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Cultivating Tradition with an MI6 Spy

The British double agent Kim Philby was a guest of the MfS in Berlin in 1981. He spoke before an assembly of high-ranking officers in "Haus 22" about his activities as a KGB spy within the British foreign intelligence agency MI6.  

In August 1981 Central Department A (HV A) invited an important guest to the Berlin ministry headquarters: the British double agent Kim Philby. Philby was born in India in 1912. While studying at the elite Cambridge University in England, he encountered Guy Burgess, an enthusiastic communist who was able to spark in Philby a passion for the ideology as well. His enthusiasm became so intense that in 1933 Philby joined the Communist International (Comintern) in Vienna, where he was recruited by the Soviet secret service GPU (Gossudarstwennoje polititscheskoje uprawlenije). After a stint working as a journalist for Soviet intelligence in the Spanish Civil War, Philby, with the help of Burgess, was successfully recruited by the British foreign Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6).

He began working there in counterespionage and was later placed in charge of the alliance with the U.S intelligence agency Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Following a few interim appointments, in 1949 he was promoted to liaison officer of the British secret service in the United States. This position provided him excellent access to information he could pass on to his actual employers in the Soviet Union. Together with two friends from his university days, the previously mentioned Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who were both employed in the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., he was able to provide highly sensitive material to Moscow.

Panel discussion with MI6 spy Kim Philby in Stasi headquarter in Berlin  (part 1)

The video recording contains two sound tracks, one original English by Kim Philby and one with an almost simultaneous German translation by an unseen translator. Often the English track is asynchronous. The subtitles are the English translation of German speakers and the English subtitles to Philby's talk, not the German translator's words.

Maclean and Burgess, who were exposed in 1951, managed to escape before their arrest whereas Philby was merely placed in retirement. But a few years later the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons clearing him of all accusations. This made it possible for him to resume his work as an agent of the SIS in Beirut in 1956. Some time later, in 1963, after new signs of Philby’s agent activities had surfaced, he fled to Moscow and applied for political asylum in the Soviet Union. He worked there for the KGB, exposing the entire British-American network of agents in the USSR.

This video recording shows a lecture that Philby held in "House 22" of the Stasi headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg in August 1981, seven years before his death in Moscow in 1988. "House 22" contained the officers’ mess and conference room. The video was part of the HV A’s "cultivation of tradition" effort. The documentation of this and other lectures served to establish a "functionary memory" which through the veterans and "scouts" productions was meant to support the identity formation of employees and the legitimisation of conspiratorial work. On the podium are several high-ranking Stasi officers, including Markus Wolf, Gerhard Neiber, Rudi Mittig and Horst Felber.

Panel discussion with MI6 spy Kim Philby in Stasi headquarter in Berlin (part 2)