Alfred Stern was born into a wealthy family on 29th November, 1897, in Fargo, North Dakota. His father was a successful banker. Stern was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University. After leaving university he went into the banking.
According to John Lewis Carver: "He added to the family fortune through investments in real estate, public housing becoming his philanthropic hobby. Stern’s business interests had an enormous range, as had his philanthropies. The former extended from housing developments in Chicago via the General American Tank Corporation to Modern Age Books, Inc., a left-wing publishing firm; while the latter ranged from the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Council to the Institute of Psychoanalysis."
In 1921 Stern married Marion Rosenwald, daughter of one of the richest men in America, Julius Rosenwald. They had two children, but the marriage ended in divorce. Stern retired from business and as a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal became chairman of the Illinois Housing Commission. Carver points out: "He was dabbling in practical politics, too and, although he was a registered Democrat, he gradually drifted to the outskirts of American Communism. It was a strange sideline for a businessman with a lavish country estate in Lewisboro, New York, a big town house in New York City, offices in Rockefeller Center — and literally millions in the bank."
Stern eventually started a relationship with Martha Dodd. She was the daughter of the historian and diplomat, William Edward Dodd. Martha held left-wing views and she encouraged him to donate large sums of money to the American Communist Party. Dodd was also an Soviet agent. She had been recruited while she was living in Berlin, with her father, the American ambassador. A NKVD report stated: "Martha Dodd... checks Ambassador Dodd's reports to Roosevelt in the archive and communicates to us short summaries of the contents, whose numbers we gave to her. She continues providing us with materials from the American Embassy, trying mainly to get data about Germany, Japan, and Poland." Her controller reported giving her "200 American dollars, 10 rubles, and gifts bought for 500 rubles."
Dodd's controller, Iskhak Akhmerov, reported that Martha Dodd had started a relationship with Stern while involved with another Soviet agent, Boris Vinogradov. "At present she has a fiance.... If Vinogradov reiterates his promise she will wait for him and reject the other man. Her fiance is Alfred Stern, 40 years old, Jew, a man with an independent material status who stayed in Germany a couple of years ago and helped the Communist Party financially.... She doesn't think her marriage would prevent her from working with us, though she doesn't understand completely what she should do."
Alfred Stern married Martha Dodd on 16th June, 1938. She wrote to Boris Vinogradov with the news: "You haven't had time yet to know that I really got married. On June 16, I married an American whom I love very much. I wanted to tell you a lot, but I will wait until our meeting. We are supposed to be in the USSR in late August or early September this year. I hope you'll be there or will let me know where I can meet you. You know, honey, that for me, you meant more in my life than anybody else. You also know that, if I am needed, I will be ready to come when called. Let me know your plan if you get another post. I look into the future and see you in Russia again. Your Martha." Dodd was unaware that Vinogradov had already been arrested and executed as a "traitor to the motherland".
Iskhak Akhmerov reported on 1st December, 1938: "Since Liza (Martha Dodd) became the wife of a millionaire, her everyday life has changed considerably. She lives in a rich apartment on 57th Street, has two servants, a driver, and a personal secretary. She is very keen on her plan to go to Moscow as the wife of the American Ambassador." He pointed out that Stein was willing to contribute $50,000 to the Democratic Party in order to get the post but he considered "his chances are still very weak."
Martha Dodd suggested that her husband should be recruited as a Soviet agent. "In regard to my husband I think it would be a great mistake if he were not obtained for our work". In December 1941, Vassily Zarubin arranged for Stein and Boris Morros to form a music publishing house in the United States. Stern agreed to invest $130,000 in the venture and Boris Morros agreed to put $62,000 in the Boris Morros Music Company. According to Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999): "Using funds provided by the NKGB, Morros would establish a music publishing house in the United States - a business that could also serve as a cover for Soviet illegals... Soviet intelligence's adventure in the American commercial music industry was launched at a September 1944 meeting of Morros and Stern brokered by Zarubin.
The NKVD ordered Martha Dodd to use her influence with important figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt. One report of Martha Dodd claimed: "A gifted, clever and educated woman, she requires constant control over her behavior.... Let (Dodd) move in the circles interesting to us rather than in circles close to the Trust... It is necessary to continue activating her activities as a successful journalist. She should also be guided to approach and deepen her relationship with the President's wife, Eleanor, through different social organizations, committees, and societies. Here, the special interest of the Roosevelts in China and everything connected with it must be used. Dodd can play on this factor. Let her approach Eleanor through the committee on help to China."
Another agent was rather disapproving of Dodd's behaviour: "She considers herself a Communist and claims to accept the party's program. In reality, Liza is a typical representative of American bohemia, a sexually decayed woman ready to sleep with any handsome man." Zalmond Franklin asked her to control her sexual behaviour. Martha replied: "Why? What's wrong with it?" Franklin explained: "It may be demoralizing. The work may suffer. Relations suffer because they become too intimate. Lovers chatter too much, especially in bed."
Franklin went on to say: "Bluntly but frankly, I asked Martha if her sexual relations with her husband were satisfactory. She, of course, asked why. I explained that I was interested because she had twice remarked that she would divorce her husband if she stood in... the way of his political development. I suggested that one does not talk of divorce quite so casually unless one wanted a divorce. Martha explained: She loved her husband very much. Their relationship was quite satisfactory in every way. She loved him, not the wild love she felt for Boris Vinogradov, but still a satisfactory love. Having once started, Martha, as in the past, talked quite freely... Martha's life in Berlin can be summed up in one word - sleep. Seemingly, she spent most of her time in bed. In addition to the Russian or Russians, she had slept with a full-blown fascist-General Ernest Udet, second in command (after Goering) of the German air force; Louis Ferdinand, grandson of the Kaiser; and some guy at the French Embassy in Berlin. (A real internationalist!)"
Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999), has pointed out that Dodd was not a very important spy during the Second World War. "Beyond Martha Dodd's occasional help as a spotter, identifying potential agents from among her circles of radical friends, and Alfred Stern's cheerful willingness to invest and lose personal funds in an NKCB cover business, Moscow now found little of value in Stern (known as "the Red millionaire") and his socially active spouse." Dodd did publish My Years in Germany (1939) which "focused mainly on Germany but was also filled with euphoric commentary on the Soviet Union, observations made during her trip around the country with Boris Vinogradov (though discreetly omitting any mention of him)."
In 1944 Jack Soble became Stern's new NKVD handler. It was suggested that Soble should be a co-owner of Boris Morros Music Company but the idea was rejected as he was still a Soviet citizen. Soble complained about Boris Morros: "Boris, having fallen for music, almost forgot about the main idea, i.e., that... music is only a means of fulfilling our central goal, that is penetration by providing cover identities to Soviet operatives into a number of countries neighboring the U.S. Publishing music would require an insignificant financial investment, and we could open branches wherever we need."
Soble reported to Moscow on 18th August 1947: "One has to be an iron man to tolerate Alfred Stern in a commercial affair, especially in America, where risk, broad scope, and timeliness are the basic elements in any commercial enterprise.... But certainly, Boris Morros is a talented, energetic, and enterprising man. Undoubtedly, he can keep a secret and wants and is ready to do business with us. But his problem is... living in a Hollywood environment in conditions of luxury and abundance... He is an honest man and obeys our decisions."
The FBI became suspicious of Boris Morros and in 1947 he was arrested. He agreed to become a double agent and provided information on the Soviet spy network. Jack Soble was eventually arrested and convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. Fearing that they will be called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) Stern and Dodd fled to Mexico City where they joined several left-wing activists, including Ian McLellan Hunter, Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo, Hugo Butler, Jean Rouverol and Albert Maltz. On Saturday mornings this group and their children used to have picnic lunches and play baseball together. The FBI were spying on them in Mexico and according to declassified reports, the agents believed that these picnics were cover for "Communist meetings."
Julian Zimet was another left-wing writer who moved to Mexico: "In the early fifties the refugees in Mexico were Americans. Schoolteachers, doctors, writers, journalists, businessmen, college professors, and government employees dismissed for political reasons, and Communist Party members and functionaries, were members of the community that I was about to join. Some of them were well-known, such as Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who went to prison in 1951 for refusing to reveal to a federal judge the names of contributors to a bail fund for eleven Communist leaders convicted under the Smith Act, and Martha Dodd, daughter of Ambassador William E. Dodd, Roosevelt's man in Berlin from 1933 through 1937. The Hollywood contingent included Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, Gordon Kahn, Hugo and Jean Butler, and John Bright, a group whose screen writing credits covered many of the best and most important films that came out of Hollywood both before and after the blacklist."
In July 1956 Stern and Martha Dodd moved to Prague. They tried to gain entry into the Soviet Union but this was initially refused. However, On 12th August 1957, Boris Morros appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and named Stern and Dodd as being members of a Soviet spy ring in the United States. As Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) has pointed out: "Within days, on August 28, the KGB recommended to the Central Committee of the Communist Party that Martha and Alfred Stern be allowed to settle in the USSR. The Sterns arrived in Moscow the following month, at the same time an American court found them guilty in absentia of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union."
Stern and Dodd were refused permission to meet with Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, the British agents who had fled for sanctuary to Moscow years earlier. Unhappy in the Soviet Union the couple returned to Czechoslovakia in January 1958 where Stern worked in the export-import field and Dodd edited English-language books.
In February, 1958, John Lewis Carver published an article, The Spy Queen was a Nympho, in Top Secret Magazine. Carver highlights the spying career of Stern and Dodd based on the testimony of Boris Morros: "By the time Morros pointed the accusing finger at the woman who betrayed him, Miss Dodd and her tycoon husband were safely beyond the reach of the FBI. They had a timely warning! Last January, the Bureau arrested one of Morros’ associates, a bristle salesman named Jack Soble, and unmasked him as second-in-command in the Morros ring. With Soble’s arrest, the ring was compromised and Morros’ double-edged association with it had to be revealed. That was the last-minute tip-off for Miss Dodd and her husband. They quickly picked up a few hundred thousand random dollars of the Stern millions and took a run-out powder, on the eve of their scheduled appearance before a grand jury. They first crossed the unguarded border to Mexico, then sneaked surreptitiously to safety behind the Iron Curtain."
In 1963 the couple moved to Cuba but returned to Czechoslovakia seven years later. Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) has argued: "Apparently, even Havana, the newest of New Jerusalems for a couple perpetually suffused with Communist idealism, did not measure up to their hopes. During the 1970s, monitored by the KGB, American lawyers for Martha and Alfred began negotiating with the FBI for their return to America with out prosecution or imprisonment for espionage." The KGB did not object to their departure, according to a 14th October, 1975, memo: "Data that the Sterns have about the activities of Soviet intelligence are obsolete and mainly known to the adversary from the traitor (Boris Morros's) testimonies." However, the negotiations proved unsuccessful.
Alfred Stern died in Prague in June, 1986.
Boris, dear! Finally I got your letter. You work in the press office, don't you? Are you happy? Did you find a girl you can love instead of me?
Did you hear that my mother died in late May totally unexpectedly? You can imagine how tragic it was for me. Surely, you know better than anybody else how we loved each other and how close we were in everything.
The three of us spent time together perfectly, and I remember how sweet she was to both of us when you were in Berlin.
Mother knew very well how deep our love was and understood all the meaning that you had and will have in my life. She knew that I loved nobody before and thought that I would never love again but hoped that I would be happy anyway.
You haven't had time yet to know that I really got married. On June 16, I married an American whom I love very much. I wanted to tell you a lot, but I will wait until our meeting. We are supposed to be in the USSR in late August or early September this year. I hope you'll be there or will let me know where I can meet you.
You know, honey, that for me, you meant more in my life than anybody else. You also know that, if I am needed, I will be ready to come when called.
Let me know your plan if you get another post. I look into the future and see you in Russia again. Your Martha.'-"
Bluntly but frankly, I asked Martha if her sexual relations with her husband were satisfactory. She, of course, asked "Why"... I explained that I was interested because she had twice remarked that she would divorce her husband if she stood in... the way of his political development. I suggested that one does not talk of divorce quite so casually unless one wanted a divorce. Martha explained: She loved her husband very much. Their relationship was quite satisfactory in every way. She loved him, not the wild love she felt for Boris Vinogradov, but still a satisfactory love.
Having once started, Martha, as in the past, talked quite freely... Martha's life in Berlin can be summed up in one word-"sleep." Seemingly, she spent most of her time in bed. In addition to the Russian or Russians, she had slept with a full-blown fascist-General Ernest Udet, second in command (after Goering) of the German air force; Louis Ferdinand, grandson of the Kaiser; and some guy at the French Embassy in Berlin. (A real internationalist!)"
Since Martha and Alfred had already received several subpoenas to testify in cases involving alleged espionage then underway in the United States, the couple was in no position to resume active work as agents. At a June 18, 1956, meeting, the Sterns told "Ostap," the Mexico City KGB station chief, that they wanted to live in the Soviet Union but, if that was not possible, in Czechoslovakia, China, or the German Democratic Republic. They claimed to have a million dollars in a Mexican bank that they were transferring to Switzerland. (Their lawyer, Paul O'Dwyer, had informed them that Jack Soble, a government witness and former Soviet agent, had told the FBI about the publishing firm Stern had developed with Boris Morros to assist Soviet "illegals." On July 20, 1956, naturalized with Paraguayan citizenship
and passports in exchange for a $10,000 bribe to an Paraguayan Embassy official in Mexico (the American government having canceled their U.S. passports), the couple left for Amsterdam. There, a Czech official met them and handed over airline tickets to Prague.
The Sterns learned in 1957 that they had been fined in the U.S. courts for refusing to testify before a congressional investigating committee, which had heard their old colleague and friend Boris Morros state flatly that Martha and Alfred were Soviet agents. They tried one final time to gain Soviet citizenship, offering their Mexican home and several paintings to the USSR. The Soviets, however, preferred that the Sterns remain in Czechoslovakia, though the KGB did dispatch a Colonel Korneev to Prague to discuss their application for Soviet citizenship, which was turned down.
There the matter remained until August 12, 1957, when Boris Morros, the Sterns' vocal nemesis, testified that he had served for the past twelve years as a double agent under FBI as well as Soviet instruction. Within days, on August 28, the KGB recommended to the Central Committee of the Communist Party that Martha and Alfred Stern be allowed to settle in the USSR. The Sterns arrived in Moscow the following month, at the same time an American court found them guilty in absentia of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.
Some weeks later SISS was vying with HUAC for names available from the show-business eccentric Boris Morros, who helped identify spies for a generously headlined melodrama. One of these, described as a Russian colonel, was named by a Finnish accomplice who testified, inter alia, that he (the accomplice) was a thief, a bigamist, a drunkard and a liar. The Russians had given him $5,000 to give to Sobell's wife, he said, but as he was unable to locate her he had buried it, then dug it up and spent it. The colonel was convicted and the Finn's testimony opportunely coincided with Sobell's latest plea for a new trial. The colonel, the Finn, and Morros all lived up to the established image of the kind of people Moscow employed as agents.
Morros introduced himself to spy aficionados as a piano and cello prodigy who had conducted the Tsar's imperial orchestra at 16 and, at 22, come to America as musical director of Balieff's Chauve-Souris for which he composed The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. On a return visit to the old country in 1945, the Russians had asked him to spy for them and he had reported this to Hoover; in 1950 Hoover had sent him back as a counterspy and a Russian secret-police general had "wined and dined me for ten hours straight." The Roman-candle headlines for Morros flickered out after Balieff's widow said he had neither been Chauve-Souris's musical director nor composed the Wooden Soldiers. He confessed to the media that he was broke but had "signed up all the Nobel Prize winners in Europe" for TV and had "fabulous offers." His best spy names were wealthy Alfred Stern, a notorious angel for heretical causes now living in Mexico, and his wife, novelist Martha Dodd. Fined $25,000 each for contempt in absentia, the Sterns passed out of reach in the first plane leaving for Prague. They saw no chance of living in peace anywhere in the free world, but were only able to leave it by hastily acquiring Paraguayan passports.
I arrived in Mexico City in a yellow Ford convertible on October 12, 1951, having driven from New York and made leisurely stops to visit friends in Washington, Nashville, and Louisiana. The anti-Communist crusade was gathering momentum in the United States, and I was anxious to avoid being summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee and risk going to prison, along with the Hollywood Ten. Of the Ten - who had already served prison sentences for "contempt of Congress," punishment for refusing to name the people with whom they had been associated in political activity-several had moved to Mexico, along with others escaping persecution for their political activities.
In those years and earlier, Mexico was a place of refuge for political exiles. Refugees from Franco, Hitler, and Stalin were welcomed, and many stayed on after it became possible for them to return to Europe. Trotsky had made his home in San Angel, a suburb of Mexico City, and had directed a worldwide anti-Stalin campaign from there until his death at the hands of an assassin in 1940.
In the early fifties the refugees in Mexico were Americans. Schoolteachers, doctors, writers, journalists, businessmen, college professors, and government employees dismissed for political reasons, and Communist Party members and functionaries, were members of the community that I was about to join. Some of them were well-known, such as Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who went to prison in 1951 for refusing to reveal to a federal judge the names of contributors to a bail fund for eleven Communist leaders convicted under the Smith Act, and Martha Dodd, daughter of Ambassador William E. Dodd, Roosevelt's man in Berlin from 1933 through 1937. The Hollywood contingent included Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, Gordon Kahn, Hugo and Jean Butler, and John Bright, a group whose screen writing credits covered many of the best and most important films that came out of Hollywood both before and after the blacklist.
By the time Morros pointed the accusing finger at the woman who betrayed him, Miss Dodd and her tycoon husband were safely beyond the reach of the FBI. They had a timely warning! Last January, the Bureau arrested one of Morros’ associates, a bristle salesman named Jack Soble, and unmasked him as second-in-command in the Morros ring. With Soble’s arrest, the ring was compromised and Morros’ double-edged association with it had to be revealed.
That was the last-minute tip-off for Miss Dodd and her husband. They quickly picked up a few hundred thousand random dollars of the Stern millions and took a run-out powder, on the eve of their scheduled appearance before a grand jury. They first crossed the unguarded border to Mexico, then sneaked surreptitiously to safety behind the Iron Curtain....
The disclosure of Martha Dodd’s crime comes as a shock, but not as a surprise, to her intimates. She was long known as a diehard partisan of the Soviet Union. She was a member of a dozen Communist front organizations and a celebrity among American subversives, widely known as eloquent propagandist of the “cause.”
But it was not known that Martha was a producing spy, a busy bee in the Soviet espionage network. There was this fateful gap in our knowledge of Miss Dodd’s interesting biography. Top Secret Magazine can now fill this authentic and exclusive story of Martha Dodd’s insidious double-life.
It is possible, on the basis of the Martha Dodd file in the possession of Top Secret Magazine, even to pinpoint the origin of her treachery, which came about in the strangest of ways.
A native Virginian, Martha lived in Chicago where her father, Dr. Dodd, was a senior history professor at the University, specializing in George Washington and Woodrow Wilson. In her parents’ house, she was brought up in the liberal tradition of her father’s historic idols and on the Bible which Professor Dodd used to read each day at the dinner table.
Martha was a vivacious, flirtatious, fair-skinned sexy girl, far more interested in amorous escapades than in those serious matters. But she, too, had her serious side. She wrote short stories and poetry, and made up her mind to become a writer.
As a typical flapper of the Roaring Twenties, she was somewhat naive in her politics but that did not prevent her from taking sides. Unlike her democratic father, Martha flirted with the fashionable totalitarian ideas of those days, had at least an interest in Fascism and Nazism, and a touch of anti-Semitism. When after her graduation from the University of Chicago, it was time for her to go to work, she accepted a job with the right-wing bitterly anti-Roosevelt, Chicago Tribune as associate literary editor.
It was while working for that conservative newspaper, the most powerful mouthpiece of isolationism in the States, that she suddenly contracted the Bolshevik germ.
She was given a book to review and it turned out to be a violently pro-Soviet work by Ella Winter, a noted fellow-traveller and ex-wife of Lincoln Steffens. It was called, Red Virtue.
Nazism meant good-looking, tall, blond men to her and she liked what she saw. She was painting the Nazi capital red, but in a social way. She went out on the town every night, flirting, drinking and dancing, mostly with young men who happened to be Nazis She gained a dual reputation. Insiders described her as a nymphomaniac in her sex life and a Nazi sympathizer in her politics.
This reputation gained confirmation when she started an affair with a sinisterly handsome Nazi official, Rolf Diels by name. He was then chief of the Nazi secret service. His curriculum included spying on Martha’s own father and the American Embassy in Berlin.
It was from Diels that Miss Dodd first learned the intricate science and art of totalitarian espionage, the manner in which agents are planted on suspects, telephones tapped, correspondence rifled. Recalling her affair with Diels, Martha later said: “I was intrigued and fascinated by this human monster of sensitive” face and cruel, broken beauty. We went out quite a lot, dancing and driving. I went to his office once and saw dictaphones on the desk in an unpretentious, large and somewhat bare room. He gave me the first indication of how spying was done.”
She added: “There began to appear before my romantic eyes a vast and complicated network of espionage from which no one, official or private, could escape.”
In her yen for adventure, and in her naivety, Miss Dodd overlooked Diel’s true purpose in courting her. The American Embassy was a high priority target on the Nazi espionage list. Rolf Diels made love to the Ambassador’s pretty, petite, vivacious daughter in the hope that he could gain information; his purpose was to turn Martha Dodd into a Nazi spy - and he almost succeeded Then, unexpectedly, something happened that soured Martha on the whole Nazi shebang. Her friend Rolf Diels was unceremoniously sacked overnight and had to flee Nazi Germany. If she had ever flirted with the idea of doing Diels’ bidding, she no longer wanted to accommodate the Nazis, now that her mentor and lover was in disgrace.
In the meantime, others tried to cuddle up to Martha, in both a political and an amorous sense. The place of Diels in her heart was taken by a tall, blond, good-looking young Reichswehr officer who turned out to be the exact political opposite of Rolf - a violent anti-Nazi. It soon became known to Martha that her new friend was a secret Communist, actually doing yeoman duty for the Soviet secret service.
Again under the influence of a boy friend, the love-thirsty Miss Dodd revived her dormant interest in Russia and Communism. While previously she had frequented the gatherings of young pro-Nazi men and women, she now drifted into the clandestine circles of pro-Russian Germans. Before long, she had a contact inside the Soviet Embassy on Unter den Linden - the Russian Ambassador, Jacob Surich himself.
Comrade Surich urged her to visit the Soviet Union. Martha Dodd was started off on her fateful journey, with treason lurking at the end of her road.
In July 1934, Miss Dodd was ready for the trip which she undertook over her ambassador-father’s violent objections. By then, in Moscow, she was put down as a promising espionage candidate, so naturally she was given the appropriate reception. She travelled as an ordinary tourist, but that was not how the Russians regarded her. Instead of assigning to Miss Dodd a bona fide Intourist guide, they planted on her brilliant young agent of the secret service, a comely woman who was as flirtations and vivacious as Martha herself. Her job was to size up Miss Dodd.
The trip lasted a couple of months and Miss Dodd was given the run of Russia. She could go where she pleased. But was always accompanied by her pretty and smart chaperone. This was the beginning of another love affair in Martha’s life - her love affair with the Soviet Union.
When she emerged, she was a full-fledged propagandist for the Communists, frankly saying in Berlin: “Russia is a genuine democracy in spirit and in plans,” and praising the Red Army as an organization that had none of the “arrogance of militarism.” Although she wasn’t yet working as an actual espionage operative, Martha Dodd was already firmly in the claws of the Soviet secret service.
She returned to the United States and plunged headlong into pro-Soviet activities. She joined one crypto-Communist organization after another. Among the subversive groups in which she held membership were the American Committee on Democracy and Intellectual Freedom; the American Committee for the Protection of Foreign Born; the American Council for a Democratic Greece; the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy; the International Labor Defense; the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee; the League of American Writers; the United American Spanish Aid Committee.
The word “democratic” recurred in the name of several organizations to which Martha Dodd belonged but, in fact, in the misleading language of the Bolsheviks, it stood for “Communist.” All of these groups were Moscow-sponsored, subversive organizations. Several were cover groups for Soviet espionage.
Martha also undertook miscellaneous activities on behalf of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League, and signed several manifestos defending Communist causes.
If she wasn’t yet a producing espionage agent, she was not too far from becoming one. She was already feeding invaluable information, that was gathered through her unsuspecting contacts, to various Communist middlemen and a certain amount of it even to Soviet spies working out of the Embassy.
All of the time, as she moved boldly on the lunatic fringe of Communism, she was slowly being sucked into the international Soviet conspiracy and its espionage branch inside the United States.
On her wanderings in the Red labyrinth, in 1937-38, Martha met a debonair North Dakotan who enthusiastically shared her ideas and aspirations. He was, aside from that, also struck by her pixyish pink beauty. He was a native of Fargo, a millionaire several times over, Alfred Kaufman Stern by name. It was love at first sight, a collision of sex and politics.
Born in 1897, a graduate of Exeter and Harvard, Alfred Stern inherited most of his money from his highly respected banker father in the Middlewest. He himself started out by following in his father’s footsteps and from Harvard went into the banking business in his home town. He added to the family fortune through investments in real estate, public housing becoming his philanthropic hobby.
Stern’s business interests had an enormous range, as had his philanthropies. The former extended from housing developments in Chicago via the General American Tank Corporation to Modern Age Books, Inc., a left-wing publishing firm; while the latter ranged from the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Council to the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
In 1921, he married one of America’s fabulous heiresses - Miss Marion Rosenwald, daughter of the owner of Sears Roebuck & Company of Chicago. They had two children, but the marriage failed to work out. After their divorce, Mrs. Stern married Dr. Max Ascoli, publisher of The Reporter magazine.
Early in the Thirties, when still a young man, Alfred Stern thought he had enough money for the rest of his life, retired from business, and decided to go into public service. He became chairman of the Illinois Housing Commission - but already he was far too radical for his New Deal friends.
He was dabbling in practical politics, too and, although he was a registered Democrat, he gradually drifted to the outskirts of American Communism. It was a strange sideline for a businessman with a lavish country estate in Lewisboro, New York, a big town house in New York City, offices in Rockefeller Center - and literally millions in the bank.
When Alfred Stern bumped into Martha Dodd, she was also on the rebound from a brief and unhappy first marriage. The two hit it off extremely well. On September 4, 1938, they married, thus embarking on a joint trip that was to lead them eventually behind the Iron Curtain.
Under Martha’s energetic influence, Alfred Stern sank ever deeper into the morass of Communism. He, too, joined those front organizations of which his pretty second wife was a charter member. His house became a breeding ground for Communist propaganda. He became treasurer of the notorious American Labor Party which was itself a front organization of the Soviet Union, headed by Congressman Marcantonio.
But while Alfred Stern confined his activities to such political skullduggeries, Martha Dodd became a spy. By early 1940, Soviet agents in the United States saw no reason to doubt her sincerity and loyalty to the cause. They no longer merely hinted at the work she could do for her beloved Russia. They invited her in so many words to perform certain important espionage functions for the U.S.S.R.
In 1940, several spymasters stationed in the Washington Embassy of the Soviets established direct contact with Martha Dodd Stern and met with her, strangely enough, in two sets of contradictory places. Once in a while they invited her into the inner sanctum of the Embassy; on other occasions they made arrangements for circumspect meetings, in out of the way restaurants and al fresco.
Much of her contact work was done at her husband’s estate in Lewisboro where Martha plotted and conspired against her native country with secret emissaries of the Soviet spy network - Soble, Morros, Zubilin, and others - until she herself became a top-ranking member of the ring.
She had plenty of material at her fingertips to supply, thanks to her husband’s immense wealth, her father’s prestige, and her own standing in society, especially her intimate friendship with powerful and influential people in Washington whose indiscretion is proverbial. She picked up whatever she could from them and relayed it to her couriers and go-betweens, until she came to be regarded inside that secret world as one of the most valuable agents the Soviet’ had in this country.
She even returned to the Soviet Union, allegedly on a harmless visit, but in fact to formalize her association with the Russian spy organizations. She no longer dealt with peripheral persons like the pretty secret agent posing as an Intourist guide. She now conducted her business on the top echelon of the Soviet secret service. Her zeal and sincerity was never doubted, and her ability to acquire important strategic information was admired.
The daughter of an American history professor and New Deal ambassador renounced her country in all but name. Today, both Martha Dodd and Alfred Stern enjoy the protection of a Soviet satellite government. The chances are they are feted by her Communist bosses who regard them as “American” friends they can really trust, not like Boris Morros, “the slick double-agent,” who worked against the Soviet Union despite the fact that he was born in Russia.
Retribution for Martha Dodd’s hideous crime may be far off. It may never even come. But already today, she is a woman without a country. Some years ago, she wrote: “Before 1933 my life was rooted in America, in her earth and cities, people and attitudes.”
Written some twenty years ago, these words assume a strange meaning today when that “prodigal and black child” of a celebrated American is scorched before God and country - as a traitor to her native land.
Upon her return from the Soviet Union the following year, when she attached herself body and soul to the aims of Communism, she described herself in a melancholy sentence. She painted a vivid picture of her reception by her parents, at the ramshackle old Silesian railroad station in Berlin, as she stepped from the train. She was a thoroughly changed woman even in appearance. She was wearing a colorful Caucasian cap and tried to look as much as she could like one of those drab, healthy Soviet women she had come to admire so much.
Alfred K. Stern, a former Illinois housing administrator who was charged in 1957 with spying for the Soviet Union, died of cancer today in his Prague exile, his wife said. He was 88 years old.
Mr. Stern and his wife, Martha Dodd Stern, left the United States in 1953 after being accused of subversive anti-American activities. They were indicted in absentia on espionage charges on Sept. 9, 1957.
The indictment charged them with conspiring to act as Soviet agents, receiving American military, commercial and industrial information and transmitting it to the Soviet Union.
The indictment charged that they used their house in Ridgefield, Conn., for meetings with Soviet agents. The charges were dropped 22 years later, in March 1979, when the Justice Department said witnesses considered essential to the case had died.
In testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1957, the two were named as members of a Soviet spy ring in the United States. The charge was made by Boris Morros, a Hollywood musician and producer, who said he was a United States agent in the Communist movement for 12 years.
After the couple moved to Prague, Mr. Stern said the charges were ''fantastic'' and ''extraordinary.'' Born in North Dakota
Mr. Stern was born Nov. 29, 1897, in Fargo, N.D., into a wealthy family. In 1938, he married Martha Dodd, daughter of William E. Dodd, a historian who was the United States Ambassador to Germany in the days before the start of World War II.
Mr. Stern served as chairman of the Illinois State Housing Commission and later as vice president of the National Association of Housing Officials and director and chairman of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council in New York. He also founded the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago.
In the early 1950's, the Sterns became early and persistent targets of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his anti-Communist investigations.
The Sterns went to Mexico in 1953, then visited Prague in 1957 and, after staying in the Soviet Union for about a year, settled in Prague in 1958.
In 1963, the Sterns went to Cuba and lived there until 1970 before returning to Prague.
In Prague, Mr. Stern worked as a consultant to the Construction Ministry, using his expertise in housing and construction technology.
He is survived by his wife and son, Robert D. Stern.
Alfred K. Stern, a multimillionaire businessman who was charged in 1957 with spying for the Soviet Union, died of cancer Monday in exile here, the Czechoslovak News Agency Ceteka reported. He was 88.
Stern and his wife, Martha Dodd Stern, daughter of the last U.S. ambassador to Berlin before World War II, left the United States in 1957 after being accused of subversive activities.
They had been accused before the House Committee on Un-American Activities of spying.
Their accuser was Boris Morros, a film producer and U.S. undercover agent, and the subsequent federal grand jury indictment charged them with conspiring to act as Soviet agents, receiving American military, commercial and industrial information and transmitting it to the Soviet Union.
They were alleged to have used their house at Ridgefield, Conn., for meetings with Soviet agents. The charges, consistently denied by the Sterns, were dropped 22 years later, in 1979, when the Department of Justice said witnesses considered essential to the case had died.
Stern was born in Fargo, N.D, into a wealthy family.
He served as chairman of the Illinois State Housing Commission and later as vice president of the National Assn. of Housing Officials and director and chairman of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council in New York.
After the indictment, the Sterns went to Mexico, visited Prague in 1957 and after staying in the Soviet Union for about a year settled in Prague in 1958.
Stern lived for a time in Cuba, acting as a personal adviser to Fidel Castro. He and his wife were also friendly with other Communist leaders, including Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito and China's Chairman Mao-Tse-tung.
In Prague, Stern worked as a consultant to the ministry of construction, using his expertise in housing and construction technology.
He is survived by his wife and a son.