Boris Morros, the son of Mendel Moroz, was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 1st January, 1891. He emigrated to the United States in 1922 and soon afterwards joined the American Communist Party. He moved to Hollywood and began working for Paramount Pictures as "a director of the musical sub-department of the firm's production department".
In May 1934 Morros met Peter Gutzeit at the Soviet Consulate in New York City. He told Gutzeit that he was a movie director at Paramount Pictures and offered to assist Soviet organizations in the United States. Gutzeit reported back to Moscow that "during a conversation with Morros, I got the impression that he might be used to place our operatives in Paramount offices situated in every country and big city."
Morros was handed over to Gaik Ovakimyan who asked Morros to place an NKVD operative in the Paramount office in Berlin. "Morros claimed that he was ready to arrange this when there was an opportunity... and that he would recommend this man as his good acquaintance." On 21st August 1934 Morros informed Ovakimyan that he would be able to do this as long as the agent was not Jewish. Eventually the Soviet agent, Vassily Zarubin, took the post and became one of those working in Nazi Germany.
Morros now told Peter Gutzeit that he had been promoted to "director of the firm's entire production in Hollywood". Gutzeit reported to Moscow that "we asked Morros about taking one or two people for training in his studios." Gutzeit went to visit Morros in Hollywood. Gutzeit phoned him at his office and later recalled that "by the tone of his voice I felt he was not very pleased about my arrival." He carried out some research into Morros and discovered he was only "a director of the musical sub-department of the firm's production department". Morros admitted that he had lied about his power in the film industry. Gutzeit reported that Morros wanted to break with the NKVD. However, Gutzeit was not willing for him to do this and reported to Moscow: "We are not going to leave him, and in 2-3 months will meet with him again and seek the contribution he promised.
Gutzeit later reported: "Morros considers himself a political friend of the USSR and is ready to render any help he can. He was never paid. Due to the character of his work, Morros could be used as a talent-spotter for recruiting people he knows in Hollywood, who could be useful in our work and for providing covers for our illegals working in other countries... He has exceptionally wide connections among actors and movie people in Hollywood... Developing Morros's connections may yield interesting results."
At that time the NKVD did not have a station in Hollywood and they were out of contact with Morros for two years. On 2nd November, 1940, Gaik Ovakimyan, the New York station chief, contacted Morros and proposed several ideas for activating him. However, it was only in December 1941, that Morros agreed to the request made by Vasssily Zarubin to organize covers for two Soviet "illegals". In exchange, Zarubin promised to assist his relatives living in Omsk and to grant his father, Mendel Moroz, an exit permit, allowing him to travel to the United States. Zarubin also arranged for the release from prison of two of his brothers, Yuli and Savely. Another brother, Alexander, had been executed in 1940.
Morros also agreed to form a music publishing house in the United States funded by Alfred Stern, the husband of Martha Dodd. 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."
In 1944 Jack Soble became Morros 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 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 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. In testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1957, he also named Alfred Stern and Martha Dodd as being part of a Soviet spy ring. In 1959 he published My Ten Years as a Counterspy.
Boris Morros died in New York City on 8th January, 1963.
(1) Allen Weinstein, 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. Since Moscow could not provide funds for such a project at the time, Zarubin approached "the Red millionaire," Martha Dodd's husband, Alfred Stern ("Louis"). Zarubin's superiors in Moscow endorsed the project and assigned the code name "Chord."
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 enterprise that unfolded resembled the classic film comedy The Producers, substituting for that movie's famous song line ("Springtime for Hitler and Germany") a chorus of "Autumn for Stalin and Motherland." Zarubin described the venture's opening phase to Vsevolod Merkulov in Moscow: "At the first meeting ... we discussed all the questions of principle. I repeated once more that (Stern) wouldn't have the right to interfere in ( "Chord's") operational and commercial essence.... Afterward, the lawyers drew up an agreement"
The New York station chief became enmeshed in the project's "operational and commercial essence." Zarubin told Merkulov that plans for the company already underway, led by the energetic Boris Morros, included contests involving South American composers, with the winners and best works signed to contracts, and negotiations with well-known conductors Leopold Stokowski and (in Paris) Serge Koussevitzky for purchasing their works. Morros had already acquired record production equipment for a Los Angeles plant he intended to purchase. In addition, he had already begun to promote the new company to broadcasting networks, orchestras, and motion picture studios: "In fact," Zarubin proudly informed his Moscow colleague, "Chord has already begun practical activities.... Financially, it will be ready this winter for use as a cover but, if we needed it even earlier... we could send people under Chord's flag right now."
(2) Jack Soble, memorandum on Boris Morros (December, 1945)
He let me know that he had sold 75% of the record plant's shares... and that his son Richard... was now a partner in the firm.
Personally, Morros had returned to the movie industry. He is preparing to release four films next year.
If we want to work with him, he is ready to set up together with us a movie firm in the "Federal Film" system, which will produce these movies. $200,000 is needed for this. (Personally, I am sure that it can be done for an investment of $100,000.) This firm could open branches in any country for distributing these films, not drawing suspicion from authorities, since his name is sufficiently known both here and abroad. He has proposed me as a candidate for manager of the New York office since I know languages and foreign countries and come from a capitalist environment.
He guarantees this business will be a success since movies are his craft. He is ready to give a guarantee that in due course money invested in this business will be returned with interest.
He laid down two conditions: 1. Without Stern (he will not take him as a partner). 2. To give him an answer within a month. If there is no answer by the middle of January, he will consider himself free.
(3) Jack Soble, memorandum on Boris Morros and Alfred Stern (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...
Strong hands are needed to keep him within budgetary limits. Strict... and constant financial controls are necessary. But... he is an honest man and obeys our decisions. When I suggested that he return Alfred's money, without hesitation, he ... liquidated $100,000 of this debt within three months.
(4) Jack Soble, memorandum on Boris Morros (March, 1948)
Boris is not under suspicion, although as you know, there is an incredible "purge" of Reds going on in Hollywood now.... He travels everywhere, is on friendly terms with Cardinal Spellman, meets with the biggest cinema stars, and has countless acquaintances all over the world, but... is doing nothing with Soviet intelligence... and will be doing nothing if we don't take him into our hands.
(5) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999)
Jack Soble was certainly aware by the summer of 1953 that his life was in danger from Soviet intelligence. His anxieties increased later that summer when Martha Dodd - whom, along with her husband, Alfred Stern, Soble had supervised-made headlines as a possible target of Senator Joseph McCarthy's Red-hunting probe. Soble fretted, according to Morros's account to Moscow, that Dodd could identify and name him and had "become cowardly." In mid-December, however, Morros wrote Moscow that the McCarthy committee had begun to investigate Soble's activities in France but had failed to discover any incriminating evidence.
(6) The New York Times (24th June, 1986)
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.
(7) Los Angeles Times (24th June, 1986)
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.