Julian Gumperz, the son of German parents, was born in New York City on 12th May, 1898. The father was a successful businessman but the family returned to Germany during the First World War. They settled in Halle, an attractive town near Berlin, where the family owned a paper factory.
Gumperz studied political economy at Halle University. He left university as a committed Marxist and published an anti-war magazine called Der Gegner. One of its contributors was George Grosz. In 1922 he visited Russia. He attended a large meeting in Red Square and heard Leon Trotsky make a passionate speech: "Hours and hours Trotsky stood there like an iron giant. Not any more the little Jew, but an iron giant. That is what the revolution does to people, it elevates them even physically."
On his return he met Hede Eisler. In her autobiography she described him as being refined, softspoken, and a sensitive young man, not hardened by politics although he too then belonged to the left circle." (1) Gumperz also joined forces with Wieland Herzfelde and John Heartfield to establish the left-wing publishing company, Malik Verlag. Massing explained the thinking behind the business venture: "Their aim was to bring inexpensive good books to the masses. They put out handsome paper-bound editions of all left or progressive literature and created quite a furor in the German publishing world. The design of their books was extremely original and was in later years copied by many of the more conservative publishing firms. In fact, it was they who introduced the paper-bound book... Though it employed many Communists and published many of their works, it was financially and politically independent of the Party. As a matter of fact, they had many disagreement with the Party, which made every attempt to incorporate the Malik Verlag into its orbit." Malik Verlag was so successful that it also opened a bookshop and art gallery in Berlin. (2)
Hede married Gumperz and his mother bought them a house in Lichterfelde-West, a suburb of Berlin. Hede's sister, Elli Tune, who was fifteen at the time, moved in with them. Gerhart Eisler, lost his job with Die Rote Fahne as a result of a factional disagreement. Hede later recalled: "He (Gerhart) was not only psychologically disturbed but in financial straits, and Julian, always ready to help, suggested that Gerhart move to our house until he had regained his bearings and found himself a new job."
While living in Gumperz's home, Gerhart Eisler began a relationship with Hede's sister, Elli Tune: "Gerhart assumed the father role for Elli and me, and Julian was my husband. The world was fine. Gerhart was completely in charge of Elli and I considered her fortunate to have such a tutor. Now, I have come to realize that I am fairly observant of many things, but extremely stupid and unimaginative when it comes to other people's love affairs... So I did not notice at all that Gerhart and Eli were lovers until I was told that they were." (3)
In 1925 Julian Gumperz was asked to supervise all the publishing of the German Communist Party (KPD). As part of his new responsibility he had to make regular visits to the Soviet Union, as all publishing of the KPD had to be approved by Moscow. He gradually became disillusioned with the way that the country had changed since the death of Lenin. In 1926 he decided to return to the United States. Hede and Julian Gumperz arrived in New York City in August 1926.
Soon after arriving in America they met Michael Gold, a journalist who worked for The New Masses. Gold arranged for Hede to work in an orphanage in Pleasantville. "It was a wonderful experience. It was my first job of that kind with children, underprivileged children at that, and I loved it. Had I been smarter, I would have stuck to this sort of work and gone on to school to become a social worker." In December 1927 Hede Gumperz was granted American citizenship.
In January 1928, Hede and Julian Gumperz returned to Germany. Julian had obtained a job teaching at the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt am Main. They associated with members of a Marxist student group and during this period they met Paul Massing. "At the time I met him, he had just spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris preparing for his Ph.D. and was about to finish.... Julian thought him a rare combination of peasant boy and intellectual and was so interested in him that he helped to tutor him in preparation for the orals before his doctor's examinations. These sessions were at our house and it was then that I got to know him better. I did not think him so exceedingly good looking at first. Neither did I think him so outstandingly brilliant as I had been led to expect. He had a quick wit and a great capacity for laughter - a loud and attractive sort of laughter. I liked his rakish way of wearing his little French cap, and the way he walked; the seriousness of his face with the high cheekbones that gave him a Slavic look, and that sudden change of expression to a boyish devilishness when he was amused or ironical."
It was not long before Hede Gumperz had fallen in love with Massing: "My relationship with Paul grew like something so natural and so completely uncontrollable that it is almost impossible to recall how it started. Its beginning is clouded and veiled, as is, I suppose, the beginning of all great passions; something that should not be probed or searched for, but left complete and untouched as in sacred keeping. I remember our first walk, arm in arm, and how pleased he was that we were both tall and kept the same step; the warmth and happiness I felt when I looked up to his face.... When he spoke of his mother, the tenderness and warmth that came from him. The love he had for his schoolfriends. The strength and earthiness he conveyed. Yes, Paul was different, he was made of a different fiber. I was awed. He did not have a ready made answer to everything. He was not so sure that the world would be better with communism, though he was preoccupying himself with finding out about it. He was not sure of anything much. Nothing was cut and dried. One had to find out about things. He was bright, inquisitive, enterprising, and truly, honestly modest." (4)
Robert J. Lamphere later recalled: "Hede and Paul were both tall, Nordic-looking, passionate and romantic. They fell in love, and Julian let them go, helpless to stop their affair." (5) Hede now left Julian Gumperz and went to live with Paul Massing who had found a job writing for the International Agrarian Problems, a scientific monthly that financed and edited by the Agrarian Institute in Moscow. In 1929 Massing went to work for the Agrarian Institute. Hede remained in Germany and later that year she met her old friend, Richard Sorge. Over the next few weeks she spent a lot of time with Richard Sorge and his wife Christine. "There was a fine collection of modern paintings and rare lithographs. I was impressed by the easy atmosphere and grace with which the household was run. I liked the combination of serious talk, and lust for living that was shown."
Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933 and Julian Gumperz fled from Nazi Germany. In the United States Gumperz became a stockbroker. After the war he became a strong anti-communist and in 1947 published Pattern for World Revolution, under the pseudonym "Ypsilon".
Their aim was to bring inexpensive good books to the masses. They put out handsome paper-bound editions of all left or progressive literature and created quite a furor in the German publishing world. The design of their books was extremely original and was in later years copied by many of the more conservative publishing firms. In fact, it was they who introduced the paper-bound book... Though it employed many Communists and published many of their works, it was financially and politically independent of the Party. As a matter of fact, they had many disagreement with the Party, which made every attempt to incorporate the Malik Verlag into its orbit.
A tall, middle-aged, carefully dressed woman, no longer the striking beauty she had obviously been in her youth, Hede was still attractive. My early questions were so discreet that she leaned over the table to Finzel and me and said, "You don't need to be so delicate, Mr. Lamphere. I am very willing to tell you my story." Tell it she did, in many long interviews over the course of the winter of 1946-47. Of these interviews, Hede would later write that they had been, though polite, a "terrific ordeal," because it was hard to "pour your heart out to a stranger, to face yourself, your crumbled illusions, your misconceptions - it is like a psychoanalysis without reward."
Once more I heard about the cafes of Vienna, the home of the Bohemian life in the days at the end of World War I. Gerhart was a playwright. Hede was an actress, tall, slim, with reddish-blond braids, all of seventeen and on scholarship at the theater conservatory. She and her younger sister, Elli, came from a broken family. When Hede met Gerhart at a cafe it was as though she had "struck a whirlwind and was hopelessly and helplessly tangled and engulfed." Within weeks he had separated her from a weaker boyfriend, made her his mistress, and taken her to live with his family. The Eislers gave her warm family surroundings and intellectual stimulation. Hede never fully understood the Marxist doctrine, but implicitly trusted it and believed it to be humanitarian.
Hede and Gerhart moved to Berlin in 1920 and married-for convenience, he said, not because of bourgeois convention. In Berlin she starred in plays and he wrote editorials for Rote Fahne. Socially, they saw only fellow Communists. (I was reminded of Bentley's similar comments about the all-embracing environment that Communism provided - answers for all questions, jobs and lovers for true believers.)
By the time of the 1923 upheaval, Gerhart and Hede had grown apart, and Hede passed rather easily into the hands of wealthy Communist publisher Julian Gumperz, an intellectual Marxist who had been born in the United States. Her sister, Elli, moved in with them; Elli was fifteen, bright, beautiful, and "quite a self-centered little animal, wild and untamed." When Gerhart lost his job, Julian suggested he, too, take a room in the Gumperz house, and soon Gerhart and Elli were lovers. Hede took this as a compliment to her and a solution to the thorny problem of providing the great revolutionary with a suitable wife.
Hede and Julian made frequent trips abroad. In 1926, in New York, Hede met Helen Black and other Communists and worked as a "cottage mother" in an orphanage until her American citizenship papers came through, after which she and Julian moved back to Germany. At the university in Frankfurt-am-Main they met Paul Massing, an outdoorsman and agricultural economics student whom Julian thought a "rare combination of peasant boy and intellectual." Hede and Paul were both tall, Nordic-looking, passionate and romantic. They fell in love, and Julian let them go, helpless to stop their affair.
(1) Hede Massing, This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951) page 37
(2) Hede Massing, This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951) page 38
(3) Hede Massing, This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951) page 46
(4) Hede Massing, This Deception: KBG Targets America (1951) pages 54 and 55
(5) Robert J. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War (1986) page 51