Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five best books on Soviet espionage

Allen M. Hornblum has been executive director of Americans for Democratic Action, chief of staff of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, and a college lecturer. His books include Sentenced to Science, Acres of Skin, Confessions of a Second Story Man, and The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb.

One of his five best books on Soviet espionage, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Engineering Communism
by Steven T. Usdin (2005)

This little-known gem of a book is about Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, two idealistic New York engineers and members of the Rosenberg spy ring who decamped for the Soviet bloc in 1950, before the FBI could arrest them. Steven T. Usdin's account of the two City College grads is made all the more gripping because the author knew Joel Barr: The journalist was in Moscow in 1990 working on an article when he was introduced to a respected Soviet scientist named Joseph Berg, a tall, bespectacled septuagenarian who spoke perfect English, albeit with "a classic Brooklyn accent." When Usdin inquired about the accent, Berg said: "We have good schools here." But Usdin wasn't having any of it, and Berg soon owned up to being the fugitive Joel Barr. He took the American to Zelenograd, the secret scientific center he had helped build for the Soviets, and gradually told his story to Usdin. Amazingly, Barr visited America in the 1990s. Instead of being arrested, he was granted a new American passport and Social Security income. Alfred Sarant's life was equally unusual, with parts rivaling some of the seamier episodes of "Days of Our Lives." When Julius Rosenberg was arrested, Sarant and a friend's wife fled to Mexico, eventually reaching the Soviet Union. Sarant was put to work with Barr, and together, Usdin says, the men "played a catalytic role in creating Soviet microelectronics."
Read about another book on the list.

Also see Jonathan Miles's five best books about the secrets of espionage.

--Marshal Zeringue