Interview with Alexander Feklisov
Russian KGB Agent
Interviewer: How important was Klaus Fuchs?
Alexander Feklisov: Well when Klaus Fuchs was caught - he was betrayed by Harry Gold - it was written in the books.
Interviewer: How important was he as a spy?
Alexander Feklisov: I think this was the most important spy of the war for the Soviet Union for getting information about the atom bomb which was created in the United States. The atom bomb wasn't even hydrogen bomb and of highest importance. He, facilitated it alone the Soviet Union to shorten the period of creating the atom bomb maybe by four or five years at least, and that was all over the Soviet Union to economise about billions and billions of dollars.
Interviewer: I know he gave away a lot of secrets, but what were some of the most important secrets he gave away?
Alexander Feklisov: Well, practically he gave all the information about the first uranium bomb and plutonium bomb. He gave the whole theoretical basis. All sizes, everything what was needed to create, but certainly the Soviet scientists, they couldn't take it for granted. They experimented; they checked it whether it was worked, you know, by stages: one element of atom bomb, the other element, the third element. But still it helps a lot to create atom bomb in a very short time.
Interviewer: When the Kremlin, when Stalin heard about Fuchs' information, what did he say? And what decisions were taken?
Alexander Feklisov: You know, when first information came about the possibility to create the atom bomb, Beria was not certain. She said maybe it is misinformation and we've spent a lot of money, a lot of material, a lot of men all in vain. Then information was coming more and more exact, and the scientists, Soviet scientists Kurchatov and others said I guess it will work. It is correct information. So, he gave uranium, and he gave all the information felt to produce uranium twenty, two hundred thirty-five. Then he gave plutonium bomb, but he couldn't give the product, how plutonium was produced. It was produced at Columbia, he never was there. But when he arrived in London, the first thing he gave me and the first meeting was how the method of production of plutonium, and British started to build chemical plants at Windscale and Western Scotland, and he was so wanted to help us a lot. I remember what was missing in role of all Soviet scientists needed to produce plutonium, how to produce plutonium, he gave the information at the first meeting. There was practically three meetings, important for the United States, meeting with Gold at Fuchs house near Boston, then meeting at Los Alamos in June, and meeting at Los Alamos in September. Fuchs witnessed the explosion, the first explosion in Alamogordo.
Interviewer: So, what happened when the Kremlin heard Fuchs information?
Alexander Feklisov: Yes, the most important information of nuclear weapons was received from Fuchs March 18th, 1948. I asked even Fuchs at the first meeting about the super bomb, and he gave me just very basic. He said that for me until there is working in the United States on super bomb, and that all scientists say that it is possible to create, to build this super bomb. On March 18th, 1940, he gave me a written information about super bomb and also information about improved atomic bomb, atom bombs. Scientists evaluated this information, Vannikov and Kurchatov. They translated it and they reported to Stalin and his two others. Beria said that it, is a breakthrough in the science. We shouldn't allow Americans to build it first and go with Alamos, and so there were orders, there were decisions. You know, for the government, for scientists to organise several groups. There was Khariton then Sakharov and many more. All the best scientist was gathered and also were given a lot of money, even when Kurchatov said that how shall I ask him a lot of money from you, when the country is in ruins. It is hunger, it is cold, and Stalin answered him in a Russian proverb, "When child doesn't cry, mother doesn't understand what he, the child want." And he said "You cry, you ask for us, then we will give you."
Interviewer: Why did Fuchs give away secrets? What was his motive?
Alexander Feklisov: Well, he was Communist, you see. Ideologically he considered that communism is the highest stage of human society, and he was against and considered that private property is the source of the exploitation. Like not only Fuchs, he reviled, Gold also wrote about it; even Thomas More, I mean his book Utopia, he, they all wrote about this. Should society be created without exploitation?
Interviewer: Was Fuchs concerned about nuclear parity?
Alexander Feklisov: Yes, he was against American monopoly. Not only he, but also many scientists, were against monopoly, and, you see, when Fuchs was arrested and spent a term of ten years in British prison. When he was old, first they said that Fuchs was just a traitor, a spy, but now, many scientists say that Fuchs played very important part. Maybe, because of Fuchs and creation of the atomic weapons in the Soviet Union, there was no atomic conflict. There was no Americans who wanted to throw the atom bomb on Chinese troops in North Korea, then maybe in Caribbean crisis and many other things, because they were afraid of retaliation.
Interviewer: What did Fuchs say about why it was important for Russia to have a bomb too?
Alexander Feklisov: Well, in order to deprive United States of monopoly on atomic weapons, this is the in short. If they would have monopoly, then they will to intimidate every country to follow their way. Otherwise they will bomb several atomic weapons. You see now the United States, they don't throw atomic weapon, but atom bomb was just telling them, don't use it, otherwise you will give in return atomic weapons on your country.
Interviewer: Did you like Fuchs?
Alexander Feklisov: I liked him very much. I say that he was ideal for the job. It was so inspirational to work with him.
Alexander Feklisov: You see, I talk to him for instance, once in England, eh I said, Klaus, why don't you marry your Mary? It will be good for you, you will be invited to society, to most higher circles. You will be promoted to in your work and you will be more respected person. You know respect. He said "you see, I understand that what I am doing working with you. It's like I am treading through the field of mines. One wrong step and my life is over. I am already for it", he said, "but I don't want that my wife, my children will suffer because of me." He was a revolutionary and I think he - he was. When I was at his grave in Berlin, I knelt and bowed three times, and the German's ask, "Why have you three times knelt?" I said, "Well just for me, because I was lucky to meet him. Then, as well thanks to him. The second kneel, how to say?
Interviewer: Bow, kneel?
Alexander Feklisov: It is from the Soviet people. He showed the world and other people. I will give this symbol that all Soviet people is owed to him, and the certain general progressive man in the world. I told you when Soviet atom bomb on 29th August, 1949 was exploded and that brought the reception and Stalin was present, and he was in good mood. What he said that Kurchatov and Harriton, you know, if we were late about year and half, about two years, we would feel the American atom bomb on our shoulders.
Interviewer: How was Fuchs caught? What led to his arrest?
Alexander Feklisov: Well, he was caught very simply. Betrayed by Harry Gold his nickname was Raymond. You know, when his room was searched, they found the map of Los Alamos, even there was a place where they met in the Albuquerque. They met at the bridge that crossed. They knew the schedule of bosses, everything. But before that, he said that I never was in the West. Well, one American writer said he was a weak thing. He couldn't say no to any question what was during interrogation. He gave the whole, and now, well, it is all written that reported to President Truman the power and the source of leak, atomic leak, it is Fuchs, and they said this in the message to the British counter intelligence. Then they in March, 1950, they received the first information about that Fuchs is the agent of the Soviet Union. For America they very quickly made some measures and arrested him. But I will tell you, Fuchs he confessed that he told everything. He told to Harry Gold all the places where he didn't give my name, because he didn't know it. He knew me only as Eugene. And that's all.
Interviewer: Why did he confess?
Alexander Feklisov: I think British thought that instead of me with Klaus was working an illegal, so they didn't pay attention to the people who worked at the embassy and the other Soviet officers. But there was the second secretary of the Soviet embassy. So when he was but caught, he was jailed very quickly, one hour after. There was no jury, no, just the main squadron who interrogated him; he was the only witness. But, I will have to say those words to the British justice. They showed that they were well independent from the government. They tried him according to the law, because he works for the Soviet Union and Soviet Union was ally, not the enemy. If the Soviet Union was enemy that he would of been killed, but that he got fourteen years. He behaved while in prison very exemplary, because all chiefs of the prison, they liked him, and he gave the lectures of mathematics, on English. All the prison guards were present, and they like you, and the chief of the prison said "oh, no problems with prisoners became very, very good."
Interviewer: What work did you do with the Rosenbergs?
Alexander Feklisov: The Rosenbergs were, like me, in January, in electronics, so we are each other freely. I would say that he gave us important information, but in the field of electronics, they provided us information with different kind of radars.
Alexander Feklisov: Radars. They gave most information, this different kind of sonars, or at the American name and the British name Aztec. It's underwater radar. They find submarines.
Interviewer: Underwater radars?
Alexander Feklisov: They gave information about the sight, you know, how to bump exactly certain targets, as they were. All this information was very important because electronics, and they needed them for atom bomb production.
Interviewer: But did they give away important atomic information?
Alexander Feklisov: No, not at all, only information about David Greenglass. It's brother of his wife. But, he was not an engineer, he was just high-school boy. He was about I think, nineteen or twenty. And he was just a volunteer, because he said while there in Los Alamos, there were two counter intelligence. One, and then military counter intelligence, and they were watching everybody, because many people asked why Soviet Union was not given information about it. But in general during the War, the American didn't give the newest military technology. For instance, they didn't give bombers to to bomb Berlin and the other cities, but they give the bombers, front line bombers. They have their range of distance, maybe three hundred kilometres, just to bomb front line.
Interviewer: Were the Rosenbergs important atomic spies?
Alexander Feklisov: No, he was not important atomic spy. All information from Julius Rosenberg came to me, to my hands, and it was in my hand. Only information or from Greenglass was one paper, and there the paper was given to Harry Gold, and one oral information during talk with Yatzkov. They talked in Russian, but I told you that after that conversation, Yatzkov gave judgement that he is not useful as a source of atomic information. Practically, I didn't know anything about Lona Cohen, and only they, Yatzkov showed me her picture in order, you see. Coffee shop was very small, maybe this room, there the was this place door, then counter was on this side. Lona was sitting in the middle, and she was very nervous, and when I came I just studied all persons there. And I couldn't find that anybody could be our agent.
Interviewer: She wasn't being followed?
Alexander Feklisov: Yes, I already was experienced then Lona went out, and I saw whether anybody will follow her. Nobody followed her. Then Yatzkov was on the other side of the street, and I gave him sign that everything was clear. I just took off my hat and went to the lift, and then they met and he received the material.
Interviewer: Now, did they say that this was an important meeting?
Alexander Feklisov: Yes. You see, I told you that Korostikov and also Yatzkov, they, I didn't know that, about this problem of atom bomb. Well, I'll tell you frankly, I liked so much electronics, I studied in the institute for five years, and I had very good talks with Rosenberg, and we discussed all. I already knew all of different kind of radar and size, and sonar. Everything, you see, and I was just in love with electronics. Korostikov didn't like when I asked something of the work with other agents. So I never asked what kind of agent has Yatzkov. So, with Yatzkov we were very good friends. We would very often play chess. He was a chess player, and we knew each other from 1939 'till his death, 1992. It's practically fifty years.
Interviewer: You were saying to me that they told you about this meeting, that Lona Cohen was an important agent, and she was bringing material that was going to be handed over?
Alexander Feklisov: I knew that Lona, I didn't know her name, just photograph, she will bring important material, but she was just connection man.
Alexander Feklisov: Yeah, between some agent, I don't know who, and Yatzkov.
Interviewer: But they told you she was an important agent?
Alexander Feklisov: Yes, she was receiving material from an important agent. When they tried Rosenberg, they accused him of stealing atom bomb. But he never did it. He didn't understand anything about it.
Interviewer: And his wife?
Alexander Feklisov: Even, Edgar Hoover wrote memorandum to the President that they shouldn't put on electric chair Ethel Rosenberg. There was such a anti-Soviet atmosphere in the United States. Such terrible Cold War, they wanted to kill somebody for the fact that Soviet Union so quickly built atom bomb. They asked the British to give them Fuchs to try. But British said he is a British citizen, and we will try him by ourselves.
Interviewer: How did you feel when the Rosenbergs were executed?
Alexander Feklisov: You see, Fuchs was a much more important agent, and he had the highest important information, too. But Rosenberg gave information less important, you see, and we thought maybe he will be sentenced to seven, ten years, you see? And we never thought that the Rosenbergs would be killed.
Interviewer: How did you feel when they were killed?
Alexander Feklisov: I said that I already did work in the scientific intelligence, but in political, still they met with Yatzkov very, practically everyday, and I'll tell you, they made a lot of mistakes. For instance we should say that Rosenberg was our agent. And to tell what kind of information we could make it easier for Rosenberg to confess. They would confess, too. That it would be easier to find people who will testify for Rosenberg. There were many lawyers who testified, I think six, but then we could nobody is ever association of lawyers anti-fascist. They could - the whole association will stand by Rosenberg, will defend him. And there were millions who were manifesting against killing Rosenberg. You know the ambassadors in France and in Italy, they wrote to State Department that we are encircled by demonstrators. We are, you know, encircled. We are afraid to go out, but if Soviet Union was, they will speak for the friends of ours, not for the friends and to decrease the sentence. Listen, then China - many there were anti-Fascist movement in Europe, very high. You know, even in 1948, there were meeting of foreign ministers in London. Molotov said 'let's conduct election of both Germans and let them elect a government with Americans and British now. It is that many people live very poorly in Germany. So anti-Fascist must know this very high. We will help them to organize good learning. You see the Cold War was still terrible, terrible.
© 1999 Abamedia, unless otherwise indicated.