Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

KLAUS FUCHS: ATOM BOMB SPY

Aftermath

From Klaus's confession, it became clear to the FBI that "Raymond" would have to be found, and found quickly, if the Americans were to stop the Russian espionage program. The arrest and confession of Fuchs had forced President Truman to authorize the research program of the "Super," the hydrogen bomb. The continued theft of nuclear secrets couldn't continue. Agents visited Kristel, and obtained a description of Raymond. Based on Fuchs's characterization of Raymond as a chemist and from Philadelphia, and Kristel's recollection of him, the FBI narrowed the pursuit to a few men, only one of whom had been in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1944. The path led to Harry Gold.

Gold endured hours of questioning, denying any involvement in spying. He maintained that he had never been west of Chicago. But in a search of his apartment, the FBI found, jammed behind a bookcase, a map of downtown Santa Fe.

Profile of Harry Gold (CORBIS)
Profile of Harry Gold
(CORBIS)

At precisely the same time, in Brixton Prison, FBI agents were interviewing Fuchs in prison, with William Skardon present. They showed Fuchs still photographs from a surveillance film made of Gold. Fuchs was not sure. The next day, Fuchs identified one photograph. "Yes, that's him," he reportedly told the agents. "That is the man I knew as Raymond." While this confirmation was important to the case against Harry Gold, it was unnecessary for the moment. Harry Gold was confessing, not only to his service as Fuchs's contact, but as the courier for David Greenglass and the Julius Rosenberg spy ring.

* * *

Late in 1957, Emil Fuchs, now 79 years old, visited his son in prison. He told him it was time to think about his future. He suggested his son return to East Germany and return to a scientific profession.

The release of Klaus Fuchs
The release of Klaus
Fuchs

On June 24, 1959, a middle-aged slim man, balding, wearing steel-rimmed glasses, boarded a Polish airplane at Heathrow Airport. He was traveling under the name of Mr. Strauss. He was wearing the same brown suit that he had worn at his trial. Klaus Fuchs was now free.

He was met at the airport by his nephew, the son of his older sister, Elisabeth. Two days later, he became a citizen of the East German Republic. A month later, he was made assistant director of the Institute for Nuclear Physics near Dresden. Ten days later, he married an old friend from his Paris days, Greta Keilson. He settled into a quiet life of science and domesticity.

The East German Republic honored him. In 1979, he received the Order of Karl Marx. He only wished that his father, who died in 1971 at the age of 93, could have been present.

Only a few visitors from England ever saw Klaus Fuchs again. As much as he had loved England and been a quite proper Englishman, he had severed ties with his adopted country, the country he had betrayed. Still, he believed in communism. He always would, even to the day he died at the age of 76, on January 28, 1988, 38 years and a day after he had confessed to William Skardon.

* * *

"I don't remember him very well," Edward Teller was saying to an interviewer. "A quiet man, not very impressive. A decent scientist, all in all." Teller was an old man, bent over, squinting as the sunlight poured through the window next to his regular table at the Cosmos Club.

"How important was the material he gave Russia?" the interviewer asked.

"Oh, not very important. I'm sure the Russians knew how to build a bomb without Fuchs's stuff."

"Philip Morrison feels otherwise. He says that Fuchs helped the Russians develop their bomb two years sooner than they might have."

"Does he? Well, perhaps he's right. I think that Ted Hall might have been as important. Brilliant young man. I recommended him to graduate school at the University of Chicago. I was very surprised when the KGB files identified him. Where is Hall now, do you know?"

"He died last year. In England, where he'd been for over 35 years. He never completely admitted his involvement. Morrison says that Hall's information merely confirmed what Fuchs had delivered to the Russians. Do you agree with him?"

"I don't know. It was all so long ago. Fuchs was smart, there's no denying that. I suppose Morrison could be right." Teller paused. "You know, now that I think of it, my main recollection of Fuchs is that he smoked and drank too much. Perhaps he had some sort of psychological defect. Well, it was a long time ago. I'm not sure all of this makes any difference now."

The interviewer switched off his tape recorder. "It did at the time," he said. "It certainly did at the time."

Categories
Advertisement