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Sonia
Soviet Spy
World War II

From Spy Book, The Encyclopedia of Espionage

Code name for Ruth Hamburger Beurton (nee Ursula Kuczynski). Chapman Pincher, author of Too Secret Too Long (1984), called Sonia "the most successful female spy in history."

Born in Berlin, to a communist father, Ruth joined the Communist Youth Union when she was 17. In 1929 she married Rolf Hamburger in Germany, and the folliwng year she was ordered by Soviet intelligence to go to Shanghai. there she met Agnes Smedley, Richard Sorge, and probably Roger Hollis. Sorge persuaded Ruth to work as an illegal for the GRU, Soviet Military Intelligence. She allowed her apartment to be used as a meeting place for Sorge and also served as courier for the group.

In December, 1932, Sorge reported to Moscow that Sonia was a capabale agent. She was then invited to Moscow to learn tradecraft, including the use of clandestine radios. At that time she was given the code name Sonia, which she is believed to have used for the rest of her career.

The Soviets sent her to Mukden, the capital of Japanese-controlled Manchuria, in April 1934. Her assignment was to maintain contact between Moscow and the Chinese partisans fighting the Japanese. She was subsequently sent to Peking (now Beijing) in May 1935, but she soon left China when Sorge's successor in Shanghai was arrested. Back in Europe, she visited her parents in London and then accompanied the Hamburgers to Poland, where Rolf also worked for the GRU. Sonia returned to Moscow June 1937 for advanced training and to be decorated with the Order of the Red Banner, the highest honor than available to a non-Soviet citizen; she was made a major in the GRU.

In June 1938 Sonia was directed by Moscow to recruit Britons to serve under her as spies in Germany. The GRU ordered her to divorce Rolf and to marry one of her British agents, Len Beurton, to enable her to become a British citizen. She married Beurton on Feb. 23, 1940, and recieved a British passport in May.

"Ollo," who had been Sonia's nanny in Germany, wanted to go to England with the family. Told she could not go, she revealed Sonia's and Beurton's espionage activities to the British consular representative in Montreaux, Switzerland, but was ignored. When Sonia and her two children arrived in Britain in February 1941, she moved into a home near Oxford and began her radio transmissions in the spring of 1941.

Klaus Fuchs supplied Sonia with information about his work related to the atomic bomb beginning in 1941. In September 1944, Sonia's brother, Juergen Kuczynski, was asked to participate in an American effort to assess the damage to the German war effort by Allied bombing. Her was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and was thus able to pass on to Sonia the results of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

In June 1947 two British MI5 officials and a local detective attempted to question Sonia and her husband about alleged spy activities. When the couple refused to answer questions, the officers left without searching the house; there was apparently no further interested in the family by counterespionage officials.

In 1950 Sonia and two of the children went to East Germany for a vacation. She never returned to Britain, and Beurton joined her in East Germany later that year. In 1969 Sonia received her second Order of the Red Banner. She published her memoirs in 1977, wrote several other books, and was awarded the Order of Karl Marx in 1984.

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