Walter Krivitsky

Walter Krivitsky

Walter G. Krivitsky (1899-February 1941) was a Soviet spy who defected before World War II.

Born Samuel Ginsberg in Podwoloczyska, Poland he adopted the name Krivitsky (a name based on the Slavic root for "crooked, twisted") as a revolutionary "nom de guerre" when he entered Soviet Military Intelligence around 1917. He operated as an "illegal" (agent with false name and papers) in Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary, and rose to the rank of control officer. He is credited with stealing plans for submarines and planes, intercepting Nazi-Japanese correspondence, and recruiting many agents, including Madame Lupescu and Noel Field.

In May 1937, after the GRU was taken over by the civil State Security, the NKVD (later KGB), Krivitsky was sent to The Hague to operate as the "rezident", or regional control officer, operating under cover of an antiquarian. It appears that he coordinated intelligence operations throughout Western Europe. At that time the General Staff of the Red Army was undergoing a purge in Moscow, and Krivitsky and his close friend, Ignace Poretsky (also known as Ignace Reiss), both abroad, were deeply disturbed. Poretsky wanted to defect, but Krivitsky repeatedly held back. Finally Poretsky did defect and sent a defiant letter to Moscow. His assassination in Switzerland in September 1937 prompted Krivitsky's defection in Paris the following month. There Krivitsky began to write articles, made contact with Lev Sedov and the Trotskyists, and inadvertently took walks with a Soviet spy, Mark Zborowski, known as "Etienne," whom Sedov sent to protect him. Sedov died mysteriously in February 1938, but Krivitsky eluded attempts to kill or kidnap him while in France.

At the end of 1938, anticipating the Nazi conquest of Europe, Krivitsky sailed from France to the United States. With the help of journalist Isaac Don Levine, he produced an inside account of Stalin's underhanded methods called "In Stalin's Secret Service", which was published in 1939. Violently attacked by the Left in America, Krivitsky was vindicated when a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact (which he predicted) was signed in August 1939.

Caught between his dedication to socialist ideals and his detestation of Stalin's methods, he believed that it was his duty to inform, a decision that caused him much mental anguish but that he nevertheless impressed on a new friend, Whittaker Chambers (recounted in Chambers' autobiography, "Witness"). Krivitsky testified before the Dies Committee (later to become the House Un-American Activities Committee) in October 1939, and sailed as "Walter Thomas" to London in January 1940 to reveal secrets to British Military Intelligence, MI5. It is a matter of controversy whether he gave MI5 clues to the identity of Soviet agents Donald Maclean and Kim Philby. There is no doubt, however, that the NKVD learned of his testimony and initiated operations to silence him.

He soon returned to North America, landing in Canada. Always in trouble with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Krivitsky was not able to return to the United States until November 1940.

The August 1940 assassination of Trotsky in Mexico convinced him that he was now at the top of the NKVD hit list. His last two months in New York were filled with plans to settle in Virginia and to write, but also with doubts and dread. On February 10, 1941, he was found dead in the Bellevue Hotel (now The George) in Washington D.C., with three suicide notes by the bed. Some suspect that he was murdered by Soviet intelligence. But Gary Kern, author of a recent and the most authoritative biography, concludes that Krivitsky certainly committed suicide. [ cite book
last = Chambers
first = Whittaker
title = Witness
publisher = Random House
date = 1952
pages =
id = ISBN 0-89526-571-0
] [cite web
title =Files on Walter G. Krivitsky
work =
publisher =Federal Bureau of Investigation
date =
url =
accessdate =

References and further reading

*cite book
last = Krivitsky
first = Walter G.
title = In Stalin's Secret Service: Memoirs of the First Soviet Master Spy to Defect
publisher = Enigma Books
date = 2000
id = ISBN 1929631030

*cite book
author = Krivitsky, Walter G. and Kern, Gary (Editor, Translator)
title = MI5 Debriefing & Other Documents on Soviet Intelligence
publisher = Xenos Books
date = 2004
id = ISBN 1879378507

*cite book
first = Gary
last = Kern
title = A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror
publisher = Enigma Books
date = 2004
id = ISBN 1929631251

*cite web
title =Files on Walter G. Krivitsky
work =
publisher =Federal Bureau of Investigation
date =
url =
accessdate =


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