how to recruit a spy -- 10/12/16

Today's selection -- from True Believer by Kati Marton. Noel Field was an idealistic American working for the US State Department in the 1930s. He had embraced communism when he saw the terrible hardships of the Depression and viewed it as a failure of capitalism. He was recruited by Soviet spies to join their ranks, and though he initially resisted, he eventually yielded because he saw that America was ignoring the threat of Hitler and that the Soviet Union was the only power willing to stand up to the Nazi threat. In his mind, to spy for Russia was to help in the fight against Hitler:

"[The Treaty of] Versailles assigned sole blame and punitive reparations for the war to Germany -- uniting that country in a blanket denial of any guilt whatsoever. That left the door wide open to the Nazi Party to proclaim Germany's absolute innocence. Hitler, one year in power, promised to restore national pride. Flagrantly defying Versailles, he was gearing up for war. Europe, its industries struggling to recover, its male populations tragically depleted, was in no mood to mobilize for more bloodletting. How would the United States -- the sole power strengthened, not depleted, by the Great War -- react to Nazi aggression? On this crucial matter, the Soviets were looking for hard intelligence. Noel Field's perch at State's West European Division made him an ideal target for recruitment. Moreover, [Soviet spy] J. Peters preferred tall, pedi­greed WASPs. Who would ever believe a well-mannered young man with deep New England roots and immaculate appearance such as Noel Field could betray his country?

Noel and Herta Field in 1925

"A Daily Worker correspondent named Marguerite Young, who so­cialized with the Field [and his wife Herta], introduced the couple to [Soviet spy] Hede [Massing]. ... Hede spoke of her husband, a hero to Noel. Paul Massing had recently es­caped from a Nazi concentration camp at Oranienburg and published Fatherland, the first expose of life behind Hitler's barbed wire. With such solid anti-fascist credentials, and under J. Peters's careful ma­nipulation, Hede and soon Paul Massing were in business with Noel Field. ...

"It was a gentle courtship. The Massings knew better than to rush Noel, who liked nothing better than arguing the fine points of Marx­ism with Paul and Hede all night. ... 'Noel was a profoundly moral person,' Paul Massing recalled. 'Nazism was gaining strength. Brutality was increasing. Noel felt strongly that it wouldn't do, just to sit around and watch. He yearned to do something about it.' Strangely, Noel never raised the possibility of using his offi­cial position to rouse Americans to oppose Hitler. By the thirties, Field was too deeply enraptured by Communism to compromise. The times demanded radical action and he did not see America moving in that direction. He had given up on his country's will to do the right thing. ...

"[Noel and his colleagues' commitment to Communism was given a] fresh jolt by the West's passivity in the face of the Nazi threat. 'We saw that the West did noth­ing [ to stop Hitler],' Massing recalled. 'We all believed that sooner or later the Soviet Union would have to fight Hitler. That it was the only country that would fight. So in serving it, providing it information, we were helping the Soviets to prepare for that fight. I tried to convince Noel that with all the stupidity, the ugliness in Moscow, it was a New Society which couldn't live in peace with the Nazis and that it was an obligation to help them fight Nazism, whether you liked them or not.' "


Kati Marton


True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spy


Simon & Schuster


Copyright 2016 by Katie Marton


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment