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The Invisible Harry Gold

The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb

Allen M. Hornblum
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Invisible Harry Gold
    Book Description:

    In the history of Soviet espionage in America, few people figure more crucially than Harry Gold. A Russian Jewish immigrant who spied for the Soviets from 1935 until 1950, Gold was an accomplished industrial and military espionage agent. He was assigned to be physicist Klaus Fuchs's "handler" and ultimately conveyed sheaves of stolen information about the Manhattan Project from Los Alamos to Russian agents. He is literally the man who gave the USSR the plans for the atom bomb. The subject of the most intensive public manhunt in the history of the FBI, Gold was arrested in May 1950. His confession revealed scores of contacts, and his testimony in the trial of the Rosenbergs proved pivotal. Yet among his co-workers, fellow prisoners at Lewisburg Penitentiary, and even those in the FBI, Gold earned respect, admiration, and affection.

    InThe Invisible Harry Gold, journalist and historian Allen Hornblum paints a surprising portrait of this notorious yet unknown figure. Through interviews with many individuals who knew Gold and years of research into primary documents, Hornblum has produced a gripping account of how a fundamentally decent and well-intentioned man helped commit the greatest scientific theft of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15678-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Part 1. The Spy

    • CHAPTER 1 South Philadelphia
      (pp. 3-22)

      Samson Golodnitsky grew up accustomed to slightly more comfortable circumstances than most of his hard-pressed Jewish neighbors in Smila, on the Tyasmyn River in central Ukraine. His father was a relatively prosperous businessman. Even the wealthiest and most accomplished Jewish families were saddled with governmental restrictions and social constraints, but Samson went to good schools and showed promise, particularly in mathematics.

      While at school, Samson became greatly influenced—“infected” was the term used by one subsequent observer—by the life, works, and philosophy of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. During the late nineteenth century, Tolstoy “preached the idea of the...

    • CHAPTER 2 A Debt Repaid
      (pp. 23-42)

      In August 1928, Governor Alfred E. Smith became the Democratic Party’s candidate for president of the United States; Walt Disney introduced his most popular animated character, Mickey Mouse; and the New York Yankees were on their way to winning another World Series. In Paris, the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact was signed by fifteen nations in an effort to outlaw aggressive warfare. In Philadelphia, Harry Gold was getting ready to graduate from high school.

      Though he would not receive his diploma from South Philadelphia High School until February 1929, Gold completed his required course work and left school in August.¹ Unable to...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Novice Spy
      (pp. 43-58)

      With pride and expectation, Harry Gold traveled to New York City one November evening in 1935 to meet the Amtorg official who would now be providing photocopying services. As far as Gold was concerned, the documents and blueprints he was stealing from his employer were a step closer to enhancing the lives of ordinary Russian citizens.

      Gold met his friend Tom Black at Pennsylvania Station a little after 7:00 p.m., and the two men began walking south on Seventh Avenue. They had not gone more than a block or two when a third man joined them. No one said a...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Evolution of a Secret Agent
      (pp. 59-80)

      Joseph Brodsky, aka Jack Bruin, was a big talker, constantly engaging people in political discussions, asking for donations for a variety of causes, and encouraging people to join unions and come out to demonstrations. Though his commitment to progressive causes was undeniable, covert work seemed a stretch for him. Yet he couldn’t wait to meet an actual undercover Soviet agent, and if he didn’t get his introduction, there was no telling what he would do. Gold had a problem, and it was one of his own making.

      Brodsky was dumbstruck that mild-mannered Harry Gold, who was reticent about raising his...

    • CHAPTER 5 Semenov, Slack, and Brothman
      (pp. 81-104)

      On the surface, it was an unlikely match: the working-class Jewish student from South Philadelphia whose mother taught Yiddish and Hebrew to neighborhood children, and the small Catholic college in southern Ohio. But it turned out to be a collegial union. Both revered knowledge and respected those willing to put in the long, difficult hours to attain it. Slightly older than most students, but with an inquiring mind and a monastic, workhorse approach to learning that Jesuit scholars could identify with, Gold repeatedly proved himself a star in the classroom. His willingness to share information and tutor others made him...

    • CHAPTER 6 Dr. Klaus Fuchs
      (pp. 105-128)

      Nineteen forty-three was a busy year for Harry Gold. Like a traveling salesman promoting kitchen cabinets or encyclopedias, he was constantly on the move. Incredibly, only his Soviet handlers knew of his hectic schedule or his wide-ranging journeys to upstate New York, Ohio, and Tennessee, as he traded industrial and military secrets around the country while still putting in long hours at the sugar refinery in Philadelphia.

      Gold was one of the best examples of how, as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev write inSpies, “Soviet espionage networks in the United States would not have been able...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Los Alamos Papers
      (pp. 129-153)

      One Sunday in late September 1944, Gold traveled by coach to Boston. He arrived at the Heinemann home on Lakeview Drive in the early evening, but it looked as though no one was home. Gold knocked on the door, and a woman who appeared to be the housekeeper answered. She said the Heinemanns were on vacation and were “not expected back until some time in October.” Gold was disappointed, but he had at least established Kristel Heinemann’s address.

      Gold reported back to John, and they agreed that another trip to Cambridge was in order. He was told to visit early...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Postwar Years
      (pp. 154-175)

      In early October Gold returned to New York. He could not understand why his handler had made no effort to reach him. Direct contact, especially by phone, was frowned upon, but this was an exceptionally delicate situation. Gold was holding documents that were so valuable that he hadn’t let them out of his sight for days. He carried them to work and when he shopped for groceries on Castor Avenue; wherever he went, the documents went with him.

      Gold anxiously looked forward to the next scheduled meeting, which was set to take place between Jackson Heights and Flushing in Queens....

    • CHAPTER 9 The Hunt for Raymond
      (pp. 176-194)

      The ringing startled Gold awake. He had fallen fast asleep on the living room couch; he tried to regain his senses. The ringing sounded again, and he realized it wasn’t the phone, it was the doorbell. He gathered himself and wondered who could be visiting this late on a Saturday night.

      Gold hadn’t arrived home until after seven, exhausted from a long workweek at the Philadelphia General Hospital lab. After washing up, he donned his pajamas and had a sandwich and some coffee. He looked forward to lounging in his pajamas, watching television, or listening to music with his father....

    • CHAPTER 10 The Fatal Words
      (pp. 195-216)

      At 3:00 p.m. on Monday, May 15, 1950, Harry Gold still saw many hours of work ahead of him. He rarely left the Philadelphia General Hospital Heart Station laboratory at five with the other employees. His days were long and taxing, but he enjoyed them.

      This day would be different. Shortly after three o’clock, two serious-looking men wearing business suits appeared at the Heart Station. They didn’t look like doctors or hospital administrators, and they asked for Harry Gold. It was a scenario he had dreaded since the announcement of Fuchs’s arrest. “Before they showed me their identification,” he would...

  5. Part 2. The Prisoner

    • CHAPTER 11 Conversion
      (pp. 219-240)

      Wednesday, May 24, 1950, was far from a slow news day. The Selective Service Act had just been extended another two years; Field Marshal Viscount Wavell, the one-eyed British general who crushed the Italian army in Africa, had died at 67; and General Motors and the United Auto Workers had signed a new wage agreement. Those stories, however, were all pushed aside by the arrest of the spy who had passed the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Russians. A three-inch banner headline atop thePhiladelphia Inquirerannounced, “Chemist Arrested Here as Atom Spy, Gave Fuchs Stolen Secrets to...

    • CHAPTER 12 To Make Amends
      (pp. 241-274)

      The year 1950 would see many important events, notable personal achievements, and significant firsts. Ezzard Charles successfully defended his heavyweight boxing title three times, and Man o’ War was named the greatest horse of the first half of the century. William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for literature,All the King’s Mengot the Academy Award for best motion picture, the federal minimum wage was raised to seventy-five cents an hour, and the longest vehicular tunnel in the United States, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, opened in New York City. But for a particular segment of the population, 1950 would be remembered...

    • CHAPTER 13 Prisoner 19312-NE
      (pp. 275-295)

      On June 26, 1951, Harry Gold entered Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in north-central Pennsylvania.¹ The enormous walled facility, sitting ominously amid gentle rolling hills and languid pasturelands, would be Gold’s home for the next three decades.

      There are no personal letters, documents, or witnesses to tell us what Gold thought about while handcuffed and shackled along with three dozen other prisoners on the uncomfortable eight-hour bus ride from Manhattan’s West Street Detention Center to Lewisburg. But he surely grasped, as easily as one sees the difference between New York City’s skyscrapers and rural Pennsylvania’s endless countryside, that a part of his...

    • CHAPTER 14 State of Mind
      (pp. 296-318)

      Gold spent as much time as he could in the Lewisburg Penitentiary hospital laboratory. In a roiling sea of discontent, this island of pipettes, precise measuring devices, and good intentions allowed him to immerse himself in something more positive than the stark confines of his cell or the contemplation of his gloomy future.

      As a combination of hospital aide, head nurse, and chief lab chemist, Harry was not only a one-man first-aid station but also a person of rising prominence and respect within the institution. Medicine-related assignments are some of the choicest positions behind bars. Getting someone with previous medical...

    • CHAPTER 15 The Campaign for Parole
      (pp. 319-339)

      After almost a decade in prison, Harry had a well-established early morning routine: out of his bunk before 6:00 a.m. and the first one seated in the chow hall for breakfast. Institutional early birds could get a glimpse of the stoop-shouldered inmate shuffling down the seven-hundred-foot corridor from his single room on J Block—the prison honor block—to the prison hospital, where he could be found at his bench well before most of the others arrived, at 8:00.¹ He was also generally the last to leave. By all accounts, Gold had embraced the treadmill inescapability of prison life. Many...

    • CHAPTER 16 Return
      (pp. 340-356)

      By 1966 Gold had been a prisoner for more years than he had been a spy. Like everyone else in Lewisburg Penitentiary, he was focused on getting out. Regrettably for Gold, few of the other two thousand prisoners had as infamous a reputation. Even Warden Blackwell, in a news interview after another Gold parole rejection, soberly commented, “He’s been here a long while.”¹ Despite the repeated setbacks, Gold never gave up hope that the board would eventually see the merit of his application for parole. More than three years earlier, he had said in a letter to his brother, “I’m...

  6. Epilogue
    (pp. 357-364)

    The public did not learn of Harry Gold’s death for another year and a half. Alvin H. Goldstein, a writer-producer for the National Public Affairs Center, discovered it while preparing a television documentary on the Rosenbergs. Unable to locate Gold and failing to find his name through a routine obituary search, he placed an advertisement in theNew York Timesasking anyone who knew the whereabouts of Harry Gold to contact him. Within a week he received a call notifying him that Gold had died in August 1972. Goldstein planned on releasing this news in his documentary,The Unquiet Death...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 365-426)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 427-434)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 435-438)
  10. Index
    (pp. 439-446)