Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

KLAUS FUCHS: ATOM BOMB SPY

A Double Life

Klaus felt at home in England. The political authoritarianism that had existed in Germany throughout Klaus's youth and young adulthood was unknown in England in the 1930s, even with the contentiousness of the numerous political parties widespread throughout the British Isles. Debate was everywhere, and Klaus could express his Marxist views without worrying about retribution. It was an intellectual climate, rather than a repressive one. One could discuss politics civilly.

Besides, he loved Bristol and the countryside around it. Working on his doctoral degree didn't allow for much exploration the hours were long, and the research stimulating but what he saw of England reassured him "this green and pleasant land." His hosts were kind, his professors supportive, and weekends allowed for pleasant conversation, dancing, and plenty of social drinking.

After obtaining his advanced degree, Klaus, with the glowing recommendations of his professors, was able to get a research position in Birmingham. Now, with a modest income and modest needs, he had a place of his own, and a fulfilling life of scientific investigation. He had friends, and a good life.

Then came the war, and internship in Canada. "I didn't harbor resentment against my adopted country. They did what they had to do. I understood." he said years later.

By 1942, when he began spying, Klaus' well developed "controlled schizophrenia" (as he called it) began to assert itself. It was the ability to compartmentalize his feelings. It was to be a useful ability when he betrayed his friends, allowing him to grow more and more fond of them while he was giving away their secrets.

* * *

In mid-1942, after Klaus had joined Tube Alloys, the meetings with the girl from Banbury began. Although Klaus was not aware of it, the "Girl from Banbury" was in reality Jurgen Kuczynski's sister, Ursula. In true espionage fashion, the meetings were furtive and brief. At first, Klaus would only pass on information about his own scientific work, giving Ursula copies of his research papers that were restricted in their distribution. It wouldn't do, he thought, to give away the work of others. It was not, as the English would put it, "cricket" to exploit the work of his English colleagues.

The work went well. Klaus's contributions to the Tube Alloys project became more and more significant, and Michael Perrin thought that it was time to make sure that Klaus had access to classified information so that his work could be an even greater contribution. Perrin sponsored Klaus for citizenship and in September Klaus Fuchs, German émigré, swore allegiance to the crown of England, and became a naturalized British subject. Even though his past as a member of the German Communist Party was known, there was no reason to suspect that Klaus had been an active communist since his arrival in England some nine years before. The project needed him, and he had responded with exemplary work. Ironically, Klaus became a citizen just when his career as a spy was beginning.

Klaus Fuchs, British citizen, vouched for by his superiors, was about to embark on the most interesting part of his career as a spy. Perrin spoke to him one day about the increasing cooperation between American and British scientists working on the atom bomb. He asked Klaus to go to America as one of his delegates.

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