Alexander Vassiliev’s Notebooks: Cover Names — Some Cases of Misidentification

This is one of a series of work-in-progress dossiers intended to help American scholars and students in their use of Alexander Vassiliev’s Notebooks as a historical source. Unfortunately, “Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance,” compiled by historian John Earl Haynes and posted at Woodrow Wilson Institute’s website does not provide the necessary background information. Moreover, in a number of cases the information it provides may be misleading, confusing and simply not true. 1

In this dossier you may find discussion of some of the most obvious cases of misidentification of some of the cover names that appear in Vassiliev’s notebooks.

Case I: Source “11th”/”Willie” misidentified as David A. Salmon

In the Alexander Vassiliev Notebooks “Concordance” file of the “Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology,” compiled by espionage historian John Earl Haynes in 2008 and posted at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s website, 2 we read:

 “11” (cover name in Vassiliev notebooks): Soviet intelligence source/agent at the State Department, subsource of “10”/“Leo”. Likely David A. Salmon. Also known as “Willy”. 3

“11th”/“Willie” (apparently a German-origin pseudonym that Haynes and his co-author, historian Harvey Klehr misspelled as an anglicized “Willy) 4 was misidentified as “likely David A. Salmon.” “10th”/”Leo” was Ludwig Lore, who served as an agent-group-leader [“gruppovik”] and talent-spotter for the INO OGPUillegal” station in New York from early 1930s until 1937. Lore was giving one of his sources at the Department of State as David A. Salmon, to justify a handsome monthly stipend of $500 for that alleged source. However, this misidentification was based on an incomplete set of notes, which Vassiliev had taken on circumstantially related files (mostly on the file of another Soviet source, Laurence Duggan, an official at the Department of State.) A much more definitive story of Ludwig Lore’s operations that was apparently based on Lore’s case-file, was written by a retired KGB Major General Julius Kobyakov for the third volume of the semi-official history of the Russian foreign intelligence. Kobyakov’s chapter is clear that by the spring of 1937, the Soviet “illegal” operatives in the United States had uncovered Lore’s cheating and ascertained the identity of his real source at the Department of State.

In fact, Vassiliev’s notes on Laurence Duggan’s file provide a definitive clue that by May, 1937, the Soviet operatives had learned the real identity of “11th”/”Willie.” Under his notes on the Moscow Center’s May 14, 1937 letter to its New York resident, “Nord” (Boris Bazarov), that asked if the source “19th” [Laurence Duggan] could provide more materials “regarding the US data on the Soviet military-naval supply orders,” Vassiliev made the following notation in brackets, that apparently was his brief summary of Bazarov’s response to the Center’s query:

     “[The actual “11” didn’t give “19” the folder, because these materials should not be of interest to 19.]” 5

 Click here to read more on the misidentification of David Salmon as source “Willie”/”11th”


Case II: Source “James” misidentified as a Thomas Schwartz 

John Haynes’s “Concordance” file of the “Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology,” says:

 “James” [Dzhems] (cover name in Vassiliev notebooks): Thomas Schwartz, 1935, described as former German consul. 6

 In Alexander Vassiliev’s notes on a few communiqués from 1934 and 1935 “Dzhems” (“James”) was described as a former German consul in New York by the name of Schwartz who provided “valuable information regarding German activities in the USA and Europe” in exchange for a monthly stipend of $400. According to Vassiliev’s excerpted notes, “James” was originally a contact of American journalist Ludwig Lore, who since early 1930s served as an agent-group-leader [“gruppovik”] and talent-spotter for the INO OGPU “illegal” station in New York, which until August 1934 was headed by an “illegal” resident Valentin Markin ["Davis”] Following Markin’s death in August 1934, “James” was reportedly transferred from a contact with Lore to a direct contact with Soviet “illegal” operatives and was ultimately put in contact with “Jung,” which was the cover name of the Soviet “illegal” Iskhak Akhmerov during his first posting in the USA. 7

From this brief account it follows that as of 1934-1935, “James,” described as the former German consul in New York by the name of Schwartz was continuously run on the New York “illegal” line, originally through the contact with Ludwig Lore and since or after September 1934, through the contact with Soviet “illegal” operatives (unidentified “King,” who was soon substituted by “Jung”/Akhmerov.) Vassiliev’s notes provide one more clue to “James”’s identity – that as of late 1934, the former German consul worked “at a commercial company.”

It is difficult to say if Vassiliev’s co-authors, historians Haynes and Klehr, had tried to pursue these clues before they wrote without a shade of doubt in their identification of another of Ludwig Lore’s sources:

        The KGB New York station also assigned Lore liaison duties with Thomas Schwartz, a former German consul living in New York who had become a KGB source. … 8

 But does Thomas Schwartz fit in with the particulars of “James” in Vassiliev’s notes? 

In Vassiliev’s notes Thomas Schwartz appears in an October 3, 1935 report by “Grin” on Nazi activities as “Grin”’s “contact, who worked in the German office at the Worker’s center” in New York. 9 A “German office at the Worker’s center” looks a rather unlikely place for “a commercial company” – “James”’s reported workplace as of 1934-1935.

“Grin” is identified as journalist John Spivak, who covered the activities of Trotskyists, as well as pro-Nazi groups in the United States. “Grin”’s report was sent to Moscow from the INO New York “legal” station, whose operations and sources were compartmentalized from the operations and sources on the “illegal” line. (This is apparent from a hand-written notation under “Grin”’s report made by “Nickolai”, which was the cover name of Petr Gutzeit, the INO “legal resident” from 1934 to 1938.

These disconnects make a Thomas Schwartz in Vassiliev’s notes an improbable candidate for the former German consul Schwarz (a more proper German spelling than in the translation of Vassiliev’s notebooks.) Still, the question remains: Who was the actual former German consul in New York Schwarz?

A quick check in the on-line records of The New York Times revealed that the actual name of the former German consul was Dr. Paul Schwarz (1882-1951) – a long-time German civil servant and diplomat, who served as the German Acting Consul and Consul General in New York from 1928 to early 1933, when he was ousted by the Nazis. According to contemporary reports, “the genial, portly consul” was very popular with newspapermen and “always known as a liberal,” who proclaimed himself “an enemy of the Hitler regime.” As a result, on April 11, 1933, Schwarz became the first German diplomatic official to be dismissed by Hitler. He decided to remain in the United States, considering that there was no place for people like him in Nazi Germany. 10

When in April 1933 his diplomatic passport became obsolete, Dr. Schwarz went to Montreal and returned to the United States as an ordinary immigrant – determined to eventually become an American citizen. Soon after, he became an investment counselor with Halle & Steiglitz, who offered him a job despite the fact that the former diplomat of twenty years had never seen a stock market ticket. Dr. Schwarz remained in the brokerage business for many years to come. 11 In the same year, he joined Inter-Scholastic German Club and emerged as a distinct public voice against the Nazi atrocities. Dr. and Mrs. Paul Schwarz lived at 230 Central Park South, and were popular figures in New York social life – entertaining visiting dignitaries at St. Moritz Hotel, attending numerous social functions, frequenting luxurious spa resorts.  

In April 1939, Dr. Schwarz and his British-born wife entered into American citizenship. 12 In a patriotic gesture, on April 26, 1942, the 60-year old former consul registered in New York for military duty. 13 By that time he was completing a book about the Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, which would be published next year. 14 Dr. Schwarz died in Bonn, Germany in August 1951. 15


Case III: Agent “Paul” misidentified as Maxim Lieber

The “Concordance” file compiled by John Earl Haynes asserts:

“Lieber, Maxim: Soviet intelligence agent. Immigrant from Poland, naturalized U.S. citizen. Lieber, a literary agent, was a Communist and undertook a variety of tasks for the CPUSA underground and Soviet intelligence in the 1930s, including assisting Whittaker Chambers’ GRU-linked apparatus. Chambers’ stated that Lieber had the cover name “Paul” in the underground.282 Cover names in Vassiliev’s notebooks: “Paul”, “Pol”.”

 ““Paul” [Paul']: (cover name in Vassiliev’s notebooks): Pseudonym treaded as a cover name. Likely Maxim Lieber. “Paul” was used by a GRU agent who approached Harold Glasser in 1940 in connection with “Karl’s” group. Whittaker Chambers identified “Paul” as the pseudonym of Lieber and discussed has role in the party underground and as part of GRU espionage activities.350 Note that while Glasser reported he was approached by “Paul” [Paul'], KGB officers in their summaries often substituted “Pol” [Pol’] a Russian variant of Paul, for Paul’, the other Russian version of Paul.”

 ““Pol’” (cover name in Vassiliev notebooks): See “Pol”. Russian variant of the name Paul.” 

“Paul” was a Russian cover name that appears in Alexander Vassiliev notes as a German name, spelled in Russian as [Pa-ul'] and as a French name, which is spelled in Russian as [Pol']. It does not appear as a Russian name [Pa-vel].” The French cover name “Pol’” also appears in a single Venona decryption of a cable sent from Washington, D.C. to Moscow on March 30, 1945. 16

As a German name “Paul” appears in Vassiliev’s notes on a few NKGB documents from December 1944. They describe “Paul’’” as someone who “in June 1940 tried to find an approach” to “Ruble,” previously used to meet with “Karl — an incident which “Ruble” described in his personal history [“avtobiografiia”], which he prepared for NKGB resident in Washington, D.C. Anatoly Gorsky [“Vadim”] at the time of his recruitment. Upon receipt of this information, Moscow Center ascertained that “Paul’” “worked for the neighbors,” that is, the military intelligence service, GRU – and instructed Gorsky “to warn ‘Ruble’ not to come into contact with “Paul’” in case the latter “appeared again.” 17

As a French name, “Pol’” appears in Vassiliev’s notes on a cable sent by “Vadim” to Moscow Center on March 5, 1945, which describes some circumstances of a person with a cover name “Ales,” who appears as “Vadim”’s target for recruitment. “Pol’” is described as someone with whom “Ales” “came in contact” “after the loss of contact with ‘Karl‘” – and with whom “Ruble” “declined” to make contact. “Vadim”’s follow up cable from March 30, 1945, which was partially decrypted in the course of Venona operation and is commonly known as “Venona 1822,” ascertained “Ales”’s status as a source of NKGB’s military neighbors.“Pol’” appears as someone with whom “Ales” “has been working” “in all the recent years,” and “who also occasionally meets [with] other members of the group.”

The correlation of circumstances described in Vassiliev’s notes and in Venona 1822 makes it certain that both Russian variants of the name Paul – as a German and as a French name – stood for the same person, who appeared as an agent of the GRU. That person likely used the name as the so-called “street” or “work” name – an assumed name an agent uses in his everyday contacts in the underground.

In Vassiliev’s notes and in Venona1822 the identity of the agent hidden behind this cover name was not identified. In the course of his libel suit in London against the British publisher of John Lowenthal (a lawyer, writer and Alger Hiss defender), Vassiliev was questioned about the identity of “Pol’” in his notes on “Vadim”’s March 5, 1945 cable. At that time Vassiliev said that he did “not know the real name of a person with a code-name ‘Pol’ or ‘Paul’.”18 However, a few years earlier, in his letter to Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation magazine, Vassiliev explained that “code-names ‘Pol’ (or Paul)” referred to “an operative (probably station chief) of the Soviet military intelligence (GRU) in the U.S.” 19       

Since 2007, John Earl Haynes and his co-author, Harvey Klehr, have been misidentifying this cover name as Maxim Lieber, on a sole merit that this left-wing literary agent and an associate of Whittaker Chambers in 1930s, had used the name “Paul” (spelled by Chambers as an English name) as his name in the “Communist underground.” 

However, crosschecking these sources against information and documentation that has recently become available in Russia, confirms that “Pol’” and “Paul’” both refer to the same person with the cover name of “Doctor.” “Doctor” has recently been identified in Russian publications as an agent-group leader and liaison officer of the GRU’s “Omega” group ["rezidentura"] in Washington, D.C. from 1940 to 1945, which was headed by station chief Lev Sergeev (“Moris“). 

In Russia, “Doctor” appeared in a few books and a magazine article written by Vladimir Lota, a writer with military background and a privileged access to the GRU records. 20 Lota’s description of «Doctor” is rather confusing, probably, deliberately, to prevent identification of this man, who, according to Lota and other sources, had never been suspected in cooperation with the Soviet intelligence.

A more clear description of “Lota” has been provided by Mikhail Boltunov, a Russian military journalist and editor-in-chief of “Orientir” (Orientation) magazine published by the Russian Department of Defense. 21

In a chapter devoted to Lev Sergeev and his “Omega” group, which is apparently based on the same or similar primary sources that were used by Lota, Boltunov describes Sergeev’s first meeting with “Doctor” a month and a half after his own arrival in Washington on April 1, 1940 (that is, in mid-June, 1940.) For this meeting, Sergeev travelled to New York, where “Doctor” lived. From Boltunov’s account of the meeting it is clear that prior to it “Doctor” had tried to resume contact with a few sources the contact with whom was broken following the betrayal of agent “Sotyi” (“100th”) in 1938. 22 These particulars correlate with “Ruble”’s account that in early 1940 he was approached by “Paul’” 

Boltunov further describes “Doctor” as “the key figure of Sergeev’s station [“rezidentura”], its group-leader [“gruppovod”], who performed liaison functions in Sergeev’s “Omega” group.

Describing the group’s operation, Boltunov emphasizes that its resident, Sergeev, himself had not met with any of his sources – with liaison functions performed by “Doctor,” who was specially trained in this tradecraft and travelled for the meetings to Washington, D.C. from his base in New York. 23 These particulars correlate with the description of the liaison functions of “Pol’” both in March 5, 1945 cable in Vassiliev’s notes and in the follow up March 30, 1945 cable in Venona decryption. The latter said that “Pol’” was someone who had been a continuous contact of the GRU source “Ales” and who “also meets other members of the group…” 

So, “Paul’”/”Pol’” is identical with “Doctor,” which was this man’s operational GRU cover name. But could he be Maxim Lieber? 

According to the particulars in Boltunov’s account of the archival sources, “Doctor” was a medical doctor by occupation and background and a long-time agent of the Soviet military intelligence, who was recruited in Europe “in 1934 by a well-known military intelligence officer Oskar Stigga and in 1930s performed various intelligence tasks in Poland, Rumania and Austria.” “Following the decision of the Center, he moved to the USA in 1939,” settled in New York and later obtained a license for private medical practice. 24 

These particulars exclude Maxim Lieber as a candidate for the cover name of “Doctor” – and, by implication, exclude him as a plausible candidate for “Paul’”/“Pol’”.

To be continued

  1. Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance: Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology Compiled by John Earl Haynes, 2008 1409&fuseaction= topics. documents&group_id=511603
  2. Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance. Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology. Compiled by John Earl Haynes, 2008. id=1409&fuseaction=topics.documents&group_id=511603
  3. Ibidem.
  4. It appeared as “Willie” in the first book based on Alexander Vassiliev’s notes, The Haunted Wood. Soviet Espionage in America– the Stalin Era, by Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, Random House, New York, 1999, pp. 34-37.
  5. Center to Nord, 14.5.37, Alexander Vassiliev, Yellow Notebook #2, p. 13 (emphasis added), citing Archival # 36857 v. 1 “Prince” Laurence Duggan file. Translated by Philip Redko, reviewed and edited by Alexander Vassiliev and John Earl Haynes (2007). Posted on the website of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project, topic_id= 1409&fuseaction= topics. documents&group_id = 511603
  6. Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance. Op. cit.
  7.  Nickolai’s report on the “Grin’s” line, July 1935, Alexander Vassiliev’s Black Notebook, p. 14, referenced to “Grin’s” report in English; “Plan of work for Davis’s station for the 2nd half of 1934 (From Center – to the station), Alexander Vassiliev Black Notebook, pp. 35-36; “Nikolai: NY – Center, 22.09.34,” Ibid., pp. 37-38; “Report by chief of sector 1 INO GUGB Grafpen to deputy chief of INO GUGB Comrade Berman, dated 27.11.34,” Ibid., p. 38; “Work plan for Nord’s station (Dec. 1934),” Ibidem. Vassiliev referenced his notes to Archival No 17643, vol. 1 (“Illegals File; org. file 0390), Ibid., p. 35.
  8. Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Yale University Press, 2009, p. 156.
  9. “Report by “Grin” on Nazi activities (3.10.35),” Alexander Vassiliev’s Black Notebook, p. 11; referenced to Archival 3461, vol. 1, p. 140.
  10. “Schwarz Ousted As Reich Consul; Assails Hitler,” The New York Times, April 12, 1933.
  11. “The Talk of the Town, ‘Ex-Consul’,” New Yorker, July 20, 1940, p. 9.
  12. “Pre-Nazi Consul Now U.S. Citizen,” The New York Times, April 4, 1939.
  13. The New York Times, April 27, 1942.
  14. This Man Ribbentrop, His Life and Times, by Dr. Paul Schwarz, New York: J. Messner, 1943.
  15. “Dr. Schwarz Dies; Once Consul Here; German Envoy Was Dismissed by Nazis in 1933 and Became Broker for Stock Firm,” The New York Times, August 28, 1951.
  16. “Vadim” report to Moscow Center, December 18, 1944; Moscow Center to “Vadim,” December 22, 1944; “Ruble”’s personal history, Alexander Vassiliev White Notebook #3, pp.  24-26, 48; “Vadim” report to Moscow Center, March 5, 1945, Alexander Vassiliev Black Notebook, p. 51; Venona KGB Washington to Moscow#1822, March 30, 1945.
  17. “Vadim” report to Moscow Center, December 18, 1944; Moscow Center to “Vadim,” December 22, 1944; “Ruble”’s personal history, Alexander Vassiliev White Notebook #3, pp.  24-26, 48.
  18. Vassiliev to Hartwig, Re: Alexander Vassiliev v Frank Cass & Co Ltd, April 16, 2002 in Alexander Vassiliev Papers, The Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, box 6, folder “Vassiliev vs. Franz Cass & Co Ltd, Correspondence, Vassiliev, 1997-2003.”
  19. Vassiliev to Victor Navasky, October 17, 1999, Alexander Vassiliev Papers, Ibid.
  20. Vladimir Lota. Moris vyhodit na sviaz’, Krasnaia Zvezda, 6 maia 2006  (Vladimir Lota, “‘Maurice’” Comes out into Contact, Red Star, May 6, 2006; Vladimir Lota, Za gran’ju vozmozhnogo: Voennaja razvedka Rossii na dal’nem Vostoke, 1918-1945. Moskva: Kuchkovo pole, 2008, s. 378, 381-382, 393, 401 (Beyond the Limits of the Possible: The Russian Military Intelligence in the Far East, 1918-1945, by Vladimir Lota, Moscow: Kuchckovo Pole, 2008, pp. 378, 381-382, 393, 401); Vladimir Lota, Informatory Stalina: Neizvestnye operatsii sovetskoi voennoi razvedki. 1944-1945. Moskva: Tsentrpoligraf, 2009, s. 21-29, 36-37 (Stalin’s Informers: The Unknown Operations of the Soviet Military Intelligence. 1944-1945, by Vladimir Lota, Moscow: Tsentrpolygraph, 2009, pp. 21-29, 36-37.
  21. “Nash chelovek v Vashingtone” – Mikhail Boltunov, Razvedchiki, izmenivshie mir, Moskva: Algoritm, 2009, s. 108-139. (“Our Man in Washington”, in The Intelligence Officers Who Changed the World, by Mikhail Boltunov, Moscow: Algorythm, 2009, pp. 108-139.)
  22. Ibid., pp. 120-121.
  23. Ibid., pp. 120-121.
  24. Ibid., pp. 111-112.