Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

KLAUS FUCHS: ATOM BOMB SPY

Escape From Germany

In July of 1942, Fuchs was not yet 31 years old, working on unclassified projects within a highly classified endeavor and soon to become a British citizen. It was a very long way from where he had begun life in Russelsheim, Germany, in 1911.

It was prophetic that he would end up in England. His father, at one time a Lutheran minister, had become a Quaker, and had visited Quaker friends in England before World War I, before Klaus had been born. There was an affinity there, between the Fuchs family and the British.

While he could remember little about the First World War, Klaus remembered a happy childhood. At least, his memory of it was happy, although his dedicated father, Emil, seemed more intent on instilling a gentle moral discipline than in imparting affection. He could hardly recall his mother, although she hadn't been dead for much more than 10 years. Perhaps it was her suicide that caused him to forget her. He couldn't remember taking a leave from his university studies to attend her funeral.

His sister Elisabeth was the oldest. She was passionate about everything. She married a fellow radical and had a son. She was imprisoned on several occasions for her political activities by the Nazis, and, in 1939, she jumped from a bridge into the path of an oncoming train while being pursued by the Gestapo. Gerhard, his older brother, had been expelled from law school for political agitation, and he, too, spent time in prison.

The entire family was intense, even baby sister Kristel, who had been diagnosed a schizophrenic. Kristel eventually went to Swarthmore College in America, but was in and out of mental hospitals during her college years. Above all, the Fuchs children were taught well by their father, Emil. They were put on earth to serve, to uphold ideals, to be respected for their beliefs. Klaus found out about the costs of maintaining one's ideals.

* * *

He remembered another train ride, a frenzied ride through Germany to Switzerland, in 1933. The Nazis were looking for him.

Klaus at age 22
Klaus at age 22

During Klaus's university days, students were ardent in their support of their political parties. Klaus had joined the German Socialist Party, thinking that it was the strongest alternative to the growing power of Hitler and his Nazi Party. Then, when the socialists deserted their ideals to allow Hitler to come to power in the elections of 1932, Klaus became disenchanted with his fellow socialists, and joined the German Communist Party, the only political group actively resisting Hitler. Early in 1933 the Reichstag burned, and Hitler blamed it on the communists. Klaus was on his way to a party meeting in Berlin when he heard the news. There was no avoiding it. He had been a vocal and very visible campus communist, and they would come after him. He had no choice but to escape. Fortunately, the train to Berlin was only half-filled and was scheduled to continue on to Switzerland. During the seven-hour train ride, he was able to move from empty compartment to empty compartment, staying ahead of the officials who were moving up and down the corridors, checking identity papers.

Once in Switzerland, he boarded another train, this time to Paris. The long, slow train ride brought him to Paris in the early morning, and, with his small suitcase and a slip of paper with the names of some Quaker friends of his father, he made his way through the half-dark streets. Paris would be his home for several months, and then he would make his way to England, again with the help of his father's Quaker friends. Now, the battered suitcase had been replaced with a canvas bag. All of his worldly possessions had been reduced to a single canvas bag.

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