Just one week after British physicist Klaus Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in passing information on the atomic bomb to the Russians, the Soviet Union issues a terse statement denying any knowledge of Fuchs or his activities. Despite the Russian disclaimer, Fuchs’ arrest and conviction led to the uncovering of a network of individuals in the United States and Great Britain who had allegedly engaged in spying activities for the Soviet Union during World War II.
Fuchs worked on developing the atomic bomb during World War II, both in Great Britain and as part of the super-secret Manhattan Project in the United States. In February 1950, British officials arrested him and charged him with passing information concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviets. After his arrest, Fuchs implicated an American, Harry Gold, as someone who served as a courier between himself and Soviet agents. Gold fingered David Greenglass, who also worked on the Manhattan Project, and Greenglass informed on his brother-in-law and sister, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Eventually, Gold and Greenglass were sentenced to jail terms for their roles. The Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death; they were executed in 1953.
The Soviets consistently denied any part in the spy ring. In a statement released on March 7, 1950, the Russians declared that any confession by Fuchs indicating that he was working for the Soviet Union was a “gross fabrication since Fuchs is unknown to the Soviet Government and no ‘agents’ of the Soviet Union had any connection with Fuchs.” The exact level of Soviet spying, as well as the value of any information it succeeded in digging up as a result of such activity, has never been precisely determined. Fuchs was released from prison in 1959 and spent his remaining years living with his father in East Germany.