Noel Field : biography
Noel Field (January 23, 1904 – September 12, 1970), was an American citizen. While employed at the United States Department of State in the 1930s, he was a Soviet spy. In postwar Eastern Europe, he served as the pretext for show trials in Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Hungary, which in their turn were used as a pretext to remove indigenous Communist Party members in favour of Moscow-based agents who had returned to their native lands behind the Red Army.
By Noel Field:
By brother Hermann Field:
Field was born in London in 1904, the first son of Brooklyn-born zoologist Herbert Haviland Field, who directed an international scientific bibliographical institute in Zurich, and his English wife. After Herbert Field’s death, his wife took Noel Field, his brother Hermann, and two sisters to the US where the boys later attended Harvard University.
Noel Field remained a staunch communist; his final testament, written in Budapest and published in an American political journal, was entitled "Hitching Our Wagon to a Star." In 1956 just out of prison he had published an angry apology of the Russian counterrevolutionary brutality in Hungary. Noel Field died in 1970, his wife Herta in 1980. His story became the subject of a 1997 documentary by the Swiss film producer Werner Schweizer, Noel Field – Der erfundene Spion (Noel Field, the Fictitious Spy).
Hypotheses regarding Field’s role in the show trials
Field was ideally suited to the Communists’ show trials; he had known and assisted many highly placed officials, including resistance fighters and members of the Spanish International Brigades with whom he had maintained contact after the war. In addition, he had had contact with Allen Dulles which allowed the Communists to construct a scenario of cooperation with the US directed against the Soviet bloc. It could even be argued that Field had turned his friends into a spy network penetrating Central Europe. Moscow could thus counteract the ongoing uncovering of its own network in the US with the bogus uncovering of an extensive network of American spies headed by the same Field whom the US had charged with being a Soviet agent.
The journalist Drew Pearson maintained that the Soviets, encountering resistance to demands for grain and for military support from nationalist Communist leaders in Eastern Europe who had spent the war outside the USSR, used the myth of a Field-led spy network to purge them all. Pearson speculated that Field was arrested and incarcerated to prevent him from discrediting the trumped-up charges of disloyalty.
It has been suggested that Allen Dulles, informed that Noel Field was on his way to Prague, saw an irresistible opportunity to create havoc among his Cold War adversaries and lit the fuse by instructing Józef Światło, his Polish agent within East European counterintelligence, to alert his colleagues to the impending arrival of Dulles’s master spy, coming now to activate the network of traitors he had put in place during the war years. However, it is more likely that CIA officials saw a chance to sow discord once the Fields had been arrested and fanned the blaze of paranoia and Stalinist terror. It is undisputed that Allen Dulles was delighted by the chaos caused by the Field case and did not express any sympathy for the plight of the Fields or the harsh treatment they received. He even refused all efforts by Field’s sister Elsie to help rescue Noel and Herta.
Noel Field began his career in the US State Department in the late 1920s. In the 1930s he was an antifascist and sympathised with Soviet peace initiatives, as did many Western progressives at the time. Field first met the German anti-Nazis Paul and Hede Massing in 1933; they had arrived in the US from Moscow, with the aim of building a network of Soviet agents among influential left-wing personalities.
In 1935 Hede Massing, who was a NKVD operative, tried to sign Field up for the NKVD. Field finally decided to work for the NKVD, but in 1936 he accepted a post with the League of Nations and moved to Geneva. Massing set Field up with Ignatz Reiss (Ignace Reiss) and Walter Krivitsky, who were in charge of Soviet intelligence in Switzerland.