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Dr. Arnold Deutsch (1903–1942?), variously described as Austrian, Czech or Hungarian, was an academic who worked as a Soviet spy, best known for having recruited Kim Philby. Much of his life remains unknown or disputed.
He was a cousin of Oscar Deutsch, the millionaire proprietor of the Odeon Cinemas chain. Though he claimed to be an observant Jew to disguise his role as a Communist agent, Deutsch was in fact lapsed in his religious beliefs.
At the age of 24, Deutsch received with distinction his PhD in chemistry from the University of Vienna. He was also a follower of Wilhelm Reich and his "sex-pol" movement. His remarkable academic record opened opportunities to penetrate the highest institutions in many Western countries.
At the same time, Deutsch embarked on his lifelong involvement with Communism and the Soviet Union. In the 1920s he was working for the OMS, the International Liaison Department of the Comintern. A co-worker of his there was Edith Suschitzky, whom he met at 1926 in Vienna and who would be instrumental in his later espionage career.
Deutsch then travelled to Britain under his real name, so that his university credentials would be valid. Upon arriving in England, Deutsch studied psychology at the graduate level at the University of London, as his cover for espionage work in England.
The writer Nigel West asserts, based on the information provided in 1940 by Soviet defector Walter Krivitsky, that Deutsch had been an assistant of the Latvian-born senior Soviet spy Adam Purpis, who according to the same source was between 1931 and 1934 the NKVD Illegal Rezident (i.e. agent operating outside the embassy) in the UK.
Deutsch's legacy from his time in Britain is to have come up with a highly successful agent recruitment strategy. Deutsch observed that the high quantity of Communist students and constant turnover due to matriculation and graduation provided an excellent recruiting ground. The idea was to select capable, idealistic students and have them publicly distance themselves from Communism so that they could penetrate the British government and intelligence spheres. The students' former involvement in Communism would be overlooked by the British as a mere youthful mistake. This strategy produced many well-placed agents, most notably the Cambridge Five, the first of which was Kim Philby, whom Deutsch recruited directly.
When Litzi Friedmann and Kim Philby, who had just married in Vienna, arrived in London from Vienna in 1934, Edith Suschitzky suggested to Deutsch that the NKVD should recruit Friedmann and Philby as agents. Deutsch recruited Kim Philby in Regent's Park, London, on 1 July 1934. Using the code name Otto, Deutsch was the controller for the Cambridge Five spy ring from 1933 to 1937, when he was replaced by Theodore Maly.
During his time in the United Kingdom, Deutsch was given the task of evaluating an American recruit, Michael Straight, who did not impress him. Deutsch's evaluation of Straight was to be borne out almost thirty years later, in 1963, when Straight decided to voluntarily inform Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a family friend, about his communist connections from his student days at Cambridge University, a confession which led directly to the exposure of Anthony Blunt as a recruiter and member of the Cambridge Five spy ring.
In September 1937, in the midst of Joseph Stalin's widespread and deadly Moscow purge trials, Deutsch was recalled to Moscow. At that time, Deutsch was at great risk of being discovered in western Europe, because of the defections of the highly placed Soviet operatives Ignace Reiss and Walter Krivitsky; he had been familiar with some elements of their operations.
Back in Moscow, Deutsch was extensively debriefed, and managed to escape execution – which, at the time, was the fate of many completely loyal Communists. He was employed as an expert on forgery and handwriting, and was not allowed to go abroad again until the early 1940s.
Deutsch's final fate is uncertain. Among theories which have been proposed by various authors, Deutsch was said to have been captured and shot by the Nazis after parachuting into Austria; or as having drowned when his ship was sunk by a U-boat while en route to New York, where he was supposed to work with NKVD recruits.
Kim Philby's fourth and last wife, Rufina, cites the drowning story, but says that the Russian sources are divided on where Deutsch was headed when his ship, the Donbass, was sunk on its way to the United States. She says that Volume 3 of the KGB History states that Deutsch's eventual destination was Latin America, but then says that Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vasilliev, citing KGB files, write, in Haunted Wood, that Deutsch was headed to the New York residency to expand its operations.