Talk by Mark Dunton: On the trail of Klaus Fuchs, atomic spy

Date/Time
Mon 12 October 2020
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Location
Duke Street Church


Klaus Fuchs

Arguably the most important “atomic” spy of the 20th century, Klaus Fuchs (1911–1988) was a German physicist who worked on the British and US-led atomic projects of the Cold War era. In 1950, Fuchs was caught passing vital secrets to the Soviet Union and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Mark Dunton delves into Security Service files held at the National Archives to uncover how the authorities managed to unmask Fuchs and secure his confession, and reveals a fascinating local connection with Kew.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________Klaus Fuchs was a most complex individual: his story has many twists and turns. Following this is akin to walking through a hall of fractured mirrors, but Mark will guide us through step by step.

One of the most intriguing aspects is the psychological dimension – how Fuchs was able to ‘compartmentalise’ his different lives: his friendships with fellow scientists and their families who respected and trusted him completely; and his secret life as an agent for the Soviet Union.

Our fascination with him is further heightened, as we know that the game he was playing was for very high stakes (they could not have been set higher) – he had shared the details of a game-changing and awesome new weapon – the atomic bomb – with a foreign power.

Mark will delve into Security Service files held at the National Archives which are rich in detail, including surveillance reports, intercepted phone calls, letters, interviews, and various other correspondences. He will uncover how the authorities managed to unmask Fuchs and secure his confession, a game of ‘cat and mouse’, in many ways. Mark also reveals fascinating local connections, for Fuchs’ spycraft extended to specific locations in Kew, and Richmond was also important to him, and the location of a romantic assignation.

Mark Dunton has a BA in History from Exeter University, an MA in Archives and Records Management from University College London and an MA in War Studies from King’s College London. He joined The National Archives in 1983 where he is now a Principal Records Specialist for Contemporary archival sources. Mark is a key media spokesperson on the annual release of government files – he is an expert on the ‘marginalia’ (handwritten comments) of Prime Ministers and has given numerous television, radio and press interviews about the Prime Minister’s Office records and Cabinet Papers. He curated The National Archives’ highly successful Cold War exhibition in 2019.

 

 

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