- Morris Cohen (Soviet spy)
Morris Cohen a.k.a. in London as Peter Kroger (
2 July 1910- 23 June 1995), was an accused Soviet spy.
Birth and education
He was born in
New York. His father was from an area near Kievin present-day Ukraine, and his mother was born in Vilniusin present-day Lithuania. Cohen received an athletic scholarshipas an outstanding rugby unionplayer to attend Columbia University.
In 1937, Cohen joined the
Mackenzie-Papineau Battalionand fought as a foreign national volunteer in the Spanish Civil Warwith compatriot Amadeo Sabatini, veteran and career Soviet spy. Cohen was injured and in November 1938 returned to the United States where he began serving Soviet foreign intelligence.
In 1941, Cohen married
Lona Cohenwho was an activist in the Communist Party USAand a courier for Manhattan Project physicist Theodore Hall, part of a ring of atomic spiesthat was revealed later to have been far more damaging than the well-known Rosenberg ring.
In mid-1942, Cohen was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Europe. Cohen was demobilized from the Army in November 1945 and returned to the United States where he resumed his espionage work for the
As Soviet spy networks were compromised in this period, connection with Soviet intelligence was temporarily ended, but resumed in 1948, when the
Rezidenturaascertained that Cohen could be approached. Together with Lona Cohen, they ensured the continued secret connection with a number of the most valuable sources of the Rezidentura. They began working with Col. Rudolph Abelup to 1950, at which time they secretly left the United States and went to the Soviet Union.
In 1954, the Cohens reappeared in
London, living at 45 Cranley Drive, Ruislip, HA4 6BZ where they had numerous pieces of disguised spy equipment, and an antenna looping around their attic, used for their transmissions to Moscow. Their cover was as antiquarianbook dealers under the names of Peter and Helen Kroger, and worked with Gordon Lonsdale of Soviet intelligence. Morris became the British "Illegal Resident".
British security officials arrested the Cohens on
7 January 1961as part of a Soviet espionage network known as the Portland Spy Ringthat had penetrated the Royal Navy. Morris and Lona served eight years in prison, less than half of their sentences.
Whilst in London the Cohens were friends with Frank and Nora Doel. Frank Doel is the bookseller whose correspondence with the author
Helene Hanffbecame the bestseller "84 Charing Cross Road". In her follow-up book, "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" Hanff, reports a story later told her by Nora Doel. One new year's eve the Doels gave a party at which Lona Cohen (Helen Kroger) "arrived looking very exotic in a long black evening dress. 'Helen, you look like a Russian spy!' said Nora. And Helen laughed and Peter laughed and a few months later Nora picked up the morning paper and discovered that Helen and Peter Kruger "were" Russian spies."
In 1967, the Soviet Union admitted that the Cohens were spies, and, in August 1969, Britain agreed to exchange them for
Gerald Brooke, a British subject held in the Soviet Union. Such exchanges had happened before. Notable examples included Soviet spy Rudolf Abelfor U2 pilot Gary Powersand Gordon Lonsdalefor Greville Wynne; but British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labour Government was criticized by the opposition for agreeing to release dangerous Soviet agents like Peter and Helen Kroger in exchange for Brooke, a mere propagandist. Opponents claimed that it set a dangerous precedent and was an example of blackmail rather than a fair exchange.
The Cohens returned to
Moscow, and Morris continued to train younger colleagues for intelligence gathering. It is said that Cohen once came across George Blake, another spy whom he had met while serving in Wormwood Scrubs prison.who The two agreed to stay in touch but were then told by the Soviet authorities to stay away from each other. There is evidence that Blake was well acquainted with fellow traitor Kim Philby.
He died on
23 June 1995. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Morris Cohen, 84, Soviet Spy Who Passed Atom Plans in 40's |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE0DC1438F936A35754C0A963958260 |quote= Morris Cohen, an American who spied for the Soviet Union and was instrumental in relaying atomic bomb secrets to the Kremlin in the 1940's, has died, Russian newspapers reported today. Mr. Cohen, best known in the West as Peter Kroger, died of heart failure in a Moscow hospital on June 23 at age 84, according to news reports. |publisher= New York Times|date= 5 July 1995|accessdate=2008-07-07 ]
The Cohens were awarded the
Order of the Red Bannerand the Order of Friendship of Nations for their espionage work. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they also were given the title of Heroes of the Russian Federationby the Yeltsin government. They lived out their lives on KGBpensions until their deaths — Lona in 1992 and Morris in 1995.
The Cohens are referenced in
Venonadecrypts 1239 KGB New York to Moscow, 30 August 1944; 50 KGB New York to Moscow, 11 January 1945, regarding an erroneous report Morris had been killed in Europe. The Cohens helped pass Manhattan Projectsecrets to the Soviet Union. His code name in Soviet intelligence and the Venonafiles is "Volunteer".
In 1983, the British playwright Hugh Whitemore dramatized the case as "Pack of Lies," which was performed in London's
West End theatredistrict starring Judi Denchand Michael Williams. It played on Broadway for 3½ months in 1985, for which Rosemary Harriswon the best actress Tony awardfor her portrayal of the British neighbor of the Cohens/Krogers. It was made into a TV movie starring Ellen Burstyn, Alan Bates, Teri Garrand Daniel Benzali(as "Peter Schaefer," i.e., "Peter Kroger," i.e., Morris Cohen) which aired in the U.S. on CBSin 1987. The plot centered on the neighbors (and seeming friends) whose house was used as a base from which the security services could spy on the Cohens, and the way paranoia, suspicion and betrayal gradually destroyed their lives during that time.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/13/newsid_4059000/4059209.stm BBC report on the case] . Includes a video news report on the Krogers/Cohens' return to the Soviet Union and an interview with former Foreign Secretary George Brown over the issues.
*Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) [http://svr.gov.ru]
*Russian Federal Foreign Intelligence Service, Veterany vneshnei razvedki Rosii (Veterans of Russian foreign intelligence service), Moscow: Russian Federal Foreign Intelligence Service, (1995).
* [http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/cohen_morris_lona.htm FBI Morris and Lona Cohen file, 100–406659] .
*Rebecca West, "The New Meaning of Treason", New York: Viking (1964), pgs. 281–288.
*Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel, "Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy", New York: Times Books (1997) pgs. 244–253.
*John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, "Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America", Yale University Press, pgs. 316, 317–319, 320, 321, 334.
* [http://www.pbs.org/redfiles/kgb/deep/interv/k_int_svetlana_chervonnaya.htm Interview with Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya]
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