Gerhart Eisler

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Gerhart Eisler
Stamps of Germany (DDR) 1977, MiNr 2266.jpg
Gerhart Eisler on 1977 GDR stamp
Born 20 February 1897
Leipzig, Germany, Austria-Hungary
Died 21 March 1968(1968-03-21) (aged 71)
Yerevan, Armenia, USSR
Citizenship East German (later life)
Years active 1923-1968
Known for Espionage
Political party
Austrian German Communist Party (KPDÖ), Communist Party of Germany (KPD), Communist International
Spouse(s) Hede Tune Massing (first), Elli Tune (second), Hilde Vogel-Rothstein (third)
Children Anna Eisler
Parents Marie Fischer, Rudolf Eisler
Relatives Hanns Eisler, Ruth Fischer

Gerhart Eisler (20 February 1897 – 21 March 1968) was a German politician. Along with his sister Ruth Fischer, he was a very early member of the Austrian German Communist Party (KPDÖ) and then a prominent member of the Communist Party of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

Life and career[edit]

Eisler was born in Leipzig, the son of Marie (née Fischer) and Rudolf Eisler, a professor of philosophy at Leipzig. His father was Jewish and his mother was Lutheran.[1][2]

His brother was the leftist composer Hanns Eisler and his sister was Communist activist Ruth Fischer. Eisler was married in 1919 to Hede Massing (1900–1981). In January 1921 Gerhart Eisler became associate editor of the Die Rote Fahne. It was Germany's leading left-wing newspaper. He moved to Berlin and joined the German Communist Party. [3]

He left Hede in 1923 for her sister Elli Tune. Elli left him with their baby daughter Natasha in 1933, when she could no longer cope with the demands the Comintern made on him. In 1937 he met Hilde Vogel-Rothstein and they married in Queens, New York City in 1942. His first wife Hede and her third husband Paul Massing both spied for the Soviet Union in the USA and they all kept in touch. Hede Massing later turned towards the FBI and testified against Alger Hiss in his second trial.[4]

Hede Massing saw Eisler on his return to the Soviet Union: "Gerhart… was involved in the Wittdorf affair, a political maneuver to dethrone Ernst Thälmann, who was supported by Stalin…. Gerhart was, after a time, in complete isolation in Moscow, forbidden to read German papers in order to get Germany out of his system, and then sent as Comintern representative to China where, according to many reports, he achieved great success through his ruthless policy. He stepped back into Stalin's favor." [5]

From 1929 to 1931 he was a liaison between the Communist International and the Communist Parties in China and then from 1933 to 1936 to the United States. Time reported in 1947 that he had made a trip to China in the late 1920s during which he earned the name "the executioner" for "purging the party of spies and dissidents".[6]

Eissler was charged in two trials in 1947 first with refusing to answer the HUAC, then of violating U.S. laws by misrepresenting his Communist Party affiliation on his immigration application. He was sentenced to one and three years in prison, but was soon released on bail. Newsweek described him in its February 23, 1948, issue as the "number one Red agent". When his last legal appeal had failed he jumped bail and secretly boarded the Polish liner MS Batory bound for London in May 1949. He was discovered by the crew only after the ship was at sea.[citation needed]

Once in England, he was dragged off the ship by his hands and feet but authorities allowed him to leave for the German Democratic Republic, where Eisler became chief of East German radio and a leading propaganda voice for the Communist government. His wife was arrested after his escape and deported, she joined him in East Germany. After his death during an official visit in Yerevan, Armenia, several schools and streets in the German Democratic Republic were named in his honor. His cremation urn was placed at the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde in Berlin. Files from the UK National Archives released on 4 March 2008 included information about Gerhart Eisler. The MI5 summary states:

Eisler, who was supposed by many to be the covert leader and director of the Communist Party in America during and after the Second World War, became the centre of a diplomatic incident in 1949 when, having stowed away on a Polish ship out of New York, he was forcibly removed and arrested in Southampton. This file documents the Security Service's involvement in the case. The earliest traces of Eisler in the file (KV 2/2773, 1936–1949) date from 1936, when Comintern efforts to secure a false American passport in the name of Edwards were reported. In 1947 information obtained from Eisler's former wife, Hedwiga Messing, suggested that Eisler had used this cover name in New York in 1934.

An allegation from former Communist Louis F. Budenz that Lillian Hellman hosted a dinner party for Eisler the night before he stowed away on the Batory was instrumental in labeling her an active Communist and in the subsequent dismissal of John F. Melby from the U.S. State Department in 1953.[7]

Sources[edit]

  • Jürgen Schebera, Eisler, Eine Biographie in Texten, Bildern und Dokumenten, Schott, Mainz, 1998 [Eisler is Hanns Eisler].

References[edit]

  1. ^ Singer, Kurt D. (1953). "The men in the Trojan horse". 
  2. ^ http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70D10F63859157A93C0AB178ED85F4D8485F9
  3. ^ http://spartacus-educational.com/Gerhart_Eisler.htm
  4. ^ "Woman with a Past", Time, 19 December 1949
  5. ^ Hede Massing, This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951) pages 81-82
  6. ^ "The Man from Moscow", Time, 17 February 1947
  7. ^ Robert P. Newman, The Cold War Romance of Lillian Hellman and John Melby, (University of North Carolina Press, 1989), pp. 136-38, 188, 198, 201, 311

Further reading[edit]

  • State Department passport brief, A115–A116
  • Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States, hearings of 6 February 1947, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, House Un-American Activities Committee, 80th Cong., 1st sess., 14–19.
  • "The Brain", Time, Monday, 28 October 1946