Intelligence, General History, Politics

Kim Philby: ‘Always Working for SIS’?

Kim Philby denying he was the ‘Third Man’



Philby’s Personal File?

Early Recruitment by MI6?

The Internment of Harry Philby

Edith Tudor-Hart‘s Files


A Theory

Litzy Feabre

Interest in the Honigmanns

Summary and Conclusions


*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *


In last month’s report, I investigated how it was that the NKVD risked using Litzi Philby so energetically in espionage activities without appearing to consider that such a strategy might jeopardize the cover of her husband. I concluded that, for almost all the time that she was resident in England and France (1934-1946), she was considered a far more important asset than Kim. In this bulletin, I address the first of the two questions left over from that report, namely:

  • Why were Philby’s connections with Litzi and her communist associates not picked up and taken seriously by British intelligence?

My exploration of this topic, which unearthed some startling facts, led me to some fresh conclusions, and provoked me to raise another question worthy of attention:

  • How did MI5 and MI6 process the evidence of Philby’s treachery when he came under direct suspicion in June 1951?

Owing to the amount of detail in the exegesis of the first topic, I shall have to defer analysis of this subsidiary question until next month. I shall also have to hold over once more the third question: ‘What was Philby up to in Europe in 1945?’, and address it later. I shall also cover then the Sun Engraving Company, which Edith Tudor-Hart rather clumsily engaged for propaganda purposes.

I start by cataloguing all the events that could have led to, or contributed to, Philby’s exposure, from the time that he attended Trinity College, Cambridge up to his interviews and interrogation in 1951. I exclude from this list the highly important and very visible project that Philby took on to help the socialists being oppressed in Vienna in 1933, simply because it was so public and obvious. In itself, it might have been explained away as an impulsive action of exuberant youthfulness, yet it was complicated by ancillary activities that should have provoked – and eventually did trigger – severe warning signals about the nature of Philby’s true allegiances. Not all these events were internalized or recorded at the time. Some were noted by observers, but their significance was not recognized until much later.

  1. Treasuryship of the Cambridge University Socialist Club (1932): Philby had joined the Club in 1931. His tutor, Maurice Dobb had founded it, and it was as much the symbolism of Philby’s membership of an extreme left-wing group, as the intimacy with other firebrands, such as the openly Communist James Klugman, that could have incriminated him.
  2. Visiting the Soviet Embassy in Vienna (1933): E. H. Cookridge claimed that Philby had told him that he had made contact with two officials at the Soviet embassy, Vorobyev and Antonov-Ovseyenko, both of whom were NKVD agents. Cookridge apparently did not reveal this fact until he published The Third Man in 1968.
  3. Marriage to Litzi Friedmann (1934): Philby’s decision to marry Litzi, even out of sympathy with her plight, constituted an unnecessary step in his commitment to the Soviet cause. And his failure to disentangle himself quickly from the union would bedevil him for over a decade.
  4. Application to Join (Indian) Civil Service (1934): Philby’s application required references, and he sought out two Cambridge dons, both named Robertson. They drew attention to his unsuitable ‘sense of political injustice’, so he apparently withdrew his application.
  5. Association with Edith Tudor-Hart (1934): Litzi introduced her husband to Tudor-Hart, who was being watched by Special Branch as a communist subversive.
  6. Incomplete Separation from Litzi (1935): When Philby started to express to Jim Lees his rejection of Communism, his sympathy for the Germans and his need to jettison Litzi, he nevertheless failed to cut off contacts with her, or initiate divorce proceedings. (Source: Lees’s correspondence with Seale and McConville.)
  7. Litzi’s travel around Europe (1934-1938): Philby’s interrogator of 1951, Helenus Milmo, revealed that MI5 had tracked Litzi’s movements during this period very closely, although it is not clear whether these were recorded at the time, or harvested later.
  8. Sudden Switch to Fascism (1936): Philby’s joining the Anglo-German Fellowship was a sudden and surprising volte-face for someone of avowed communist leanings. This move would later be questioned by Archer, Martin and Bagot when Philby was being considered as a possible future chief of MI6.
  9. Invitation to Flora Solomon (1937): Philby revealed to Flora Solomon that he ‘was doing important work for peace’, and invited her to join him. She declined.
  10. Funding for Spain Venture (1937): Philby could not have afforded the expenses of living as a free-lance reporter in Spain. He later lied about the source of funds to his interrogators.
  11. Assurance to Erik Gedye (1937): From Spain, Philby sent a message to his friend Eric Gedye to re-assure him that his leftist allegiances had not changed. Gedye apparently revealed this fact to Seale & McConville only after Philby’s escape.
  12. Litzi’s Drawing on Philby’s Bank Account (1937): Milmo wrote that Litzi had no money to support her travels, and was using her husband’s bank account to the tune of £40 per month.
  13. Interrogation of Tudor-Hart over Camera (1938): In 1938 receipts for a Leica camera used by the Percy Glading group to photograph documents stolen from Woolwich Arsenal were made out to Edith Tudor-Hart. This showed that the Austrian Communist cell was not a purely intellectual group, and Philby could have been linked through Litzi to its felonious activity.
  14. Introduction to Aileen Furse & Cohabitation (1939-1940): Flora Solomon introduced Philby to Aileen Furse on September 4, 1939, the day after war was declared. They met again, and Aileen and Kim decided to cohabit, when Philby returned from France. Since Philby declined to divorce Litzi, Aileen changed her name by deed poll. Aileen would later suspect that Philby was a Soviet spy.
  15. Litzi’s Mother’s Request on Internment (1939): Milmo’s report indicates that Litzi’s mother (recently extracted from Vienna), in an application to relieve internment restrictions, pointed out that Philby was paying £12 a month towards her (presumably the mother’s) maintenance.
  16. Litzi’s Permission to Go to France (1939): Milmo reported that Philby had requested permission for Litzi to return to France on September 26, as if she had been stranded in the UK when war broke out.
  17. Vetting Form for MI6 (1939): An MI6 Vetting form for Philby was recorded in his father’s Personal File, dated September 27, 1939. This probably resulted from a meeting Philby had with Frank Birch, who had just re-joined GC&CS. Any job application might consequently have drawn attention to his dubious career, and his statements to Flora Solomon. It alternatively may have been related to the initiative from Michael Stewart to have Philby recruited. Further notes indicate correspondence concerning ‘G. Egge’ and Litzi Philby.
  18. Litzi’s Permission to Return to UK (1940): The Personal File on Philby’s father indicates that a Form of Interrogation, after intervention by the PS (Private Secretary) to the Secretary of State on December 8, 1939, was sent to Newhaven for the purpose of cross-examining Litzi on her arrival from France in early January. Philby admitted that he had applied to the authorities to facilitate her return (but omitted to mention the earlier request to allow Litzi to passage to France).
  19. Evidence from Krivitsky (1940): During his interrogation in London, the GRU defector Walter Krivitsky told Jane Archer that the NKVD had deployed to Spain ‘a young Englishman, a journalist of good family, an idealist and fanatical anti-Nazi’.  This lead was not followed up.
  20. Residing with Aileen Furse and Burgess at Flora Solomon’s (1940): Philby unwisely advertised his association with Burgess by inviting him to join him and Aileen at Flora Solomon’s residence.
  21. Interview for position in Section D (1940): According to Cave-Brown, in June, Vivian interviewed Philby for a position in the sabotage unit Section D, before it was taken away from MI6 and incorporated into SOE (in August).
  22. Deceit on SOE paperwork (1940):  Philby lied about his marriage when entering SOE (Cave-Brown).
  23. MI6 recruitment & Vetting (1941): After a recommendation from Tomás Harris, Philby was approved for a position in MI6’s Section V. Valentine Vivian believed his name may have come from a pool of potential recruits: his process of vetting was to have lunch with Philby’s father.
  24. Deceit on MI6 Paperwork (1941): Philby lied about his marital status when completing MI6 entry paperwork.
  25. Litzi’s Wartime Associations (1940-1945): Litzi mixed regularly with Tudor-Hart’s circle of Austrian Communist refugees.
  26. Litzi at Bentinck Street & the Courtauld (1941-44): Litzi met Blunt and Burgess at Victor Rothschild’s House at 5 Bentinck Street, and also visited Blunt at the Courtauld Institute.
  27. Litzi’s Job Application (1943): Litzi applied for a government job, and used her husband’s name as a reference. Taken aback, Philby declared that his ‘first wife’ was ‘OK’.
  28. Leakage of Intelligence (1944 & 1945): Maurice Oldfield, then working for SIME in Cairo, believed that Philby might have been involved in leaking information about the defection of the Vermehrens, and the arrest of the head of the LUCY network, Sando Rado. (source: Richard Deacon)
  29. Stalin’s Challenge (1945): Stalin hinted strongly that he had received intelligence about US/GB-Germany negotiations for peace that took place in Bern, Switzerland.
  30. Gouzenko’s Revelations (1945): In Ottawa, the GRU defecting cipher-clerk Igor Gouzenko described a Soviet agent in British counter-espionage.
  31. Volkov Incident (1945): The would-be defector Konstantin Volkov contacted the British in Istanbul, offering to hand over a list of agents in Counter-Intelligence and in the Foreign Office, including the head of a Counter-Intelligence Department. Philby engineered his own role in travelling to Istanbul to investigate. Volkov was extracted by the Soviets, and killed.
  32. Evasion on MI5 Questions concerning Litzi Honigmann (1946): When MI5 officers sought information from MI6 about the Honigmanns in East Berlin, Philby concealed the fact that Mrs Honigmann had been his wife.
  33.  Guy Liddell’s Suspicions (1947):  Liddell told MI6 officer Eric Roberts that he believed that MI6 may have been penetrated by the Soviets.
  34.   East European Failures (1946-1949): Several MI6/CIA exploits in Eastern Europe failed, most spectacularly the project to insert insurrectionists in Albania. Philby played a part in these disasters.
  35. Change to Soviet Cyphers (1949): Three months after Philby was indoctrinated into VENONA, Moscow changed its encryption methods, thus closing off further traffic to analysis by US/GB. (William Weisband was later judged to have been responsible for the leak.)
  36.  Burgess Cohabitation in Washington (1950): When Guy Burgess was posted to Washington in 1950, Philby agreed to take him under his wing, and they shared accommodation.
  37.  Attempted Distancing from Maclean (1950): In Washington, Philby dissembled over his acquaintance and familiarity with Donald Maclean.
  38. Martin/Archer Report (1950): A report commissioned by Menzies and Vivian from MI5 (Archer and Martin) drew attention to Philby’s sudden conversion to fascism in the mid-1930s.
  39.  Tudor-Hart Photograph of Philby (1951): Tudor-Hart was worried about negatives of photographs of Philby that she had kept.
  40.   Kollek in Washington (1951): Teddy Kollek, who knew of Philby’s role and associations from Vienna, and had attended his wedding, warned James Angleton that Philby could be a Soviet spy.     
  41.   ‘Third Man’ Business (1951): After the abscondment of Burgess and Maclean, Philby immediately came under suspicion as the ‘Third Man’ who had warned Maclean of his imminent call to be interrogated.


  1. While the reliability of all these events may not be total, most of them have indeed been verified and accepted. Some possess only thin evidence. For example, Anthony Cave-Brown, in Treason in the Blood, does not offer any source for the events listed at 21 and 22. Yet such assertions are inherently no less respectable than Chapman Pincher’s attributions to ‘confidential inside sources’, Christopher Andrew’s unidentified references to the ‘Security Service Archive’, or even the dubious statements of many memoirists (including those of the subject himself) that have made their way into the Philby lore.
  2. The volume of these incidents is both impressive and shocking. While the outrageous behaviour of Guy Burgess should have disqualified him from ever being recruited by the Diplomatic or Intelligence Services, and Donald Maclean’s outburst in Cairo should have been treated much more suspiciously, the extended pattern of hints and clues displayed by Philby, with an accompanying disregard by the authorities, is exceptional. (These are what Guy Liddell described as ‘the cumulative effect of points against him’, a conclusion reached too late in the game.)
  3. While many of these events have been reported in several books, I do not believe that they have been consolidated into one single dossier anywhere, and thus the possible relationships have not been explored. For instance, was the lethargy in following up Krivitsky’s hints concerning a journalist in Spain related to any change in status of Philby in the considerations of MI5 and MI6?
  4. The declarations by such as Milmo point to the fact that a Personal File on Philby had been created. Indeed, it would have been extraordinary if one had not been started when he went to Vienna in 1933. A burning question is therefore: what happened to Philby’s PF? Was it buried, or closed at some stage? The fact that items concerning Philby were noted in his father’s file towards the end of 1939 suggests strongly that his own PF had been retired by this time.
  5. The same criteria apply to Litzi Philby’s PF. The comments about her from Milmo’s report strongly suggest that comprehensive notes were being taken about her from the time she arrived in the United Kingdom, yet the PFs of (for example) Edith Tudor-Hart are devoid of any reference to Litzi until the bizarre introduction of Litzi Feabre, and a PF pertaining to her, in 1945. The absence of such notations might provide clues to Litzi’s role during this period.
  6. In the absence of the PFs themselves, or supporting memoranda, it is difficult to determine at what stage certain remarks were made. For instance, were Milmo’s descriptions of Litzi’s travels in the mid-thirties collected from observations at the time, and stored, or was a trawl through port and customs records undertaken in the light of later suspicions? A possible explanation is that the annotations were recorded at the time of the events, and were not considered startling or damaging when they occurred, but were ‘discovered’ later by a third party.
  7. One not completely obvious lesson from the events is the fact that sections of the Intelligence Services sometimes kept other groups in the dark, such as when an alias for Litzi Philby was created. This was not an unusual phenomenon, and could be compared with the activities of the rogue TWIST committee in World War II, or the efforts made by senior MI5 and MI6 officers to conceal from their subordinates the project to manipulate Ursula Beurton (née Kuczynski).
  8. In any case, a critical change of circumstances appears to take place after the outbreak of the war, in September 1939. This coincides with several important other events, such as the death of Sinclair and the contest for his successor as MI6 chief, the Venlo incident, after which the European MI6 organization was essentially destroyed, and Claude Dansey’s attempt to merge his back-up Z Organization into MI6, during which activity he returned from Switzerland in November of that year.

What this leads me to believe is that at some stage Philby made an approach to MI6, indicating that any Communist sympathies he may have shown in the past had now waned, and that his wife was no longer an agent dedicated to the cause of the NKVD. MI6 was taken in by this ruse, took Philby to its bosom, and planned to treat Litzy as a valuable source of information on émigré Austrian communist circles. I now present my chain of reasoning as I explored the archival material.

Philby’s Personal File?

One intriguing avenue of research is seeking evidence that Kim Philby had a Personal File (PF) created for him early in his career, and, if so, what happened to it. Information on him is scattered: he turns up frequently in communications between MI5 and MI6 at various times, but data on his activities as someone possibly under surveillance are elusive. I identify seven potential major sources for information on him: 1) The PF on his father Harry St. John Philby (KV 2/1118-1 & -2); 2) The ‘PEACH’ files, that collect information regarding the investigation begun in 1951 into Philby’s possible guilt as the Third Man, ‘PEACH’ being the codename assigned to him (FCO 158/27 & 28); 3) The Personal File on Philby apparently opened at the time of the PEACH investigation (or shortly before, early in 1951), which assembled various facts about Philby from other files (PF 604584); 4) The Maclean/Burgess files created in the 1955 investigation into Philby (FCO 158/175); 5) The file opened for Litzi (of course not released, and thus useful only by external references to it), which is bizarrely identified in the main as being the record of Litzi Feabre, with occasional admission that this person is Litzi Philby (PF 62681); 6) The files on Litzi’s partner and later husband, Georg Honigmann, which, by inclusion or oversight, provide some clues to the relationship (KV 6/113 & /114); and 7) Flora Solomon’s files, which contain some very provocative information, including the annotation that PF 604584 included a Volume 8, a pointer that shows there is much still to be released (KV 2/4633, 4634 & 4635).

John Lehmann

There is a good case to be made that Philby would a priori have had a file opened on him when he travelled to Vienna in 1933 to help the socialists. A precedent is the case of a similar subversive, John Lehmann (KV 2/2253-2255), who also went to Vienna at this time, and was likewise encouraged in his activities by Maurice Dobb, a Cambridge don who was noted as an inspirational mentor with communist convictions. Lehman was tracked very closely, and it is difficult to imagine that Philby would not have come under the same close surveillance. Thus one might conclude that at some stage his file was removed or destroyed as an embarrassment. So what facts can be assembled from elsewhere?

The file on Kim Philby’s father is very revealing, since it contains some early references to Kim’s socialist activity, as well as some fascinating exchanges between Guy Liddell and Valentine Vivian on Philby’s recruitment by MI6 through Section D (which I shall explore later). Thus one has to ask the question: do these items appear here because a) his father’s PF was a convenient postbox for storing Kim’s activities; b) they were put here in error, or out of confusion; or c) they were rightly placed (maybe copied) there because of a genuine link between Kim’s activities and his father’s situation?

The earliest note appears in the Minute Sheet dated September 7, 1933 (as with many such files, not all items listed in the Minute Sheet are preserved in the body of the file), and states ‘Extract-re H.A.R. PHILBY – taken from list in office of ‘Labour Monthly’. A handwritten annotation further informs us that this item was ‘Transferred to PF604584 11/6/51’. Three more entries obviously pertaining to Kim then follow (the last dated 15.11.34), before the substance returns to Harry Philby matters. The next entry related to Kim is dated 27.9.39, and concerns an SIS Vetting Form (although that description has been taped over the original type), and is followed by two more entries (the first relating to Kim, the second to Litzi and a certain G Egge, which are listed with the rubric that they should both be moved to PF68261, i.e. Litzi’s own PF.

Thus the references to Kim in his father’s file constitute a motley assortment, the placement of which reflects no obviously consistent policy. The long void between September 1933 and November 1934, as well as the abrupt termination of any entries thereafter, could mean that these were accidental, and that a more comprehensive account had been maintained elsewhere. Or it might mean that Kim Philby was no longer considered a person worthy of interest, as if it had been determined that he was ‘friend’, not ‘foe’. To consider that aspect, I return to Helen Fry and her suggestions about Philby’s loyalties in Vienna.

Early Recruitment by MI6?

As introduced above, my working hypothesis, as a means of explaining the indulgence shown by MI5 to Litzi Philby throughout her life in the United Kingdom, is that Kim at some stage managed to take advantage of an opening to mislead the authorities about his wife’s true role. The extreme version of this theory would be that Kim was an MI6 asset from the beginning. As I reported last month, Helen Fry makes the suggestion that Philby’s activities in Vienna may have been undertaken with MI6’s approval. In the revised edition of her book, Spymaster (2021), she makes a controversial statement, one expressed, however, in a decidedly equivocal manner:

            It is, however, possible – though not yet definitely proven – that Philby went to Vienna in 1933 to penetrate the communist network for SIS, and was, in fact, working for Kendrick.

There is a large gulf between ‘possible’, and ‘not yet definitely proven’, and it is not clear what kind of proof Ms. Fry expects might appear at this late stage of the game.

Helen Fry

Moreover, Fry’s case is tenuous. She attributes Kendrick’s success in ‘identifying and tracking Russian agents operating in and out of Vienna and the region’ to the wiles of Philby and Hugh Gaitskell (the future Labour Party politician who was attending the University of Vienna on a Rockefeller scholarship), implying, without any evidence, that they had both been working ‘loosely’ for the British Secret Intelligence Service at this time, and had been ‘sent out to Vienna to gather intelligence’. Fry concludes her analysis by asserting that these actions enabled SIS to ‘assess the ongoing threat to western democracy’, and she even identifies Engelbert Broda as one of the victims of this campaign, subsequently tracked by MI5 in Britain.

Yet the irony in Fry’s argument is that MI5 and MI6 failed dismally in their endeavours. They did not assess the threat clearly. They did not prevent Broda being recruited to the Tube Alloys project and revealing secrets of atomic weaponry through Litzi Philby. They even bungled the warnings from Walter Krivitsky. Fry also suggests that the contribution that Philby made explains why he (and Gaitskell) were so easily taken up by British intelligence in 1939-40. She does not explore why, if Kim had been recruited as some kind of asset by MI6, he would not have joined the service officially much earlier. She bizarrely mentions only briefly in passing the complications that marrying Litzi, ‘a high-level threat to Britain as a Soviet agent’, brought to the equation.

I believe it highly unlikely that Kendrick used Philby in any capacity that suggests that he was ‘working’ for MI6.  His previous movements, and guidance from Maurice Dobb, give no indication that MI6 had any role in his endeavour. If Kendrick had had any role in his mentoring in Vienna, he would not have allowed a greenhorn like Philby to contact the Soviet Embassy, and would have been appalled at Kim’s marrying Litzi Friedmann. Kim’s actions in Vienna went far beyond what a more careful observer such as Gaitskell, who was scathing about the adventures of the extreme left-wingers, undertook. The circumstances of Kim’s return to the United Kingdom, and his steps thereafter, do not indicate that MI6 saw him as one of theirs. When Fry considers how Philby succeeded in being recruited by MI6 in 1940 she appears to minimize the bad marks against Kim and Litzy earned during the 1930s, regarding them as somehow less significant than a possible short-lived relationship between Philby and MI6 in 1934. (In fact, Philby was not recruited by MI6 proper until 1941.)

Hugh Gaitskell

And then Keith Ellison pointed out a sentence from Fry’s book, writing to me: “On Philby, Fry writes of one unidentified source who claimed that Philby ‘was working for SIS and always did work for us – though it will destroy the book if you say so openly’ (p 81)”. This was an astonishing revelation. I did not recall the statement. I thus looked up page 81 of Spymaster, but could not find the sentence. We swiftly determined that Keith was using the earlier edition published by Marranos Press in 2014: Fry had removed this startling claim from the Yale University Press edition of 2021. I also own that earlier edition, so I was able to retrieve the relevant section. I immediately sent a message to Helen Fry via her website, asking her to explain why she had dropped this startling assertion, and received the following reply: “In the revised expanded edition of Spymaster, a decision was taken by myself to take out that sentence. I felt it was not my place to keep it in without further evidence to justify it.”

Apart from the evasiveness of this reply (and why not the more active: ‘I decided to take out that sentence’?), I found it perturbing, both from a procedural and substantive perspective. I have earlier noted the perplexing way that the 2021 edition of Spymaster was brought out, with no reference to the preceding publication (see https://coldspur.com/2021-year-end-roundup/ ). For the author to have apparently landed a scoop, and published it, ‘openly’ I suppose, although without contributing anything to the identification of the source or analyzing what he or she meant, and then retracting it, certainly not ‘openly’, seemed to me to be a great dereliction of authorial duty. Indeed, was the first version of her book ‘destroyed’ on that account? One can only wonder what the motivations of her leaker were, to grant her such a loaded rumour, and then threaten her not to deploy it.

It sounded to me that Ms. Fry had been ‘nobbled’, i.e. coerced through some sort of threat, to remove that allegation, however tenuous it was. After all, she makes so many vague and uncertifiable claims about various persons in this business that citing ‘the lack of evidence to justify it’ as the reason for deleting this particular assertion seems particularly feeble. Any scrupulous researcher would have followed up to determine exactly what her informant meant: How long back did “always” go? Had that assertion been made anywhere else? Why was the informant telling Fry if he or she did not want her to publish? Furthermore, why did the authorities (as I believe they were surely involved) move so clumsily over the deletion of the claim? The book was published: the facts could not be erased. Did they really believe that no one would notice the excision that had been made, and simply accept Fry’s ‘expanded’ (but actually ‘diminished’) account?

Yet the outcome is that the reading public could encounter a hint that Philby had at some stage come to an accommodation with MI6. When did that happen? (How long back did ‘always’ go?) The sources are, of course, woefully thin, so first I move forward to a critical moment in Kim Philby’s career.

The Internment of Harry Philby

I turn now to the events of summer 1940, when Philby at last managed to get his foot in the door of MI6. At that time, Guy Liddell in MI5 and Valentine Vivian in MI6 were in intense discussions about the proposed internment of Kim’s father, Harry St John Philby, who was scheduled to arrive in Liverpool in October 1940. (This exchange is covered by Edward Harrison in Young Philby, though I believe he overlooks some of the subtleties of it.) Harry Philby had been detained in India under emergency regulations while travelling from Saudi Arabia to the USA, as his pacifist and pro-Nazi statements expressed in intercepted letters led the Foreign Office to judge that he had been engaged in treasonable activity. In a letter to Liddell of September 12, H. L. Farquahar in the Foreign Office expresses the confident hope that his office ‘can safely leave it to you and the Home Office to deal with him suitably when he arrives’. Farquahar engages in the classic buck-passing procedure of advising his interlocutor to ‘do what’s right’.

Harry St, John Philby

What did Liddell know about the case? Intriguingly, at the beginning of the Harry Philby PF (KV 2/1118-1), a handwritten note in red ink – apparently initialled by MI5 chief Vernon Kell – states: ‘Capt. Liddell knows Philby well and can supply any information’. It is dated June 18, 1932. This item caught my attention: so early, soon after Guy Liddell had joined MI5 from Special Branch. Was he really known as ‘Captain Liddell’ at that time, bringing over some rank from WWI? And how was it that he knew Philby well? It must surely refer to Harry Philby, as Kim would still have been at Cambridge at that time. Was it perhaps Guy’s father, also a retired Captain, to whom Kell was referring, perhaps as a consultant familiar to MI5 officers? No, it could not be, since Liddell père had died in 1929. Nor was it Guy’s older brother, Cecil, who was not brought into MI5 until 1939. It must be Guy, and his knowledge of Harry.

Yet in his letter to Vivian of September 19, where he seeks guidance from Vivian, Liddell signs off as follows: “I recollect that you know PHILBY fairly intimately”, as if he himself were not so well acquainted. I puzzled over this conflict until Keith Ellison suggested that Liddell had long been familiar, not with Harry Philby personally, but with his case-history, since he had been tracking him in some way since his days in Special Branch in the 1920s. Even if that were the case, however, it suggests that Liddell was perhaps not quite the expert that Kell had set him up to be, had possibly let his attention lapse during the 1930s, and was perhaps introducing notions of intimate friendship into the process of professional business a bit too eagerly.

Valentine Vivian

Vivian replies, expansively, on September 24, indicating that Liddell’s letter was ‘one of the hardest letters to answer, which you have ever sent me’. He did indeed know Harry Philby well, ‘a bullet-headed young Assistant Commissioner in the Punjab’, and explained how he had gained the enmity of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office, Vivian’s final judgment being that Philby was not disloyal, but merely ‘insufferably arrogant’. He then, however, introduces the following aside:

Now, the curious thing is that his son (the person to whom I believe he refers to as “Kim” in one of the letters returned herewith is one of our D. officers. In that capacity I have met him once or twice and found him both able and charming. He himself told me that his father had cooled down in the strength of his views in the last few years, but that would not appear to be so from the letters. Young Philby was, of course, in D’s section being taken over by Dalton, but, as that has happened fortuitously, the son will be more or less under the direction of a man known to his father, with whom I believe the latter has had quite a number of semi-covert dealings. I mention young Philby simply because I think it will make it more difficult to take any repressive measures against his father.

Apart from the ironic way Vivian has been taken in by charm (Harry Philby would later convince Vivian, who was ‘vetting’ Kim for entry into Section V, that Kim had discarded his youthful socialist beliefs), this passage suggests a mismeasure of Vivian’s responses. First of all, it strongly suggests that he had not interviewed Kim personally for the job in Laurence Grand’s Section D. Secondly, he is mistaken about Kim Philby’s position – unless by ‘our’ he means His Majesty’s intelligence forces – since, as he indicates, D Section had by then been split off from MI6 and absorbed into the new Special Operations Executive (July 1940). It was then led, at ministerial level, by Hugh Dalton, a fait accompli that Vivian explicitly recognizes. (It is true that there was a delay in the announcement of the re-organization, but that had all been squared away at Menzies’ level well before the time of this correspondence, as Alexander Cadogan’s Diaries confirm.) But why should Vivian be so sensitive about the reactions of a recent recruit outside his bailiwick, someone who could clearly be sacrificed if necessary, in the light of his father’s detention? Did he perhaps fear the hostility of the much disliked Dr. Dalton, or was he afraid of what the reaction of Philby fils might be? In any case, Vivian cowardly passes the buck as well. He thinks that it is urgently necessary not to give Harry Philby any further grounds for grievance, but acknowledges to Liddell that the Foreign Office and the Government would ‘gladly see you using strong-arm tactics’: “With this uncomfortable problem I must leave you to deal.”

S.S. City of Venice

Liddell’s response was to pass on meekly Vivian’s comments almost verbatim, without indicating his source. The matter was elevated to Wilson-Young of the Foreign Office, who replied curtly on October 12, stating that a Detention Order against Philby had been issued by the Home Secretary, and that the S.S. City of Venice was expected to dock in a few days. In a postscript, he indicates that the Home Office ‘cannot agree with the estimate of Mr. Philby given by your informant’. Liddell’s weakness is shown in his letter to Vivian of October 21, where he, having recently passed on an anonymous report (by Vivian) to the Foreign Office, now complains that an unknown person in that latter department is using the same tactics when questioning Philby’s loyalty to anyone but himself. His letter concludes:

            . . . I cannot help feeling that it may be a very unintelligent remark and that a gross blunder is being committed. Do you think there is anything to be done, particularly owing to the fact that the son is in your employ?

I think this was a feeble but provocative performance by Liddell. Harry Philby was arrested by the Liverpool City Police when he arrived on October 18. All of Liddell’s ruminations were for nothing, and his standing must have been reduced with the Home Office. But why ‘particularly’? Why should that mean so much, especially when Kim Philby was not in Vivian’s employ? And why should Liddell’s professional judgment of Harry Philby’s culpability be so easily undermined by a desire to protect the son? After all, Kim himself had been a member of the Anglo-German Friendship Society, and his affiliation was open. The arrest of Harry, and the thought that ‘the apple does not fall far from the tree’ should perhaps have given Vivian and Liddell some second thoughts about Kim’s recruitment rather than simply expressing concern about Harry’s internment. (The trace requested from MI5 on Kim came up with nothing, according to Edward Harrison.) Maybe it is possible to overread the significance of this very bizarre exchange between Vivian and Liddell, but it suggests to me an unhealthily close relationship between the two weak officers and a junior recruit whose career future should have been a minor consideration for them. In their choice of language, both gentlemen hint that Kim Philby is more closely linked to MI6 than the facts warrant.

Another interpretation comes to mind. Rather than absent-mindedly overlooking the organizational changes with SOE, perhaps Vivian and Liddell were implicitly reinforcing the fact that Philby was indeed considered an asset of MI6 at that time, though not officially on the books. That might point to an arrangement whereby Kim, possibly after being challenged on his past history, had been able to turn the tables, to suggest that he could contribute to counter-espionage in some way. Harry Philby was eventually released on March 18, 1941: it was accepted that his detention had been illegal. When Vivian was asked to endorse Kim’s appointment to Section V a couple of months later, he queried his newly rehabilitated friend Harry about Kim’s communist spell at Cambridge, a somewhat anomalous question in light of the fact that Kim’s latest interest had been Anglo-German Friendship. The inability of Vivian (and Liddell) to detect any artifice in these postures is a sign of their essential unfitness for the jobs they held.

What is also noteworthy is that Liddell makes no mention of the Harry Philby controversy, or his exchanges with Vivian about it, in his Diaries. Moreover, in a diary entry for November 1, 1940, he comes across strongly against any relaxation of detention for prominent B.U.F. (British United Front) members, which would appear to be hypocritical. But where to go next on this trail? I returned first to the Edith Tudor-Hart files.

Edith Tudor-Hart’s Files

While the archival material on Edith Tudor-Hart is very rich, that on Litzi is very sparse. ‘Was that in itself a clue?’, I wondered. If Litzi had been such a close associate of Edith in the Austrian Communist Party cell in London, I would have expected her name to come up more frequently – apart, of course, from the time that she was in France, which ran from early 1937 to January 1940. So I re-inspected the files on Edith, registering the key dates and methods of intelligence collection.

The first batch (KV 2/1012) covers the period January 1930 to October 1938. It consists almost exclusively of reports via MI6 from Vienna, of Special Branch surveillance reports, and many intercepted and photographed letters. It also contains a damaged version of the interrogation of Tudor-Hart after her camera had been used in the Percy Glading espionage activity. Special Branch was also able to determine, from an agent’s report, that Edith was hosting meetings of a local branch of the Communist Party in 1935. Yet one item that stood out for me was the report that Edith arrived with her mother Adela (actually Adele) at Dover on August 27, 1937, Adele being given permission to stay in the country for three months.

What was going on here? Why was the Home Office allowing the parents of known Communist subversives to join their daughters for residence in the United Kingdom? This was an exact echo of the passage of Litzi Philby’s parents from Vienna to England at about the same time. And Adele outstayed her welcome.  Ancestry.com shows that she went to live in Bournemouth, and, according to the 1939 census, was still living there, supported by ‘private means’. As an alien, she was also fortunate enough to satisfy the tribunal in November 1939 with ‘no restrictions’ applied. Indeed, a profile in Tudor-Hart’s fresh file at KV 2/4091, dated December 1, 1951, records (alongside similar information about Edith’s brother and two cousins) that her mother resided in Cricklewood at that time. Records show that Adele outlived her daughter, dying on May 24, 1980 in The Bishop’s Avenue, London N2.

This apparent charitable behaviour of the British authorities was a puzzling phenomenon, to be stored away. I moved on to the next batch, namely KV 2/1013. This series covers the period from November 1938 to March 1946, although the Minute Sheet tantalizingly contains some additional few entries that take it up to May of that year, but which are not present in the body of the file. Yet the period 1938 to April 1940 is very sparsely covered – merely two entries concerning attempts to rescue CP members from Europe, before the reports start up in earnest in April 1940. The first flurry appears to have been provoked by interest in the activities of Alexander Tudor-Hart, now divorced and with a new partner, Constance, who has come to the attention of the Shrewsbury Police. (The divorce between Alexander and Edith was not made absolute until October 11, 1944: like Aileen Philby, Constance changed her surname by deed poll in order to project respectability.) The file picks up in earnest in March 1941, when the Special Branch’s surveillance efforts are considerably boosted by the work of the agent KASPAR, revealed by Brinson and Dove in A Matter of Intelligence to be Joseph Otto von Laemmel, and also by Kurt Hiller, both members of the Freie Deutsche Kulturbund. (Hiller provided much information on the Kuczynskis.)

A sudden shift in tempo is shown on March 14, 1941, where a very comprehensive report on the Central Committee of the Austrian Communist Party in the UK, compiled by B24G, appears. It lists such luminaries as Eva Kolmer (Secretary), Franz West (Political Leader), Edith Tudor-Hart (Accountant, presumably Treasurer) and Ing. [Engelbert] Broda (Training Leader), as well as fourteen other names. There follow extracts from intercepted correspondence between Tudor-Hart and Martin Hornik in internment in Canada. During 1942, Special Branch kept a close watch on Tudor-Hart’s movements, even inspected her bank account, and reported through B6 to Milicent Bagot in F2B. The file then meanders listlessly through 1943 and 1944 until it covers the clumsy propaganda business with the Sun Engraving Co. Ltd., in 1945.

Towards the end of 1945, an undated memorandum appears that runs as follows:

            Edith Tudor-Hart is said to be in touch with a certain Anna WOLF who is apparently attached to the American diplomatic representative in Vienna, and is a close friend of Lizzy FEAVRE [identified as belonging to PF.Y.68261]

This appears to be the first recorded reference to Litzi Philby’s alias: a letter of September 9, 1945, from E5L to F2B, displays a list of members of Tudor-Hart’s circle, including Loew-Beer, Mahler-Fistolauri, Dennis Pritt, Bunzl, ‘Hafis’, and the infamous ‘Lizzy Feavre or Feabre née Kalmann’ (as described in last month’s coldspur).The last is accompanied by the fictitious legend that she left Vienna for the UK in 1934, and later went to France where she married an Englishman ‘thus acquiring British nationality’. It would appear that E5L has no idea about Feabre’s true identity.

The Austrian group is now nervous and on the alert, after the breaking up of the Soviet spy-ring in Canada (September 1945) has been revealed. MI5’s interest in the Tudor-Hart circle intensifies, and suspicions are cast upon Broda, because of his working for Tube Alloys. Yet it seems that MI5 has an insider still at work. On March 12, 1946, E5L sends a report to Marriott (F2C), describing Tudor-Hart’s newest associates, one of whom, Dr. JANOSSY, employed by ICI ‘has stumbled upon a new invention which may prove to be more effective than the atomic bomb.’

One might whimsically imagine that an appropriate response at this juncture would have been to ‘collar the lot’. Of course, it was not that simple. Yet this file has one more extraordinary surprise to offer: in the very last entry, a memorandum from B2B to Marriott of F2C, dated March 18, 1946, records the arrival of a mystery visitor to Edith Tudor-Hart’s residence, a suspected snooper with an Oxford accent. Tudor-Hart believed that the call was related to Broda, and, indeed, the latter visited her a few days later to report that his landlord had discovered an intruder trying to break into Broda’s room. (This search was no doubt occasioned by Broda’s meetings with Nunn May when the latter returned from Canada, and was arrested and convicted for espionage.) Apart from shedding light on the occasionally clumsy enterprises of Special Branch, an intriguing question must be posed. How did B2B know about this event?

Engelbert Broda

The astonishing fact is that the memorandum openly states that Tudor-Hart opened the door in the presence of LAMB, that name presumably being a cryptonym. Who was LAMB? The reason that this disclosure astounded me is that I had only the same day re-inspected the Honigmann archive that I had received since last month’s posting. A document there reproduces an excerpt from the critical interview between Arthur Martin and an unidentified interviewee from the Tudor-Hart file, where the name was redacted, and I hazarded some guesses about his identity. Only here, the name is not redacted: the name of the interviewee appears as ‘LAMB’. The link was clear. No wonder the interviewee knew Edith Tudor-Hart intimately from 1944 onwards. I shall return to this breakthrough later.

The last volume, KV 2/1014, picks up the story from May 1946, and carries on until October 1951. The watchers continue to monitor Tudor-Hart’s circle, maybe still assisted from inside. A report dated June 14, 1946, starts off by stating that ‘Lizzy FEAVRE has been more active during the last few weeks’, no doubt preparing to join her partner, Georg Honigmann, who had received clearance to travel to Germany on May 10. By June 11, she is reported as having joined Honigmann in Berlin, while Tudor-Hart maintains discrete communications with Broda. She is still trying to foment the revolution in Britain, and Arthur Wynn and Professor Joliot-Curie appear in her list of contacts.

By February 1947, however, Edith has been interrogated, and has ‘at last’ admitted that she used to work for the Russian Intelligence in Austria and Italy in 1932-1933, and had collaborated with a Russian who was also her boy-friend. That was assuredly Arpad Haasze, since she received a letter from him in August 1947. Matters then drift: a report of December 13, 1948 indicates that ‘Edith Tudor-Hart is hardly engaged in any CP activities at present’. Edith took on the alias ‘Betty Grey’, and the authorities were confused for a while, but concluded by August 1951 that the two were in fact one person by analyzing their handwriting. In October 1951, Simkins of B2A requested a fresh Home Office Warrant on Edith’s mail, because of ‘a connection with a current case of suspected espionage’.  And that leads up to the Martin interview of October 3 that concludes the file. From this we learn that LAMB had still been enjoying Edith’s confidences, as he had reported in 1948 on Litzy’s movements, and described the essence of correspondence passed between Litzy and Edith since the former moved to Berlin.


An overriding question concerning the Tudor-Hart disclosures is – how did MI5 glean its information, apart from the mechanisms of surveillance, telephone taps, and intercepted mail? The role of KASPAR is now very evident, as he was a member of the Kulturbund, and was presumably trusted enough by Edith for him to become a close acquaintance, to the extent that he was accepted as a guest in her lodgings. Yet can the very detailed report on the membership of the Central Committee of the Austrian Communist Party be attributed to KASPAR? It is not sourced as coming from him in the Tudor-Hart files *, unlike other reports. And Brinson and Dove, even though they credit KASPAR with this important report – without any explanation, and probably faute de mieux – point out how irresponsible it was for Edith to have confided in KASPAR. They write, after expressing surprise that Broda would even have shared confidential information about atomic energy with Tudor-Hart:

            There is, however, a third and equally astonishing aspect to this report (from September 1946), namely that Tudor-Hart, a Soviet agent herself, would have talked so freely to ‘Kaspar’, that is Josef Otto von Laemmel. Certainly she would have known Laemmel from the earliest days of the Austrian Centre, when both held a position there, but she would also have known that Laemmel would have been forced out of the Centre, and was extremely disgruntled with the Austrian Communists as a result, and that he was a leading member of the tiny Austrian Christian Socialist group in exile and very far removed from her own political position.

[* As I was putting this piece to bed, I noticed that an identical copy of the report in the Broda files at KV 2/2350 explicitly identifies the source as KASPAR. It looks genuine, as if typed at the same time, but I still have reservations, to be investigated at another time. It might have been delivered to KASPAR by someone else, as Brinson and Dove suggest. I cannot believe that Laemmel could have worked so closely with the inner circle of the Austrian CP of GB inner circle, at this time, or any other.]

As I noted, in that extract from the Martin interview in the Honigmann files, the name ‘LAMB’ is unredacted, which led me to think that it was perhaps the interviewee’s real name. But I could not find any diplomat or officer bearing that surname. And then I stumbled on the report in KV 2/1013 that identified indubitably that Edith’s companion at the door was ‘LAMB’. Who could have got so close to her? It was Nigel West who came to the rescue, since in his book that I panned last month, he explains, in his Notes to the chapter on Broda:

            Josef Lemmel’s [sic] codename was changed from KASPAR to LAMB, probably to avoid confusion with a technical source in the CPGB headquarters in King Street, actually a microphone codenamed TABLE and the KASPAR.

KASPAR and LAMB were the same person. [Indeed, Brinson and Dove reveal this on page 158 of A Matter of Intelligence. I had overlooked it. The Broda archive also explicitly confirms the equivalence.]

‘Laemmel’ is obviously a derivative of the German word ‘Lamm’ = ‘lamb’, so the choice of cryptonym was as unimaginative as that of EDITH. Thus the enigma about the identity of the interviewee was solved. It was neither Gedye, nor Ellis, nor Cookridge (né Spiro). MI5 had hauled in one its most effective spies in the Austrian émigré organizations to help flesh out their knowledge of Litzy. Moreover, Laemmel’s career included relevant experience in Vienna, which sealed the deal, and made the testimony recorded by Martin more acceptable. As Laemmel’s Austrian biography detail informs us:

From 1928 to 1933 he held the post of secretary of the Styrian Writers’ Association and was then press officer for the ‘Ostmark Sturmscharen’ until 1938 and emigrated to London via Switzerland because of the threat of persecution. There he joined the ‘Austria-Center’ and worked as head of the library. Because of the increasing communist influence, he left the organization in 1940, was then secretary of the ‘Association of Austrian Journalists in England’ until 1945 and worked on radio programs of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

His presence in Vienna might thus enabled him to have had exposure to Haasze, but as an Austrian, he would not have been close to the Philby-Gaitskell circle, and therefore would not have known about the Kim-Litzi marriage. It makes sense.

Yet did it explain everything? LAMB explained to Martin that he had become acquainted with Edith closely only in 1944. The report on the composition of the Committee had been compiled in March 1941, and it would have been very unlikely for Laemmel, given his political convictions, to have gained access to the CP’s closest and most secret forums. Brinson and Dove are quick to ascribe reports on the Austrian Communist Group to Laemmel’s own set of informers, but there is no evidence of that. Moreover, in the Honigmann archive lies a note from KASPAR dated September 9, 1945, that reports about Edith Tudor-Hart’s circle of Communist friends and sympathizers, as if this were intelligence freshly gained. It could not possibly have been provided by the same person who had the insider knowledge from 1941.

What struck me in the survey of the members of the CP Committee was the absence of one name that one would expect to be prominent – Litzi Philby. If Litzi had been as dedicated a member of the communist underground as anyone, had been a close friend of Edith Tudor-Hart, and had collaborated and conspired with her during the war, as every historian and biographer has asserted, one might expect that the informer, whoever he or she was, would have listed her name. After all, she was so intimately embedded in the circle that she was chosen to be the courier to meet Broda clandestinely and in 1943 to collect his papers purloined from the Cavendish Laboratory. Yet it is only in 1945 that her name appears, and then under a pseudonym. Was she forced out of the covers by some mischance, and a poorly disguised scheme devised to conceal her true identity? Had Litzy perhaps been the source of the intelligence of the communist cell, and had MI5 perhaps been distracted from her true mission? It would not have been out of character for Moscow Centre to have diverted attention to the earnest but essentially harmless rumblings of the Party itself, while more important work was being performed away from it.

A Theory

This analysis led me to solidify my hypothesis that, at some stage, Kim Philby came out of the cold, and struck some sort of deal with his intelligence opposition. I had at first considered that this might have been performed in 1937, before the parents of Edith and Litzi were so magically spirited out of Austria, but I now think that that phenomenon was simply coincidental, and perhaps the result simply of a legal and humanitarian policy, since both Edith and Litzy were British nationals by then. Before the Anschluss of March 1938, the Home Office was far more relaxed about accepting refugees from Austria. I think it much more probable that the event occurred in September 1939.

The Anschluss

The signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact gave even the most hardened Communist, committed for years to the fight against Fascism, pause for thought. Goronwy Rees rebelled against it, and Guy Burgess wanted him killed for his apostasy. Arthur Koestler abandoned his belief. Harry Pollitt, leader of the CPGB, lost his job by challenging the Moscow Line. To begin with, Philby was incredulous, and, according to Gorsky’s report of May 1940, it took several conversations to bring him around. Yet it would have given Philby a singular opportunity to play a subtle but dangerous game: “Look, it is true that Litzi and I had communist sympathies, but that is all changed now. I have convinced her that the world has changed. With her connections, Litzi is prepared to provide you with insights into the membership and activities of the Austrian Communist Party in exile. And I can work with you to help defeat the Nazis and their allies, the Soviets.” He later tried to maintain this fiction. When Philby was interviewed by Dick White in June 1951, he told him, in an effort to minimize the danger of the Litzy connection, that he had ‘subsequently converted her’ (Liddell Diaries, June 14).

We know that Philby was in some form of contact with MI6 at this time, because a vetting-form from MI6 was recorded in his father’s file on September 27, 1939, and it would appear to be linked to Philby’s conversations with Frank Birch of GC&CS.  The circumstances behind this event are very provocative. Flora Solomon’s file shows that she had the impression that Kim was still fervently Communist even after the announcement of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (thus contradicting what Gorsky claimed). And yet she still encouraged Birch, the partner of her close friend and employee, Aileen Furse, to interview Philby for a job. Philby had expressed a desire to her to enter British intelligence, and Birch only that same month had rejoined GC&CS. Solomon conveniently arranged a lunch where they could meet.

Flora Solomon

Birch and Philby had a private chat. While Birch deemed that Philby was unsuitable for cryptographic work, he apparently used his connections to instigate interest in him, later that month, from elsewhere in MI6. (GC&CS reported to MI6.) Hence the vetting request of September 27. And when Philby returned from France in May 1940, Birch apparently helped him gain entry elsewhere (into Section D, presumably). While the testimony of Flora Solomon may not be completely reliable, it was an astonishingly reckless action by Philby at exactly the same time to reinforce his Communist sympathies and advertise his objective of entering British Intelligence. Birch obviously knew where the lead came from, and any serious trace would have put the spotlight on Solomon.

I find much that is phony –  even furtive –  about this account, given by Solomon in 1962 to the incompetent interrogator Arthur Martin. First of all, it would have been very irresponsible of Flora Solomon, knowing that Philby was a committed Soviet agent, to recommend him for intelligence work, especially as she claimed that she had just switched her allegiances because of the Pact. Second, it would be highly irregular for her to know about Birch’s posting, and what Bletchley Park was about. If Aileen Furse (Birch’s lover, and employee of Solomon’s at Marks and Spencer) had leaked it to her, that would likewise have been irresponsible, and Birch, when he found out, should have been aghast that a Communist sympathizer had been informed of his role in cryptographic work, and the location of his workplace. Thus Birch’s willingness to speak  to Philby privately (after that lunch also attended by Aileen, and Solomon’s boy-friend, Eric Strauss), and then apparently recommend him for work elsewhere, is a third shocking event, suggesting that he might also have been implicated in the scheme. A fourth consideration is the fact that Kim and Aileen began to cohabit in the summer of 1940 – an event that might well have spurred some dangerous antagonism on Birch’s part – yet Solomon claimed that Birch was responsible for Philby’s gaining his post in intelligence at that time. (That fact appears to be confirmed by a third-unidentified party, as is evidenced in Solomon’s file.) Why Martin did not follow up on these conundrums is unfathomable.

Frank Birch

Thus there is much that is bogus about these events. That was not all, however, that was going on at this time. We also know that Philby lied about the travel arrangements for Litzi. He explained to Borovik that his efforts in December 1939 had been made to secure Litzi’s safe return to the United Kingdom from Paris, but he did not admit that his original request of September 26 (as related by Milmo) was to allow Litzi to return to Paris – presumably to collect or store all her belongings, and tidy up her affairs, and maybe to pass on to her controllers what the ruse was about. For it would have been suicidal for Philby to have taken any such initiative without the approval of his bosses. Thus, by the winter of 1939-1940, MI6 and MI5 must have believed that they had a Communist renegade on their books. This turn of events would have fitted in supremely well with the machinations of Claude Dansey, who was at the time arranging for Ursula Kuczynski to gain a British passport in Switzerland, Dansey likewise believing that he was actually controlling Sonia rather than the reverse.

This timing would also explain why MI5 did not respond energetically to Krivitsky’s warnings about a young British journalist who had been sent to Spain. Krivitsky arrived in Liverpool in January 1940, and underwent intense interrogations managed by Jane Archer and Stephen Alley. They should certainly have identified Philby quickly, but could have re-assured themselves: “Oh, yes, we know about him. But he is now on our side, so we don’t have to do anything.” Thus, when Philby returned from France in May 1940, the primary objections to his recruitment by any of the intelligence services had disappeared, and, after a respectable period, he was accepted by MI6 after a very perfunctory interview process.

The fact that Philby was accepted by the establishment by this time is reinforced by anecdotes about Hugh Gaitskell, who had attended the wedding in Vienna. When he joined SOE, Philby sought out Gaitskell, who was at that time principal private secretary to Hugh Dalton, the minister responsible for SOE, for guidance on British long-term plans for Europe. Edward Harrison cites a conference on May 24/25, 1941, where it was agreed that Philby should perform the training of propaganda agents, a decision that Gaitskell agreed with. Either Gaitskell was foolishly colluding with Kim’s objectives, or he had been brought into the confidential agreement concerning the new Philby.

Yet the complications regarding Litzi would not go away. To complete the pretence of ideological separation, Kim and Litzi should have divorced, for both professional and personal reasons. He needed to show the world a complete break from Litzi’s fanaticism, and to be free to marry another. She needed to show that she was still a devotee (which indeed she was) to secure the confidence of Edith’s cell while carrying on a more vital task of couriership supporting espionage. Moscow surely ruled that they should not be divorced, lest Litzi lose her residential qualification, and it did not relax that requirement until her job was finished, the war was over, and she had retreated to East Berlin. Philby would use the excuse for not divorcing Litzi that she might thereby have lost her citizenship, but that was nonsense. She gained permanent citizenship through her marriage, and it could not be taken away, unless, like Fuchs, she were convicted of a serious offence. As Kim became more of an asset, however, the Philby moniker attached to Litzi became a severe annoyance.

Litzy Feabre

What is astonishing is the degree that officers in MI5 appeared to be in the dark – unless a deception game of mammoth proportions were being played. The fact that Kim Philby had married Litzy Friedmann (and was still married to her) was known to members of a select group, who may have had their separate reasons for not promulgating the information. It is sometimes hard to project, from the world of universal data in 2023, the more closed environment of 1943. Yet certain anomalies remain: for example, how could Valentine Vivian claim to Seale and McConville that (in 1946) he had been ignorant of Kim’s first marriage, that he was affected by Philby’s admission about ‘a youthful escapade’, and that he needed a search to discover that Litzi was a Soviet agent, unless he were confident that he could carry off such a monumental show of disingenuousness? And the authors appeared to be taken in by it.

It appears to me that Vivian was trying to string a line to the journalists about his obvious innocence in the business. What he told Seale and McConville was that Dick White informed him, in that summer of 1946, based on information from ‘Klop’ Ustinov, that Litzi was a Soviet agent. But why was Klop used, and what did he know about it? Dick White had an informer, Laemmel (KASPAR), who was providing information during the war about the Austrian Communist circle, and had revealed to Arthur Martin in October 1951 that Litzi had been a Soviet agent, even likening her to Arpad Haasze. Did Laemmel not tell his handlers at the time, or did the information inexplicably not reach White? It is more probable that White and Vivian were being obtuse.

Thus, when ‘Litzy Feabre’ first appears on the scene, several MI5 officers and men (and women) seem to be deceived by the charade. For a while Litzy remains a shadowy figure with an uncertain past. (The documents referring to her are all plastered with hand-written notes inserted much later that she is really ‘Philby’.)  And it is not until she has left the country, in the summer of 1946, that questions start to fly around, as MI5 starts to investigate the strange disappearance of Georg Honigmann. The adventure starts off harmlessly: in April Honigmann had been granted a military permit for a one-way journey to Germany, requested by the Control Commission, even though his past Communist activities were known.

[I should mention, incidentally, that the Aliens Department of the Home Office owns Personal Files on Georg and Barbara Honigmann, identified as HO 382/255, containing information ranging from 1936 to 1960. They reside at the National Archives at Kew but have been retained for one hundred years, and will thus not be viewable until 2061. That decision was made in 2017, apparently in deference to the appearance therein of ‘personal information where the applicant is a third party’. I have no idea why the release of such information might endanger national security or embarrass any surviving relatives, and a couple of months ago I thus submitted a Freedom of Information request. I received a mildly encouraging response, but have not heard anything further since then.]

But then the exchanges take on an eerie character. B. H. Smith, in F2ab of MI5, judges that MI6 needs to be informed of Honigmann’s appointment, and thus sends, on May 10, a memorandum to Kim Philby, informing him of the granting of the permit, and describing Honigmann’s communist past. He concludes his letter:

            Although his permit was granted at the request of the Control Commission he is not so far as we are aware working for them, but is believed to be employed in the Hamburg area. The Intelligence Bureau of the Control Commission have been given a brief note of our information.

If Philby reacted to this, his response has not been recorded. But it could not have been comfortable. Perhaps he knew of the plans for Georg and Litzi at this time: Litzi was still in the UK. In any event, matters quickly became murkier, and implicitly more dangerous. On May 28, the dogged KASPAR reports to B2B that a Captain Atkinson, with the R.A.M.C., has been in contact with Lizzy Feavre ‘whose friend, Dr. Georg Honigmann recently left for Berlin where he joined the Communists’. This message is passed on to Smith in F2ab.

How Laemmel knew about this exchange, and what Captain Atkinson was up to, will probably remain a mystery for a long time. Was Atkinson the go-between between Honigmann and Litzi, bearing a message that it was now safe for Litzi to join him? Yet the revelation that Honigmann had flown the coop to join the Communists should have been a great shock for MI5 and the Foreign Office. It seems, however, that this intelligence was not acted upon. The Tudor-Hart archive shows that Litzi had been known to have been very busy at the end of May and the beginning of June, and was confirmed as having joined Honigmann by June 11, yet no effort was made, despite Honigmann’s defection, at interviewing Litzi, and preventing her departure. It suggests either incompetence or collusion. Moreover, this factoid surely shows that Laemmel surely did not know Litzi’s true identity, an ignorance he was to claim when interrogated by Martin a few years later. Moreover, if he had been introduced to Litzi through Edith, Edith must have been indoctrinated into the charade. That would have been an essential part of the plan so that Edith would have no doubts about Litzi’s motivations and objectives.

For some reason, another month passes before B2B confirms KASPAR’s insights to Smith in F2ab. He now has an update from KASPAR, however (June 28): “He [Honigmann] is in communication with his friend Lizzy FEAVRE, and the latter reported scornfully that the whole British Security Service and the Police in Germany have been searching for him on the assumption that he had been kidnapped by the Russians.” (Did she learn that from her husband?) Yet this is a strange construction, stating that Honigmann is in ‘communication’ with Feavre, suggesting that she has not yet joined him. Litzi’s comment could otherwise mean that it was KASPAR with whom she had been in contact. According to the Tudor-Hart file, Litzi had joined her partner in Berlin, apparently travelling via Paris and Vienna. Philby claimed to Borovik that at some stage during this summer he opened up to Vivian, and explained that he needed a divorce. If indeed he did go to France to arrange the settlement, it was probably when Litzi was en route to Berlin. It had no doubt all been arranged beforehand. After all, the divorce was granted on September 17, and he was able to marry Aileen a week later, on September 25 at the Chelsea registry office, witnessed by Flora Solomon and Tomás Harris. Yet this timeline would be shockingly undermined by a memorandum to be found elsewhere, in the Broda archive.

On July 20, MI5’s B2B posted another report from KASPAR-LAMB, which reinforced KASPAR’s confusion about the identity of Lizzy, who has clearly been speaking to KASPAR directly. The main portion of it runs as follows:

            It would appear that E. BRODA and his former collaborators have been withdrawn from intelligence work and are more or less inactive at present. This holds good for Edith TUDOR-HART too and even for Lizzy FEAVRE who seemed to play a somewhat more important part during the last few weeks and still displays much more activity than the others, but she admitted that she had to refrain from such work owing to the fact that her friend, Dr. Georg HONIGMANN, had taken up work in the Russian zone (see report of 26.6.46). She intends to go to Paris on the 5.9.46 and from there on a special party mission to Prague. She also intends to visit DR. HONIGMANN in Berlin. She has already got her passport and visas and also the ticket of the Air France, issued in the name of Lizzy Philly which seems to be her real name, though she has always been called FEAVRE and even received mail under this name.

The gradual metamorphosis from Feavre/Feabre through Philly to Philby is taking place, and Litzi’s identity as ‘PHILLY’ appears to have received official recognition from the passport office. Litzi is boldly described as being busier than most, and is even ‘on a special party mission to Prague’. KASPAR/LAMB is still confused: MI5 appears to be unimpressed and unconcerned. A handwritten notice even picks up the charade, indicating that the report should be filed in PF 68261 PHILLY [sic].

Interest in the Honigmanns

This was a quite shocking state of affairs. The Foreign Office and MI6 had to confront the fact that a nominee for the Control Commission, a known Communist, had debunked to East Berlin. He had left behind his partner, overtly an even more rabid Communist, who was still the wife of a senior MI6 officer. The authorities had to arrange for the Philbys to gain a quick divorce, preferably not on British soil. And they had to conceal the identity of Honigmann’s partner from prying eyes, such as the Press, and inquisitive officers in MI5. No doubt they believed that they were engaged in some sort of coup, infiltrating a friendly Soviet agent whom they had ‘turned’ into the den of the enemy. Indeed, it may well have been MI6’s original plan to use Honigmann‘s appointment with the Control Commission as a ruse to insert him and Litzi into East Berlin.

Matters quickly turned farcical, however. Questions were being asked in several quarters. The Headquarters Intelligence Division of B.A.O.R. writes to MI5 on November 11, 1946, asking for verification of the rumours about Honigmann’s defection. Graham Mitchell in B1A responds, essentially confirming what MI5 has been told, and indicates that further enquiries are being made. So whom does Mitchell turn to? None other than Kim Philby himself. A letter of November 22 refers to Honigmann’s employment in Karlshorst, and includes the following appeal:

            Have you any confirmation of these reports? If they are true it would be very helpful to have them amplified, with particular reference to the nature of HONIGMANN’s work.

A week later, a response under Philby’s name comes through, indicating that Mitchell’s query has been referred to the field, and, a month later (December 23) Philby provides an account ‘based on information from a source who knows Honigmann personally’. After a brief potted history of Honigmann’s career in the United Kingdom, the story evolves into pure flannel, and merits being quoted verbatim:

            On calling at Reuters [in May 1946] source was told that HONIGMANN had left for Berlin a few days previously. Later a mutual acquaintance (not in Reuters) said that HONIGMANN was now in Berlin; as far as source can remember, it was also said that HONIGMANN was no longer working for Reuters, and that his job appeared to be somewhat mysterious.

            Source paid no particular attention to this remark at the time, as he had no reason whatsoever to connect HONIGMANN with clandestine activities. He knew that HONIGMANN had Left-wing views, like almost every German or Austrian émigré, and that he was a subscriber to Cockburn’s News Letter, but this was thought to be for professional reasons. Politics were in fact never discussed except on a professional basis.

            Reuters will presumably be able to say whether HONIGMANN did in fact go to Berlin on their behalf. Source may also be able to discover more details from discreet enquiries.

Philby must have thought he might get away with this astonishing display of chutzpah. After all, his (MI6) bosses were on his side at the time. The Reuters story was no doubt the official MI6 line, else Philby would have been caught out in a sorry deception. And maybe he did escape unscathed for a while. In 1947, however, MI5 picked up the threads again. On July 7, 1947, B1 presented a memorandum to Vivian concerning ‘Alice (Lizzy) HONIGMANN @ FEAVRE née KOLLMANN or KOHLMANN’, the author still blissfully unaware of the subject’s real identity. What is highly significant here is the formulation ‘@ FEAVRE’, indicating that ‘FEAVRE’ was a cryptonym for an asset, analogous to Laemmel’s ‘KASPAR’, a singular confirmation that Litzy had been working as an informer for MI5.

This memorandum included the following text (in fact a subset of the report from KASPAR on the events supplied above, but excluding the information about Busy Lizzy):

            Two months later [i,e. after Honigmann’s departure] it was reported that Alice HONIGMANN, although still a keen member of Edith TUDOR-HART’s circle, had had to restrain her activities as HONIGMANN had taken up work in the Russian zone. Her contacts abroad were said to include Magda GRAN-PIERRE, Budapest 12, Kovas utoza No. 46, who was reputed to be an important agent in the Hungarian Communist Intelligence network.

            Alice HONIGMANN left England at the end of August 1946 [sic!] and went from Paris to Prague on 5th September. In November 1946 it was reported that she was in Berlin working with Dr. HONIGMANN to whom she has since been married.

I do not follow the logic (‘although . . . . as’) of this assessment. Yet one might conclude that Litzi had gone to Hungary to meet her former lover Gábor Péter, now head of the Hungarian Secret Police, and wreaking havoc. This itinerary nevertheless implies that Philby did not go out to Paris to negotiate the divorce with Litzi until late August. It was all very much a shotgun affair: one can only marvel at the speed with which a London Registry Office was able to recognize the legality of a divorce executed on foreign soil, just a week earlier. And the change of departure date from June to August turns the focus much more intently on MI6’s inability (or unwillingness) to interview Litzi. They had over two months, after her partner had absconded, in which to carry out an investigation, and interview Litzi. Yet they apparently did nothing. Furthermore, had Honigmann perhaps been subjected to some intense interrogation, so that the NKVD could verify Litzi’s loyalty before authorizing the divorce and her departure from the United Kingdom? One might expect such a procedure.

Two days after the creation of the memorandum above, the persistent Milicent Bagot (now B1c) wrote to Anthony Milne of MI6 (no doubt unaware that the latter had been one of Litzy Philby’s lovers, but who had not yet been unmasked and dismissed). Bagot’s objective was to pass on information about Alice Honigmann. The ignorance about Litzy’s previous name endures: the same formation of her identity is used. The famed MI5 Registry has either been purged, or the cross-referencing system is not working. The file then peters out, before recording the fact that a Peter Burchett, Reuter’s correspondent in Berlin, who had been a member of the CPGB for some time, had been responsible for Honigmann’s contract with the Russians in Berlin.

What is noteworthy about this period is the fact that no reference to the Honigmann business appears in Guy Liddell’s Diaries. That could be because a) he was not aware of what was going on; b) he knew about it but did not consider it worth recording; c) he knew about it but considered it too sensitive to write about; or d) he did write about it, but the passages have been redacted. I would plump for the last. For there are indications that Liddell nurtured some serious concerns about the penetration of MI6 at this time. Long-standing coldspur readers may recall my commentaries from 2019, where I expressed my frustration with Christopher Andrew, who successfully suppressed a story he had helped air on the BBC about Eric Roberts, an MI5 officer who was transferred to MI6 and went to Vienna in 1947 (see  https://coldspur.com/a-thanksgiving-round-up/ ). I wrote at the time:

Before Roberts left for Austria in 1947 (no specific date offered), on secondment to MI6 (SIS), Liddell ‘hinted that he suspected MI6 might have been penetrated by the Soviets’. On his return in 1949 (‘after just over year’, which suggests a late 1947 departure), dispirited from a fruitless mission trying to inveigle Soviet intelligence to approach him, Roberts talked to Liddell again, looking for career advice. But Liddell ‘changed the subject’, and wanted to know whether Roberts suspected that MI5 had itself been infiltrated by a traitor. He followed up by asking Roberts how he thought MI5 might have been penetrated.

One can imagine Liddell’s bewilderment (unless he had been a party to the whole scheme). A journalist of dubious merit has been selected for a position with the Control Commission. He quickly disappears to East Berlin. And then MI6 and the Foreign Office sit on their hands, declining to detain and interrogate his partner, known to be a Communist agent, yet one married to the head of Section V in MI6. And that office then tries to fob off junior MI5 officers, clearly communicating an official SIS line. By 1949, Liddell has been nobbled, too.

What of the Honigmanns? Philby obviously informed Moscow Centre what was going on, and that his soon-to-be ex-wife was an innocent pawn in the game. They were allowed to pursue their journalist careers untouched for a while, until January 1953, when they were caught up in Stalin’s purge against the ‘Jewish Plot’, and arrested and detained. The Honigmann file contains press clippings of the measures. Those events must have helped sour Litzi’s confidence in the righteousness of her ideological home. If any insider who knew that Lizzy Honigmann had previously been married to a certain Kim Philby, and thought that the public might be interested in such a disclosure, he (or she) kept quiet, no doubt concerned about his (or her) future career. After all, in 1953, who was Kim Philby?

The Honigmanns arrested – from the ‘Daily Express’

The story comes full circle with the interview of Laemmel by Arthur Martin on October 3, 1951. Late in the cycle of its investigations into Kim Philby, MI5 attempts to discover more about the activities of his first wife as it prepares its report for the Foreign Secretary. The bizarre way that MI5 and MI6 proceeded in dealing with the evidence it had uncovered during this fateful year will be the subject of next month’s coldspur bulletin.

Summary and Conclusions

I have presented a theory as to why and how Kim Philby was protected for so long, and why MI6 was so reluctant to admit that it had nourished a traitor in its corporate body. No smoking gun for this hypothesis exists, but the behaviour of MI6 over the Honigmann case provides strong evidence that the service had been hoodwinked by Kim and Litzi Philby.  In the belief that they had acquired a reformed communist sympathizer, and an NKVD asset who was now working for them, MI6 senior officers attempted to keep the whole project a secret – until it was too late. The theory explains many enigmas previously that were previously perplexing or simply insoluble: the clumsy and foolhardy approaches by Philby to gain a job with GC&CS in September 1939; the insouciance of MI5 over the contribution of Solomon and Birch; the machinations by Philby to get his wife home from Paris when war broke out; the failure of MI5 to follow up Krivitsky’s most obvious hint; Liddell’s and Vivian’s clumsy attempts in 1940 to protect Philby when his father was interned; Philby’s smooth acceptance as a recruit to MI6 in 1941; the 1941 insights into the structure of the Austrian Communist Party in exile; the ability of Litzi Philby to roam around untouched during the war, including her work as a courier for the atom spy, Broda; the creation of the ‘Litzy Feabre’ persona; the delay until Kim and Litzi divorced, and the timing of their eventual separation in 1946; the obscure abscondment of Georg Honigmann that same year; the deceptions over the timing of Litzi’s departure from the UK.

A prominent objection to this hypothesis would be (as Keith Ellison has pointed out) that a Counter-Intelligence organization would be very wary about recruiting a former enemy operative into its service, and should be very suspicious of deploying anyone tainted by such connections in intelligence work. That must be correct, but I would counter with the following arguments:

  1. MI5 and MI6 had no evidence that Philby was a serious Soviet agent (as opposed to an erstwhile communist agitator) when he approached MI6. He was not regarded as such by the NKVD at the time; in truth, he was considered a failure. The occasion of the Nazi-Soviet Pact had given Philby a highly plausible reason for changing his allegiance. MI6 discounted the overt political beliefs of his youth.
  2. Any such discretion did not apply to Litzi Philby. Laemmel had identified her as a committed RIS agent, yet MI5 and MI6 indulged her, and allowed her to roam around unchecked. Admittedly, she was not actually recruited by MI5, but both Dick White and Valentine Vivian pretended that they did not know her true status. In his interviews with White, Philby claimed that he had ‘converted’ her.
  3. The case is mirrored in that of SONIA (Ursula Beurton). She was known to have been a GRU agent (and gave no indication of having switched her loyalties), yet was rescued from Switzerland and abetted by MI6 for reasons that remain obscure, but may have involved aspirations for code decryption, or the transmission of disinformation.

1950 and 1951 had been a bad period for MI5 and MI6. Learning about Klaus Fuchs’s trial, Ursula Beurton (SONIA) fled (or was encouraged to escape) to East Germany in February 1950. Fuchs was soon afterwards convicted. In September, Bruce Pontecorvo disappeared. In November, Fuchs, in prison, admitted to recognizing from photographs his courier, SONIA. In March 1951, the British VENONA team developed a short-list of suspects for HOMER, based on VENONA transcripts. Burgess and Maclean decamped just before Maclean was to be interrogated. Suspicions fell on Philby as the ‘Third Man’, and MI6 may have realized that Litzi might have been a courier for Engelbert Broda, who left the UK for Vienna in 1947. Between them, MI5 and MI6 had facilitated the purloining of valuable atomic weaponry secrets by overlooking contacts between Fuchs and the GRU courier, SONIA, and between Broda and the cut-out from the NKVD, Litzi. And in the summer of 1951 the Americans were starting to ask embarrassing questions about the level of information on atomic energy that Broda had been able to access.

What I find truly astonishing is the perpetual inactivity of MI5 officers in following up tips and leads, and their reluctance to take what would appear to be obvious steps to interview persons who might have been able to help in their inquiries. This pathology has two dimensions: the failure to pursue opportunities given before Philby was judged to have been a Soviet agent in the summer of 1951 (such as the Krivitsky hint, and the inertia over Honigmann), and the passivity after White’s interviews and Milmo’s interrogations of that year disclosed the pattern of behaviour exemplified in my dossier at the start of this piece. It is as if they wanted to put a brake on the whole project, as they knew that what they found would be embarrassing to the service. I shall explore that phenomenon closely in next month’s report.

Above all, the story highlights the ingenuity of the GRU and the NKVD. Male agents were expendable, and could be killed when their usefulness had expired, or they had become infected by Western laxity. Female agents were of a different calibre. Both Litzy Philby and Ursula Kuczynski were encouraged – nay, ordered – to exploit their femininity to inveigle unsuspecting enemy agents, or bewilder lazy counter-intelligence organizations. It was a disaster for MI6, and, to a slightly lesser extent, for MI5, something that, even over seventy years later, neither institution can acknowledge.

First, I hereby thank Keith Ellison, who was kind enough to review an earlier version of this article, and to offer me suggestions for improving it.  While he is probably supportive of many of my conclusions, the opinions expressed here, and any errors that appear in it, are of course mine. Second, as preparation for my May bulletin, the analysis within which will start with Philby’s arrival in London on June 11, 1951, after he was summoned back from Washington, readers should re-inspect two coldspur reports from four years ago, namely The Importance of Chronology, at https://coldspur.com/the-importance-of-chronology-with-special-reference-to-liddell-philby/ [the first section may be skipped], and Dick White’s Devilish Plot, at https://coldspur.com/dick-whites-devilish-plot/. These pieces reveal how Dick White and Arthur Martin had by June already compiled a comprehensive dossier on Kim Philby, and had successfully placed the evidence for his probable guilt with the CIA agent William Harvey. Lastly, if you have any comments or insights on these bizarre events, please post them on coldspur, or send me an email at antonypercy@aol.com.

Recent commonplace entries can be seen here.

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