Special Report

The Most Famous Spies in History

Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

Klaus Fuchs (1911-1988)

A German nuclear physicist with communist sentiments, Klaus Fuchs fled Germany in 1933 and eventually found work in Britain’s “Tube Alloy” atomic project and the Manhattan Project. As part of a spy ring for the KGB, he organized with other famous spies including Morris and Lona Cohen to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Fuchs confessed to spying in 1950 and served nine years in a British prison before returning to East Berlin to a hero’s welcome.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Yisrael Bar (1912-1966)

An Austrian-born Israeli citizen, Yisrael Bar was an Israeli military expert whose broad knowledge gained him a high position in Israel’s Ministry of Defense. In reality, Bar was a Soviet spy, and not even Jewish, who had infiltrated the Israeli government under the assumed identity of a man who had been dead for years. The extent of the information he passed on to the KGB will never be known, as Bar kept his lips sealed throughout imprisonment and died in prison.

Source: Harold Clements / Getty Images

Harold “Kim” Philby (1912-1988)

A communist at Cambridge during the Cold War, Kim Philby became the head of a counterespionage section of the British Secret Intelligence Services. He was later revealed to be the most successful member of the Cambridge Five spy ring that passed British secrets to the Soviets from the 1930s to the 1950s. Philby defected to the Soviet Union before he was found out, and was never prosecuted.

Melita Norwood (1912-2005)

An assistant to the director of a British atomic research center, Melita Norwood passed atomic secrets to the Soviets for 37 years before finally being exposed at age 87, well into her retirement. Born to communist-sympathizing parents and a devout communist herself, Norwood asserted that her work helped avert World War III. She was never prosecuted.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

Julius Rosenberg (1918-1953) and Ethel Rosenberg (1915-1953)

The first American citizens ever to be executed for espionage, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in the ’40s as part a group that leaked atomic bomb diagrams. While Ethel and her brother were likely responsible for recruiting Julius, who served as a courier, Ethel’s role as a spy remains unclear. Prosecutors later admitted to pushing the death penalty on Ethel to coerce her husband into confessing his crimes.

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