The death of Soviet secret agent Marcus Klingberg is a reminder that even the most fiercely ideological spies can have a deep compassion for the societies they live in.
Marcus Klingberg, “the most damaging spy in Israel’s history,” according to Israel’s security services, passed away earlier this week at the age of 97.
Klingberg was a dedicated communist, the kind that blindly believed in the Soviet Union’s promises of the 20th century. He spied for the USSR for over 30 years and passed on secrets and classified materials to which he had access as the deputy scientific director of the top-secret Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in the town of Ness Ziona.
“He believed that his goal was to strengthen socialism in the struggle between the Western and Eastern blocs and not to harm Israel, even if it doesn’t sound convincing to the average Israeli,” says Attorney Michael Sfard, who served as one of Klingberg’s lawyers.
In his autobiography, co-authored with Sfard, Klingberg describes how his spying was motivated by a fierce commitment to ideology, as opposed to what the Shin Bet originally claimed. Klingberg believed that for the sake of peace, the kind of knowledge that could be found in IIBR could not remain in the hands of only one side of the superpowers during the Cold War, and that only a balance of knowledge between the West and the East can protect humanity.
“My grandfather taught me a lesson in loyalty,” says Klingberg’s grandson, Ian Brossat, who serves as the deputy mayor of Paris on behalf of the French Communist Party. “I know that in Israel he is considered a traitor, but his entire life was dedicated to the Soviet Union. The Soviets gave him the opportunity not only to survive (Klingberg is a Holocaust survivor, h.m.), but also to fight the Nazis who massacred his family and people. He always remembered that.”
Klingberg’s book, however, describes how he was recruited as result of being dragged into the world of espionage by a member of Soviet intelligence, who worked out of the Russian church in south Tel Aviv and provided Klingberg with caviar sent to Israel through diplomatic mail.
The decision to work at a top-secret center dedicated to developing biological weapons, and the choice to disseminate the knowledge gained there to other states, looks strange to people who identify as socialists or leftists. But like Klingberg...Read More