Harry Gold

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Harry Gold
U.S. vs. Julius & Ethel Rosenberg and Martin Sobell, Government Exhibit 5, photograph of Harry Gold - NARA - 278750.jpg
Harry Gold after his arrest by the FBI
Born (1910-12-11)December 11, 1910
Bern, Switzerland
Died August 28, 1972(1972-08-28) (aged 61)
Resting place Har Nebo Cemetery
Occupation Laboratory chemist
Criminal charge Conspiracy to commit espionage
Criminal penalty 30 year sentence
Criminal status parolled after 14 years

Harry Gold (December 11, 1910 – August 28, 1972) was a laboratory chemist and spy for a number of Soviet spy rings operating in the United States during the Manhattan Project.

Early life[edit]

Harry Gold was born on December 11, 1910, in Bern, Switzerland to Samson and Celia Gold. When he was 4, his famiy immigrated to the United States. During that process, the family’s surname was changed from Golodnitsky to Gold. The Golds lived in Chicago for a year before moving, Samson going to Virginia and Celia taking Harry to Philadelphia. Soon, Samson moved to Philadelphia as well, and took up a job as a cabinetmaker at the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey. In 1917, Gold’s mother gave birth to another son, and the family was described by many as quiet and stand-offish. Gold later described his childhood as happy and secure, and his intellectual appetite was insatiable. However, the injustices that both Gold and the members of his family faced due to their race and status left Gold with a tremendous resentment and an overwhelming desire to fight prejudice. Unfortunately, during these formative years in which he developed many insecurities, Gold developed an almost puppy-like eagerness to please, and would “literally do anything for his friends”. He developed a pronounced interest in chemistry and graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1929.

Early career[edit]

After his high school graduation, Gold was offered a job by one of his father’s acquaintances at Giftcrafters, a woodworking firm in the Kensington section of the city. He did not want the life that his father lived, with the hard physical labor and blatant anti-Semitism that came along with it. While looking for new job opportunities, Gold applied for the Pennsylvania Sugar Company on the banks of the Delaware River, with the economic security and the exposure to college-educated chemists and state of the art labs were the most important qualities of this position. He saved enough money to attend the University of Pennsylvania and left the company. However, towards the beginning of Gold’s sophomore year, the Great Depression began across America, and due to his family’s continuing financial struggles, Gold voluntarily withdrew himself from university and managed to regain a job at the Pennsylvania Sugar Company, now the sole breadwinner for his family.


Gold had expressed interest in the Socialist Party early in life, but by the Great Depression, he considered politics a luxury that he had little time for. However, Gold appeared to exhibit revulsion and incredulity when confronted with the Communist Party. Ten days before the Christmas of 1932, Gold was laid off by the sugar company. Both Harry and his father, Sam, looked for work each morning, always coming back with the same depressing results. With both of the primary breadwinners out of work, the Gold family was staring economic ruin in the face. Gold was offered a job by Tom Black, a former classmate, at the Holbrook Manufacturing Company in New Jersey who could arrange for Gold to take his place. Black immediately struck up a friendship with Gold, and began to insistently try to recruit him to the Communist Party. Due to his eager to please nature and the immense gratitude to Black for the friendship and funds he provided, Gold relented. He was in no way impressed, and continued to hold his views against the Party. When Gold found that the Pennsylvania Sugar Company was hiring at the same salary that he was currently getting paid, he immediately decided to move back to Philadelphia to the company and his family. Black, however, did not relent, coming to visit Gold and his family, all the while encouraging him to attend meetings and join. During this time, Gold managed to attend Drexel Institute of Technology, where he took night courses in chemistry. In 1940, Jacob Golos activated Harry Gold for Soviet espionage, but he was not a recruited agent of the rezidentura. This changed in the late 1940s, when Soviet Case Officer Semyon Semenov appropriated Gold from Golos.[1] Gold became a formally recruited Soviet agent at this time, and was assigned the codename GUS, GOS, or GOOSE. Semenov remained Gold's control officer until March 1944.

In 1950, Klaus Fuchs was arrested in England and charged with espionage. Fuchs confessed that while working in the United States during World War II he had passed information about the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Fuchs denied working with other spies, except for a courier who collected information from him. When initially shown photographs of suspects, including Gold, he failed to identify him as the courier, but did so after subsequent prompting.[2]

Under interrogation, Gold admitted that he had been involved in espionage since 1934 and had helped Fuchs pass information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union by way of Soviet General Consul Anatoli Yakovlev. Gold's confession led to the arrest of David Greenglass. His testimony resulted in the arrest, trial, and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.[3]

In 1951, Gold was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. In May 1965, he was paroled after serving just under half of his sentence. In 1972, he died in Philadelphia, age 62;[4] he was interred in Har Nebo Cemetery in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, Robert Chadwell (1987). Klaus Fuchs: Atom Spy. Harvard University Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-674-50507-7. 
  2. ^ "Interview with Robert Lamphere". PBS.org. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ Hornblum, 2010
  4. ^ Whitman, Alden (February 14, 1974). "1972 Death of Harry Gold Revealed". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-07. Harry Gold, who served 15 years in Federal prison as a confessed atomic spy courier, for Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet agent, and who was a key Government witness in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage case in 1951, died 18 months ago in Philadelphia. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Harry Gold testimony, April 26, 1956, part 20, 1020, both in "Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States," U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, 84th Cong., 2d sess.
  • Hoover, J. Edgar (1951-05-00). "The Crime of the Century: the Case of the A-Bomb Spies". Reader's Digest. 58 (349): 149–168.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Hornblum, Allen M. "The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb," New Have: Yale University Press, 2010 ISBN 978-0-300-15676-8
  • Lamphere, Robert and Shachtman, Tom. The FBI-KGB War, New York: Random House, 1986
  • Trahair, Richard C.S. and Miller, Robert. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations, Enigma Books 2009 ISBN 978-1-929631-75-9
  • Sheinken, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
  • Rhodes, Richard. "Dark Sun : The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb", ' Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 1995 ISBN 978-0-684-804002-2

External links[edit]

Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) Full text of Alexander Vassiliev's notebooks, including more information on Gold's involvement in espionage.