Kim Philby


Kim Philby : biography

1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988


Early life

Philby was born at Ambala in the Punjab while it was a province of British India. His father, St John Philby, a well-known author, orientalist, and convert to Islam, was a member of the Indian Civil Service and later a civil servant in Mesopotamia and advisor to King Ibn Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia.

Nicknamed "Kim" after the young boy in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim, Philby attended Aldro preparatory school. Following in the footsteps of his father, he continued to Westminster School, which he left in 1928 at the age of 16. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read history and economics. Whilst at Cambridge, he was treasurer of the Cambridge University Socialist Society and canvassed for the Labour candidate for Cambridge in the 1931 election. He graduated in 1933 with a 2:1 degree in economics.Treason in the Blood: H. St. John Philby, Kim Philby, and the Spy Case of the Century, by Anthony Cave Brown, Little, Brown publishers, Boston 1994.

Upon Philby’s graduation, Maurice Dobb – a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and tutor in economics – introduced him to the World Federation for the Relief of the Victims of German Fascism in Paris. The World Federation was one of innumerable fronts operated by the German communist Willi Münzenberg, a member of the Reichstag who had fled to France in 1933.Stephen Koch: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Muenzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. Revised Edition. New York: Enigma Books, 2004. Dobb, a Communist sympathiser, also placed Philby in contact with the Comintern underground in Vienna, Austria.


Whilst in Vienna, working to aid refugees from Nazi Germany, Philby met and fell in love with Litzi Friedmann (born Alice Kohlmann), a young Austrian Communist of Hungarian Jewish origins. Philby admired the strength of her political convictions and later recalled that at their first meeting: "[a] frank and direct person, Litzi came out and asked me how much money I had. I replied £100, which I hoped would last me about a year in Vienna. She made some calculations and announced, ‘That will leave you an excess of £25. You can give that to the International Organisation for Aid for Revolutionaries. We need it desperately.’ I liked her determination." He acted as a courier to Vienna and Prague, paying for the train tickets out of his remaining £75 and using his British passport to evade suspicion. He also delivered clothes and money to refugees from the Nazis.Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files, 1994, published by Little, Brown & Company Limited, Canada, ISBN 978-0-316-91015-6. Introduction by Phillip Knightley.

With threats of an armed uprising against the Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss (he was assassinated by Nazis the following year) and the killing of over 1,000 civilians by troops, Philby’s British passport became still more valuable. Philby and Litzi Friedmann married in February 1933, enabling her to escape to the United Kingdom with Philby two months later. It is possible that it was a Viennese-born friend of Friedmann’s in London, Edith Tudor Hart – herself, at this time, a Soviet agent – who first approached Philby about the possibility of working for Soviet intelligence.

According to Genrikh Borovik, who worked from Soviet archives, Tudor Hart recommended Litzi and Philby in 1934. Peter Wright, former senior MI5 officer, said in his 1987 book that Litzi Friedmann was "almost certainly the person who recruited him to the Soviet cause."Peter Wright. Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer, 1987, p. 324. Yuri Modin, one of the KGB controllers of the Cambridge Five, agreed: "Contrary to received opinion, it was neither Guy Burgess nor one of our own agents who lured Philby into the toils of the Soviet espionage apparatus. It was Litzi."

Philby’s first Soviet controller was the Hungarian Arnold Deutsch (code-name Otto), who came to London from Vienna to study at London University. He was soon replaced by Theodore Maly (code-name Man), who was also Hungarian. Philby also dealt with Anatol Gorsky (code-name Kap) the OGPU resident in London and his predecessor, a German known as Reif (code-name Mar). All were shot in Moscow between 1936 and 1938 on trumped-up charges of being either German or Polish spies during the era of Stalin’s Great Purge. Philby’s first task for Otto was to make a list of his Cambridge contemporaries who might respond to discreet contact. He listed seven, including Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.