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Soviet Intelligence Agents and Suspected Agents

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Soviet Intelligence Agents and Suspected Agents

David Ramsay (KV 2/1867-1870) Ramsay was a prominent figure in the early years of the British Communist Party, Treasurer of the National Council of Shop Stewards in 1919. He became a member of the Communist International in 1920 and by 1921 was believed by MI5 to be the head of the 'supplementary' (or illegal) branch of the Party, which organised propaganda, seditious literature and forged documents. Ramsay was believed to have secretly travelled to Russia and his passport applications were monitored with a view to prevent him travelling to British overseas territories. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Ramsay was kept under constant surveillance and the reports from this form a large part of the files released today.

KV 2/1867 details Ramsay's activities between 1918 and 1925. In November 1918 Ramsay is described as 'advocating revolution with machine guns' at a meeting that included Sylvia Pankhurst as a speaker. A copy of the speech given to the Herald League in Croydon in early 1919, which led to his conviction and imprisonment for sedition, is contained within this file. Reports on Ramsay's travels abroad, and intelligence on his Russian contacts and finances are also detailed. Later reports and intercepted letters from 1924-25 reveal Ramsay collecting information on armaments production at Vickers' and Hadfield's factories in Sheffield, and reveal a journey made to the torpedo factory in Greenock for the purposes of spreading subversive propaganda and espionage.

KV 2/1868 contains copies of burnt history sheets summarising Ramsay's activities and surveillance reports on Ramsay's movements during 1926-27. Some information is also provided about the British Communist Party's finances such as income received from local branches, unpaid dues, and correspondence between Ramsay and other Party members.

KV 2/1869 has additional burnt history sheets, and surveillance reports from 1927-34. A 1932 memo from Special Branch to MI5 describes Ramsay as having left the Party due to a difference of opinion with the executive committee. In 1933, however, a report from Glasgow police states that he is employed as a courier for the Russian embassy. KV 2/1870 covers the period 1937-45 and continues the extensive surveillance reporting on Ramsay's activities.

Jurgen Kuczyinski (KV 2/1871-1880)

Kuczyinski, a German statistician whose father was working at the London School of Economics and who joined him in Britain in 1936, was well known as a Communist even before his arrival in the UK, having first come to Security Service attention in 1931 through intercepted correspondence. His mail was watched throughout the war, and his father, sisters and brothers-in-law were all subject to the Service's attentions. Yet his role as the man who introduced atom spy Klaus Fuchs to Soviet Intelligence was completely missed, and he secured employment during the war with the US Bombing Research Mission. His connections to Soviet Intelligence were first suspected when his sister, Ursula Buerton, was named by British spy Alan Foote as a Soviet Intelligence agent in 1947, and finally confirmed in 1950 when Fuchs named Kuczyinski as his first contact. This file is the last of the key personalities from the Fuchs spy case to be released.

KV 2/1871 (1931-1940) covers the period of Kuczyinski's first visits to Britain, his settling here permanently at various addresses in Hampstead and, from November 1939, contains voluminous copies of intercepted mail, after a Home Office warrant was secured on the grounds that "Both Dr Jurgen and Marguerite Kuczyinski are believed to be clearly connected with Communist espionage and propaganda among refugees in this country." It is clear that even at this early stage the possibility of Kuczyinski being involved in espionage was acknowledged. Yet, except for a postal warrant, little effort seems to have been expended on the case. A decision was made in December 1939 not to place Kuczyinski "in the category of friendly alien." Kuczyinski was interned in January 1940, and is reported as having "made himself a nuisance" in the camp, resulting in visiting privileges for his wife being withdrawn (serial 76a, a letter characterised by the interceptors at the Security Service as having been written by "Colonel Blimp"). The file contains a copy of Kuczyinski's German passport with an original photograph. The next file, KV 2/1872 (1940-41), details how Kuczyinski was released from internment against the Service's wishes in April 1940 ("We do not regard this man's case as satisfactory, but we were overruled by the Home Office…", serial 86a). By this time, the Service suspected that Kuczyinski had control of the entire funds of the German Communist Party.

The following files KV 2/1873 (1941-1942), KV 2/1874 (1942-1943), KV 2/1875 (1943), KV 2/1876 (1943-1944) and KV 2/1877 (1944-1945) consist mainly of further intercepted letters – the warrant was maintained on Kuczyinski's addresses throughout the war. There are copies of Kuczyinski's pamphlets Allies Inside Germany and 300 Million Slaves and Serfs in KV 2/1874. Kuczyinski's recruitment to the US Bombing Research Mission is covered in KV 2/1876-77 – the Service didn't oppose his appointment, recognising his technical skills would be useful, but the Americans were warned not to give him a chance to further his political beliefs.

After the end of the war in Europe the Kuczyinskis returned to Berlin. File KV 2/1878 (1945-1948) consists mainly of further intercepted correspondence from or mentioning Kuczyinski, until September 1947 when Alan Foote's evidence names Kuczyinski's sister Ursula Buerton as an intelligence agent. A thorough review of the file was undertaken, which still found nothing of substance to identify Kuczyinski as an agent. Michael Serpell concluded (serial 484) that while the Kuczyinskis might be Comintern officers, they were not Soviet espionage agents. Investigations continued, however, and in 1950 (on KV 2/1879, 1948-1951) Fuchs finally unveiled Kuczyinski as being, at the very least, an occasional recruiter for Soviet Intelligence. A further review of the file took place, and almost for the first time it seems that the early indications that Kuczyinski was "in touch" with Soviet Intelligence were picked up (case summary, serial 521b). Even then, however, there was no evidence from the file to allow a positive conclusion as to Kuczyinski's role to be reached. The letters informing the French and Americans of the results of this review of the file are included. The case concludes with KV 2/1880 (1951-1953) where further intercepted correspondence records the continuing, fruitless watch kept on Kuczyinski.

Henry Robinson (KV 3/137-140)

Henry Robinson (1897-1943) was a senior Comintern official and member of the Kommunistiche Partei Deutschlands (KPD) executed by the Gestapo in 1943. Robinson's origins are obscure: a birth certificate found in his flat after his arrest (believed to be genuine by the Security Service) indicates that Robinson was born in May 1897 in Brussels (though other sources state Frankfurt Am Main) to a Russian father and Polish mother. During the First World War Robinson studied in Geneva where he worked with Willi Münzenberg, a senior Comintern official in the International Communist Youth Movement and in 1923 he was placed in charge of military and political work in the Rhineland and made chief of the youth movement in the Ruhr. By 1930 he was a section head of Red Army Intelligence in France and was the centre of its espionage ring that encompassed Switzerland, France and England. In 1940 he was appointed head of the operations for the entire of Western Europe.

Robinson was arrested by German Intelligence in December 1943 following what appears to have been a tip off from the Grand Chef of the Die Röte Kapelle (The Red Orchestra), Leopold Trepper, with whom he worked and who had previously been arrested. Held in France for six months after his arrest whilst interrogated and tortured he was then sent to Berlin and executed in the early part of 1944 (as was his partner Klara Schabbel). The discovery of his papers under the floorboards of his Paris flat after his arrest by German Intelligence agents gave the Germans a unique insight into the workings of Die Röte Kapelle and allowed them to arrest more of its operatives. These papers were transmitted to the Abwehr in Belgium where they were later captured by British Military Intelligence.

The files (KV 3/138-140) contain details of Robinson's cryptic 'business' messages between MANAGEMENT (i.e. Red Army Intelligence) and deliberations on the identity of JEAN, a Soviet agent operating in London during the 1930s who could not be identified. They also show the Security Service's attempts to reconstruct Robinson's movements during the 1930s and to discover the nature of the network he was running and how deeply it had penetrated Britain. They also enabled the Service to confirm the identity of other agents in the network including Swiss Communist Rachel Duebendorfer whose files have previously been released. KV 3/137 contains photostats of the 'Robinson papers' (as they became known) including copies of six forged or fraudulently obtained passports in various names.

In addition to Ramsay, Robinson and Kuczyinski, this release also sees several files on key Comintern figures and subjects being made available, including: Comintern then OGPU agent Ignace Reiss, who fell out with his masters and was murdered by OGPU in Switzerland in 1937 (KV 2/1898); Comintern official and later secretary of the Italian Communist Party Palmiro Ercoli (KV 2/1816); British Comintern courier John Richardson (KV 2/1820); Norwegian Comintern agent Leonard Aspaas (KV 2/1821); reports on Comintern policy towards the 2nd International (KV 3/124-126); and the main run of Security Service files on Comintern, KV 3/127-136.