Lore, Ludwig (1875-1942)

Ludwig Lore (sketch by Art Young)

Ludwig Lore (sketch by Art Young)

One of the founding members of the Communist Party of the USA, who was expelled in 1925 and later became a well-known free-lance journalist – and a secret agent of OGPU foreign intelligence (the INO).

Lore was born in 1875 into a German working class family in Silesia. At an early age, he got involved in radical politics by joining an underground socialist youth group. He attended Berlin University, where he studied under the renowned political economist, Werner Sombart, who preached the introduction of socially beneficial controls into the free enterprise system. Later, Lore became more interested in practice than theory. In 1903, after Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm placed heavy restrictions on labor’s freedom of expression, Lore immigrated to the United States. There, he soon joined the Socialist Party and later became executive secretary of its German branch and editor of its newspaper, the New Yorker Volkszeitung.

In 1917, Lore, then an associate editor of the Volkszeitung, was converted to communism by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who arrived in New York in the first days of January. Lore became close to Trotsky during the latter’s brief stay in New York – and supported his efforts to consolidate the revolutionary wing of the Socialist Party. Lore was an active force in realizing Trotsky’s idea of starting a new monthly Socialist periodical, The Class Struggle, which was published from 1917 to 1919 as a serious theoretical journal of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party. In September 1919, Lore became a founding member of the Communist Labor Party of America (CLP), organized by one of the two groups into which the Left Wing had split (the CLP soon joined the Comintern). In May 1920, he was a delegate to the so-called “Joint Unity Convention,” which organized the United Communist Party. (In 1924, this group would change its name to the Workers (Communist) Party of America, or WPA.)

In the years to come, Lore continued as the editor of the Volkszeitung and a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. He was well known in inner Comintern circles and was widely reported to be a close friend of Leon Trotsky. In 1924, Lore took Trotsky’s side in the latter’s party-shaking dispute with Joseph Stalin’s axis of the Soviet Communist Party. This decision backfired in 1925 when, following the 1924 World Congress of the Comintern, known as the “Bolshevization Congress,” the American Communist Party adopted its “Bolshevization” policy. Lore then led the party’s dissident minority, a fact that was used by Moscow to turn him into a sort of demon of the American Communist movement, just as Leon Trotsky was beginning to be demonized by the Soviet movement. In the course of the American party’s campaign against Lore and “Loreism,” Lore was attacked by Moscow as a representative of the right-wing trend in the Comintern. In August 1925, Lore was finally expelled from the WPA at its fourth national convention. The “Resolution on Bolshevization of the Party” that was adopted by the convention defined the task of Bolshevization as overcoming the party’s organizational and ideological social-democratic inheritance by means of eradicating Loreism. However, in the records of the CP USA and the Comintern, the fight against Lore and “Loreism” looks more like a personal fight than a fight about principles. 1

Expelled from the Communist Party, Lore continued to regard himself as part of the radical movement. Eventually, he became a free-lance journalist and wrote a popular daily column, “Behind the Cables,” in the New York Post – a title which promised to provide the real story behind foreign news cables. Lore’s columns focused on international affairs, particularly the menace of Nazism, and suggested some well-placed inside sources of information. Lore wrote for other magazines as well, such as Harper’s Magazine (e.g., “How Germany Arms,” in its April 1934 issue), The Nation (e.g., “Will Europe Go to War?” in its July 1937 issues) and others.

However, there was another, secret side to Lore’s pursuit for information, which surfaced only in recent years.

Click here to read about the outing of Ludwig Lore as a Soviet spy.

Around 1933, Lore came under the scrutiny of the OGPUillegalresidency, which had operated in New York City since 1930. Its resident since 1932, Valentin Markin, who was fluent in German, spotted Lore as a journalist writing on international topics who obviously possessed confidential sources of information. Markin recruited him “on a material basis” – that is, for a generous monthly stipend of $350. Lore was assigned an operational pseudonym, “Leo,” (later changed to “10th“) and soon became the centerpiece of Valentin Markin’s rapidly growing network, which appeared to have a vertical structure, with Lore serving as the so-called “pole” – i.e., the leader of an agent-group (in Russian, “agent-gruppovod”). As a talent-spotter, recruiter and the handler of several sources with whom the Soviet operatives had no contact, Lore delivered information to the Soviets and received money for himself and his sources. Although the Soviets considered Lore’s “political face uncertain and his ideological positions – confused,” their opinion early on was that “the sources he acquired looked like [they were] working, and not bad.”

According to a mid-1934 evaluation by Moscow Centre one of Lore’s sources, with the pseudonym “Willie” (later “11th“), provided “copies of reports to the U.S. Department of State from U.S. ambassadors, consuls and military attachés in Europe and in the Far East.” He was also able to “provide Cabinet decisions on foreign policy issues and reports on the activities of military intelligence.” Lore was passing “Willie” off as the head of the State Department’s Communications and Records Division – a key position in terms of obtaining copies of diplomatic communiqués. The job justified the monthly stipend of $500 that Lore received for his major asset. Another source, “Daniel” (later “12th“), according to Lore’s account, was also a State Department official, recruited with the assistance of “Willie.” “Daniel” provided “copies of minutes of conversations of the Secretary of State and his assistants with ambassadors of other countries” – for another $500 stipend received monthly by Lore. The materials provided by “Willie” and “Daniel” were considered by Moscow to be “of great value.” 2

Besides “Willie” and “Daniel,” other sources run by Lore included “James,” who was the former German consul in New York and provided valuable information on the activities of Germans in the USA and Europe; earlier, he had reportedly been involved with German intelligence and had allegedly run two sources at some U.S. government agencies. Other Lore sources were “Charlie,” described as a part-time consultant for DuPont with close connections in government circles, and “Gregor,” an economist. 3 The information Markin obtained through Lore was considered by Moscow to be highly valuable and even “precious”; as a result, its “top cream” was regularly reported to Joseph Stalin himself.

Click here to read more about Lore’s input discovered in the Joseph Stalin Papers in Moscow.

However, after Markin’s death in 1934 and the arrival of a new “illegal” resident, Boris Bazarov in the summer of 1935, Lore fell under suspicion. On June 5, 1935, Bazarov wrote to Moscow about his first impressions of Lore: ” ‘Leo’ gave me not just a cold welcome, but a cold shower. I understood all the measure of his independence in the work. According to Akhmerov, it was rather ‘Leo’ who was running Davis-Markin, … than the latter running ‘Leo.’ Always wearing the mask of a super-busy journalist; perennially in a hurry, failing in assignments and meetings, getting confused in his account; contradicting himself; referring to his poor memory or knowledge of many things. … The whole story is as dark as an autumn night…” 4

At first, the Soviet operatives decided that all Lore’s information from the Department of State “had actually come from only one source: ‘Willie.’ ” However, that conclusion was premature – and after months of checking into the situation, including the conducting of physical surveillance of Lore himself and his alleged sources, the Soviets managed by summer 1937 to ascertain that neither “Willie” nor “Daniel” were the State Department officials Lore was passing them off as. Moreover, in the course of around-the-clock surveillance of Lore’s Brooklyn home, it turned out that Lore’s operation was a so-called “paper mill”– which is to say that Lore used to supplement information obtained from some confidential sources with his own analysis and compilations. Finally, on July 2, 1937, Moscow Centre instructed its New York “illegals” to break off the relationship with “Leo” and “to take measures to avoid any hostile actions” on his part. 5

Click here to read more about the identification of Lore’s sources at the Department of State.

In fact, the Soviets’ case against Lore was not limited to his faking his major sources. Given the realities of 1937, which was the height of the Stalinist purges and show trials for participants in the so-called “Trotskyite conspiracy,” Lore’s long-time association with the demon of the Russian revolution, as Leon Trotsky had come to be labeled in the Soviet Union, was considered a far greater crime. According to one first-hand account, Lore “had maintained a close, if not active, relationship with Trotsky” until the latter’s death. 6

Furthermore, in the summer of 1937, Lore fell under suspicion for probably being privy to some details connected with the mysterious disappearance in the same month of Juliet Poyntz – a long-time CP USA functionary and, reportedly, a Comintern or Soviet intelligence agent in the 1930s. In 1925, Poyntz took Lore’s side in the party fight against Lore and “Loreism,” and, although she eventually recanted and pledged party allegiance, Lore continued to keep in touch with her. In fact, according to the account cited above, Lore was the last person who had seen Poyntz before her disappearance. 7

Here is how the writer of that account, one Guenther Reinhardt, described the scene at Lore’s home in July 1937:

A few days after Juliet’s [Poyntz] disappearance had been revealed, Lore asked me to his home. It was the home also of an unending pilgrimage of refugees, four cats, two dogs, a parrot, several hundred tropical fish, an unequalled private library of radical literature, a clipping file with nearly two million entries, the magnificently patient Mrs. Lore, and Lore’s three fine sons… 8

By that time, there was another frequent visitor to Lore’s hospitable home, one who would publish his own account years later: Whittaker Chambers. 9 According to Chambers’s account, he began visiting Lore’s house some time in 1936, and it soon became “a kind of second home.” 10 The relationship between the two men must have been pretty close and confidential for Chambers to make Lore the original safekeeper of his “life preserver,” the papers which, at the height of the Hiss-Chambers case 10 years later, would come to be known as “the Baltimore documents.” 11 The defense in the Hiss perjury trials and the FBI learned that Lore was the original keeper of the Baltimore documents in 1949, but this fact would not come fully to light until the late 1970s. It was Lore who eventually turned Chambers in to the FBI in 1941.

Click here to read more about the Lore-Chambers relationship.

By that time, Lore had been assigned to a “very secret Washington task-force,” as it was described in 1953 by his “task-force” colleague, the former journalist Guenther Reinhardt. According to Reinhardt, he had been a long-time presence in Lore’s home. Acquainted since 1928, Lore and Reinhardt had what looks like a close personal relationship by the mid-1930s:

Lore at that time was writing a foreign affairs column for the New York Post entitled “Behind the Cables.” I was ghosting a similar column, “The European Whirligig,” for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. Lore and I met often at his amazingly colorful home in Brooklyn, to compare notes on our separate sources of information abroad. Moreover, because of his obviously superior contacts for obtaining information about the Communist Party, I had told him of my connection with the FBI. His reticence about talking publicly of his former comrades, it was felt, might be overcome by the personal basis of our relations. The relationship did, in fact, pay rich dividends of information.

Reinhardt cited Lore’s “tip-off” to him about Chambers (whom Lore and Reinhardt, however, misidentified as a German) “among these enormously useful informative services rendered the government in this collaboration with Lore.” 12

The “very secret Washington task-force” Reinhardt described was the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) – the nation’s first peacetime non-departmental intelligence organization, founded in July 1941 (and in early 1942 split into the Office of Strategic Services – the OSS – and the Office of War Information (OWI.) 13 Lore, by all appearances, worked for the COI and later for the OSS Research and Analysis Branch (R&A). According to the account of a confidential informant cited in Lore’s FBI file (this informant was, most probably, Reinhardt ), Lore’s work consisted “of European political analyses and confidential reports on Communist situations.” 14

Lore died in New York on July 8, 1942. Guenther Reinhardt was present at Lore’s house at the time of his death, and reported the details to the FBI. According to Reinhardt, he “arranged for the FBI to purchase Lore’s entire archives…. Mrs. Lore apparently wanted her husband’s monument, as I did, where it would serve for the benefit of America’s security.” 15

Click here to read more of Reinhardt’s description of Lore.

  1. The preceding part of Ludwig Lore’s biography is documented in the records of the Communist Party of the USA and the Comintern. For further details, see My Life, by Leon Trotsky, New York: Scribner’s, 1930, chapter 22; as well as Leon Trotsky, by Ludwig Lore (http://www.marxisthistory.org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1018/1107-lore-trotsky.pdf). See also “Ludwig Lore,” in Biographical Dictionary of the American Left, ed. Bernard K. Johnpoll and Harvey Klehr, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986, pp. 252-253; Crime Without Punishment: The Secret Soviet Terror Against America, by Guenther Reinhardt, New York: New American Library, 1953, pp. 18-20.
  2. J.N. Kobjakov, “Bumazhnaja fabrika,” Ocherki istorii rossiiskoi vneshnei razvedki, t. 3, 1933-1941 gody, Moskva: Mezhdunarodnye otnoshenija, 2003, ss. 191-193 (“The Paper Mill,” by J.N. Kobyakov, in Essays on the History of Russian Foreign Intelligence, vol. 3, 1933-1941, Moscow: International Relations, 2003, pp. 191-193); The Sources in Washington, by Alexander Vassiliev, pp. 20-21. The latter is the 1996 Russian draft of several chapters by Vassiliev which became the basis of a great part of The Haunted Wood, Op. Cit. The draft is kept with the Allen Weinstein Papers, 1948-2000, Collection No, 2204C61, in The Hoover Institution Archives on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, and was discovered by Jeff Kisseloff in May 2007.
  3. Vassiliev, Op. Cit., pp. 21-22.
  4. “The Paper Mill,” by J.N. Kobyakov, Op. Cit., p. 193.
  5. Ibid., pp. 194-199.
  6. Crime Without Punishment, by Guenther Reinhardt, Op. Cit., p. 23.
  7. Ibid., pp. 18-25.
  8. Ibid., p. 18.
  9. Witness, by Whittaker Chambers, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952, pp. 352, 389-392.
  10. Ibid., pp. 389-390.
  11. FBI memo on interview with Mrs. Lore, undated (around the fall of 1949), FBI FOIA File, NY 65-14920, courtesy of Jeff Kisseloff.
  12. Guenther Reinhardt, Op. Cit., p. 17.
  13. See “COI Came First” at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/oss/art02.htm.
  14. “Ludwig Lore: Communist activities,” a report made in New York City, June 3, 1942, Ludwig Lore FBI FOIA file, NY File No. 100-33352, courtesy of Jeff Kisseloff, April 2009.
  15. Guenther Reinhardt, Op. Cit., pp. 26-27.