Walter Krivitsky

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Walter G. Krivitsky (1899, Podwoloczyska, Poland - 1941, Washington DC).

Krivitsky (a name based on the Slavic root for "crooked, twisted") was the revolutionary nom de guerre chosen by Samuel Ginsberg when he entered Soviet Military Intelligence, now known as the GRU, in 1917-1918. He operated as a nelegal (an undercover agent with false name and papers) in Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary, and rose in rank to become a control officer over other agents. He is credited with stealing plans for submarines and planes, intercepting Nazi-Japanese correspondence, and recruiting many agents. Among those agents were 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 out to The Hague to operate as the rezident--the control officer for the region--operating under cover of antiquarian. It appears that he also 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 (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 USA. With the help of noted journalist Isaac Don Levine, he produced an inside account of Stalin's underhanded methods In Stalin's Secret Service (1939). Violently attacked by the left in America, Krivitsky was vindicated when his prediction of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact came to pass 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 HUAC) 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.

Always in trouble with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Krivitsky was not able to return to the US from Canada until November 1940. The August 1940 assassination of Trotsky in Mexico convinced him that he was now No. 1 on the NKVD hit list. His last two months in New York are 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), a block from Union Station in Washington D.C., with three suicide notes by the bed. Many suspected that he had been murdered.

Krivitsky's HUAC and MI5 testimonies are published as Walter G. Krivitsky, MI5 Debriefing (2004). A full account of his life and career, with photographs and reproductions of his suicide notes, is A Death in Washington (2004) by Gary Kern. The Federal Bureau of Investigation compiled a large file on Krivitsky, chiefly after his mysterious death. The bulk of the file is available on the FBI website (see link below), but hundreds of pages remain classified under the rubric of national security. One possible reason is the FBI's need to obtain permission from foreign intelligence agencies when they have exchanged information that has entered the file, a burdensome bureaucratic task[citation needed].

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he:ולטר קריביצקי pl: Walter Kriwicki

Walter Krivitsky

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