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"Nancy Greenspan dives into the mysteries of the Klaus Fuchs espionage case and emerges with a classic Cold War biography of intrigue and torn loyalties. Atomic Spy is a mesmerizing morality tale, told with fresh sources and empathy." --Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy and coauthor of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
"Enthralling and riveting."--The New York Times Book Review
The gripping biography of a notorious Cold War villain--the German-born British scientist who handed the Soviets top-secret American plans for the plutonium bomb--showing a man torn between conventional loyalties and a sense of obligation to a greater good.
German by birth, British by naturalization, Communist by conviction, Klaus Fuchs was a fearless Nazi resister, a brilliant scientist, and an infamous spy. He was convicted of espionage by Britain in 1950 for handing over the designs of the plutonium bomb to the Russians, and has gone down in history as one of the most dangerous agents in American and British history. He put an end to America's nuclear hegemony and single-handedly heated up the Cold War. But, was Klaus Fuchs really evil?
Using archives long hidden in Germany as well as intimate family correspondence, Nancy Thorndike Greenspan brings into sharp focus the moral and political ambiguity of the times in which Fuchs lived and the ideals with which he struggled. As a university student in Germany, he stood up to Nazi terror without flinching, and joined the Communists largely because they were the only ones resisting the Nazis. After escaping to Britain in 1933, he was arrested as a German émigré--an "enemy alien"--in 1940 and sent to an internment camp in Canada. His mentor at university, renowned physicist Max Born, worked to facilitate his release. After years of struggle and ideological conflict, when Fuchs joined the atomic bomb project, his loyalties were firmly split. He started handing over top secret research to the Soviets in 1941, and continued for years from deep within the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Greenspan's insights into his motivations make us realize how he was driven not just by his Communist convictions but seemingly by a dedication to peace, seeking to level the playing field of the world powers.
With thrilling detail from never-before-seen sources, Atomic Spy travels across the Germany of an ascendant Nazi party; the British university classroom of Max Born; a British internment camp in Canada; the secret laboratories of Los Alamos; and Eastern Germany at the height of the Cold War. Atomic Spy shows the real Klaus Fuchs--who he was, what he did, why he did it, and how he was caught. His extraordinary life is a cautionary tale about the ambiguity of morality and loyalty, as pertinent today as in the 1940s.
Biographer Greenspan (The End of the Certain World) reconsiders Soviet spy Klaus Fuchs (1911 1988) in this richly detailed work. Born in Germany, Fuchs became a member of the Communist party as a university student in 1932, left the country after the 1933 Reichstag fire, and completed his PhD in theoretical physics in England. Following the outbreak of WWII, Fuchs's commitment to communism was "reinforced," Greenspan contends, during his internment at a camp for "enemy aliens" in Canada, where he befriended a Soviet intelligence agent. Released in 1941, Fuchs contributed research to the Manhattan Project and eventually became a division head at Britain's main nuclear-research facility. At every step of the way, he passed along top-secret information that helped the Soviets build their own atomic bomb faster than expected. Exposed as a spy in the Venona code-breaking project, Fuchs confessed in 1950 and served nine years in prison before immigrating to East Germany. Greenspan portrays Fuchs as a reticent figure motivated by sincere political beliefs and the idea that the free flow of information might prevent a nuclear arms race. Though the book's prose style is more diligent than dynamic, Greenspan builds tension by interweaving Fuchs's scientific and espionage pursuits with MI5's efforts to unmask him. This circumspect account blurs the lines between courage and treachery in thought-provoking ways.