Viktor Grayevsky: I revealed Khrushchev's “secret speech” - Politics | PoFo

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Grayevsky was Jewish and, after a recent trip to Israel to visit his sick father, had decided to immigrate there. After he read the speech, he decided to take it to the Israeli Embassy and gave it to Yaakov Barmor who had helped Grayevsky make his trip to visit Grayevsky's sick father. Unbeknownst to Grayevsky, Barmor was a Shin Bet representative. Barmor photographed the document and sent the photographs to Israel.

By the afternoon of April 13, 1956, the Shin Bet in Israel had received the photographs. Israeli intelligence and United States intelligence had previously secretly agreed to cooperate on security matters. James Jesus Angleton was the CIA's head of counterintelligence and in charge of the clandestine liaison with Israeli intelligence. The photographs were delivered to him. On April 17, 1956, the photographs had reached the CIA chief

Trade Secrets

By Yossi Melman

A brief encounter with history

"I acted on impulse," says Viktor Grayevsky, the man who voluntarily handed the Shin Bet one of the greatest successes in its history. "Today in hindsight I know that I was young and foolish. Had they discovered me, we wouldn't be speaking today. I don't know whether they would have killed me, but I certainly would have sat in prison for many years."

Grayevsky, 81, is retired from the Israel Broadcasting Authority. He immigrated to Israel from Poland in 1957. At the recommendation of Amos Manor, he joined the Foreign Ministry, worked on the international broadcasts of the Voice of Zion to the Diaspora, established the Russian-language broadcasting department, and later became director of the station.

During his first 15 years in Israel he continued to maintain a connection with the Shin Bet and was used for clandestine operations involving the Soviet Union. But he refuses to talk about it, offering only the following words: "I confronted the Soviet Union three times in my life - with the Khrushchev document, with the broadcasts, and with another affair that it's still too early to talk about. Most of my life I fought the Soviet Union."

Born in 1925 in Krakow, his name was Viktor Spielman. Together with his family, he escaped to the Soviet Union with the outbreak of World War II, and thus his life was saved. In 1946 he returned to Poland, joined the Communist Party, studied journalism at the Academy of Political Science and joined the Polish news agency. "When I joined the party they told me that with a name like Spielman I wouldn't go far, so I changed it to a Polish name - Grayevsky," which has a similar meaning, "to play an instrument," or "to act."

He began work as a junior reporter, and advanced to the rank of senior editor, responsible for the department handling the Soviet Union and the people's democracies in Eastern Europe. "It was a position that opened the doors to the party and the government for me." In 1949, his parents and his sister immigrated to Israel. Grayevsky decided to remain in Poland. In December 1955 his father contracted a serious illness, and Grayevsky came to visit him. To organize the visit, he met with Yaakov Barmor, ostensibly the first secretary in the Israeli embassy in Warsaw, in fact a Shin Bet representative. "No, I didn't know he was from intelligence. I thought he was a diplomat," he says.

The visit to Israel shook up his world view. Grayevsky became a Zionist. He returned to Poland, but he had made the decision to immigrate to Israel. About four months after his return from Israel he came, as usual, to the workplace of his girlfriend, Lucia Baranowski, to meet her for coffee. Baranowski, who was also Jewish, had fled during the war from the Lvov ghetto and joined the partisans, where she met her future husband. In the mid-1950s, she served for a short time as a junior secretary - actually a worker on loan - in the office of the first secretary of the Communist Party, Edward Ochab.

She was 35 years old, with one son. Her husband was the deputy prime minister of Poland. The couple lived in the same apartment, but separately. "Her marriage was not a success, and she was my girlfriend in every sense," says Grayevsky, then a 30-year-old bachelor. That same day, at 11 A.M., Baranowski was very busy and was unable to go out to the cafe. "Ochab's office was in the headquarters of the party?s Central Committee," he says. "Everyone knew me, the guards, the office workers, I was almost a member of the family there. While I was talking to Lucia, I noticed a thick booklet with a red binding, with the words: 'The 20th Party Congress, the speech of Comrade Khrushchev.' In the corner it said: 'Top Secret'."

That was one of the few copies sent by order of the Soviet Politburo to leaders of the Eastern Bloc countries. "Like others, I had also heard rumors about the speech," says Grayevsky. "We knew that the United States had offered a prize of $1 million to anyone who could obtain the speech. We also knew that all the intelligence services, all the diplomats and all the journalists in the world wanted to get their hands on the speech. Thus, when I saw the red booklet, I immediately understood. It mainly aroused my curiosity as a journalist. I told Lucia: 'I'll take the booklet, go home for an hour or two, and read it.' She said, 'Fine, but I go home at 4 P.M., so return it by then, because we have to put it in the safe.'

"I put the booklet under my coat and left the building, without anyone being suspicious or examining me. After all, they all knew me. At home, when I read the speech I was shocked. Such crimes. Stalin a murderer. I felt that I was holding an atom bomb, and since I knew that the entire world was looking for the speech, I understood that if I threw the bomb it would explode. I decided to go back and return the booklet to Lucia, but on the way I thought about it a lot, and I decided to go to the embassy, to Yaakov Barmor. Poland hadn't done anything bad to me, but my heart was with Israel, and I wanted to help.

"I went to the embassy and rang the bell. The building was surrounded by Polish soldiers and policemen, and there were cameras all around, which checked everyone who entered. I went to Barmor's office and told him: 'Look what I have.' He turned white and then red, and changed colors again. He asked to take the booklet for a minute, and he returned to me an hour and a half later."

Did you understand what he was doing?

"Of course. I knew he was photographing. After an hour and a half he returned, gave me the booklet and said 'Thank you very much.' I left the embassy and went to Lucia. I arrived between 2:30 and 3, and returned it to her."

Grayevsky immigrated to Israel in January 1957. When he submitted the request to immigrate, he was fired from his job. Lucia Baranowski died in Poland of a serious illness 15 years later. "We never spoke about what had happened," he emphasizes.

And what about compensation? He says that it didn't enter his mind to ask for anything. "What are you talking about? I acted out of an impulse that stemmed from my connection to Israel. It was a bouquet from a new immigrant to the State of Israel. No professional spy could have managed to get what I got. I was lucky."

Do you consider yourself a hero?

"No. I'm not a hero. I didn't make history. The person who made history was Khrushchev. I met up with history for a few hours, and our ways parted."

On the afternoon of Friday, April 13, 1956, Zelig Katz entered the office of Amos Manor, which was located in an Arab building opposite the flea market in Jaffa. Manor was the head of the Shin Bet security service. Zelig Katz, who had Hebraized his name (as was usual at that time) to Ziv Carmi, was his assistant and bureau chief. In an exclusive interview with Haaretz, Manor recollects the exchange of words that took place some 50 years ago.

Manor: Has the material arrived from Eastern Europe?

Carmi: Yes. Material has arrived from Warsaw.

Manor: Is there anything interesting?

Carmi: There's some speech by Khrushchev from the congress.

Manor (shouting): What? Where's the material?

Carmi: In my room.

Manor: Bring it immediately.

Carmi rushed to his room and returned with 70 photographed pages in Polish. "I said to him, you're an idiot," says Manor. "You are now holding in your hand one of the most important secrets in the world." Manor's astonishment and anger further increased when he discovered that the speech had been sent from the Shin Bet representative in Warsaw with a Foreign Ministry courier, three days earlier. "I said to Zelig, call Duvid and tell him to come here at once."

Duvid was David Schweitzer, a soccer player for Hapoel Tel Aviv who years later became the coach of the Israel national team; he was then in charge of the Shin Bet photo lab. Manor asked Carmi to translate the text for him. "The further he progressed in the translation, the more I cursed," he says. "Good grief, I said to myself."

Within a short time Schweitzer arrived. "I told him to photograph one copy and develop it as fast as possible - I have to bring it to Ben-Gurion." The photo and development took about two hours. While he was waiting for it, his wife Tzipora called. She was used to unconventional work hours and to her husband's absence, and she asked when he was coming home.

At 6 P.M., twilight, Manor got into his Vauxhall and immediately drove to the home of the prime minister on Keren Kayemet (today Ben-Gurion) Boulevard in Tel Aviv. "I came to Ben-Gurion and told him, we have Krushchev's speech from the 20th Party Conference. I don't know whether it's authentic. We got the speech from one of our sources in Warsaw, who got it from a woman who worked for [Polish Communist leader Wladyslaw] Gomulka."

But as we know, the secretary, the friend of journalist Viktor Grayevsky, who obtained the speech, was the secretary of [Polish prime minister] Edward Ochab, rather than Gomulka.

Manor smiles. "I thought at the time that it was Gomulka. I also told Ben-Gurion that I didn't know whether the source was a double agent who had leaked the speech as disinformation, or whether the speech was original, but had been deliberately leaked to us, so that it would reach the West. 'Judging by what was translated for me, I have the impression that it's authentic, but I suggest that you read it yourself.' Ben-Gurion knew Polish. I remember that he asked me three times what disinformation meant, and three times I explained to him. I left him a copy and departed."

Manor returned from there to his house in north Tel Aviv. The next morning the phone rang and he was asked to return to the house on Keren Kayemet. "Ben-Gurion said: 'If it's authentic, it's an historic document, and 30 years from now there will be a liberal regime in Moscow.' He returned the material to me without telling me what to do with it."

On Sunday, April 15, when he returned to his office, Amos Manor told the head of the Mossad, Isser Harel, about the document. "I told him, if it's authentic, it's an atomic bomb. I told him about the conversation with Ben-Gurion, and that I had decided to send the copy immediately to the CIA, but to maintain the utmost secrecy, I preferred that it be flown to Izzy Dorot, our representative in Washington, rather than being handed over to the CIA representative in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. I enclosed a letter with the document, in which I asked Izzy to give the material personally to Jim Angleton, and to emphasize repeatedly that I was not certain about the authenticity of the material, and that they should examine it carefully."

That same day, the document was sent to Washington via Foreign Ministry courier. Two days later, on April 17, the document landed on the desk of CIA chief Allen Dulles, who quickly informed President Dwight Eisenhower. That same day, Angleton called Amos Manor. James Jesus Angleton was the CIA's head of counterintelligence, and in charge of the clandestine liaison with Israeli intelligence. "He told me it was of utmost importance, and asked me to identify the source who had provided the speech. I replied: 'Jim, we have an agreement between us that we do not reveal sources of information, and the agreement applies to this case as well,'" Manor says.

Years later, Angleton told Manor that the CIA had enlisted its top experts, as well as leading Sovietologists from the academic world, to examine the speech and determine whether it was an original document or a fake. For that purpose, they even sent a copy of the speech to be perused by the U.S. ambassador in Moscow.

Shock and disbelief

The secret speech was delivered on February 25, 1956, in the evening. The 1,400 delegates at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were suddenly invited to a final, closed session, in the Central Committee building in Moscow. The representatives of the foreign delegations were not allowed to enter the hall. When Nikita Khrushchev, the party's first secretary, began to speak, the delegates could hardly believe their ears. Some of them fainted from shock. Without any prior preparation, Khrushchev began a sharp and unprecedented attack on his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, who had died three years earlier.

During the four hours of his speech - 26,000 words - Khrushchev described Stalin as a "despot," condemned the "cult of personality," and accused him of "crimes that caused cruel violence." He criticized Stalin for "most cruel repression," for inventing the concept of "an enemy of the people," and determined that he "had severely distorted the principles of the party."

Immediately after the speech, the delegates scattered, without any discussion taking place. But word of the secret speech spread quickly. Officials cited from it at party meetings, and it began to engineer a process of reforms. First hints of a secret, historic speech delivered at the Soviet Communist Party congress reached the West a few days later. The U.S. administration, as well as the governments of Britain, West Germany, France and others, were eager to learn the contents of the speech. The assignment, naturally, was given to the intelligence organizations. But the Israeli Shin Bet beat out all the others.

Two weeks after the Americans received the speech from Israel, Angleton once again contacted Manor and informed him that the experts had come to the conclusion that it was an original and authentic document. "Jim was in seventh heaven," says Manor. "He asked my permission to publish the material. I went again to Ben-Gurion and asked for his opinion. Ben-Gurion told me that he understood the Americans, because this was a document of historic importance, and gave his consent. I informed Jim of the decision, but asked him not to mention us as the source. We didn't want to be involved."

The relations between Israel and the Soviet Union were already very poor, because of Soviet support for Egypt, and the Israeli leadership was afraid of a Soviet reaction that was liable to harm not only Israel, but the Jews of the Soviet Union as well. After a few weeks' hesitation, the CIA leaked the speech to The New York Times in early June; the newspaper published it in full. The publication caused a worldwide sensation, and the speech became a central propaganda tool in American foreign policy. It was broadcast in many languages on Radio Free Europe, whose broadcasts from Germany were beamed to the Soviet Union and its satellites. Tens of thousands of copies of the speech, in many languages, including Georgian, were distributed from hot-air balloons that were sent eastward from Germany and Austria. In the opinion of CIA experts, the uprising in Hungary in October 1956 was a direct result of the dissemination of the speech.

Allen Dulles, in his 1963 book "The Craft of Intelligence," wrote that he considered obtaining the speech one of the most important intelligence coups during his term in office. Manor has a copy of the book, with a personal dedication from the author, who describes him as a "true professional."

The Shin Bet and the Mossad secretly made sure that Israel would get the credit for the success. In October 1956, about nine months after the 20th Congress, British intelligence had not yet succeeded in getting their hands on an original copy of the speech. On the eve of the Sinai Campaign, Manor met with Nicholas Elliot, the MI6 representative in Israel. Manor: "He asked me, 'Can you get a copy of the speech for me, too?' I asked him, 'How do you know we have it?' He said, 'At first we thought that the Yugoslavs had leaked the speech, but later on we came to the conclusion that it was you.' I said to him, 'Don't ask me about my relations with the other services,' and I refused."

Clandestine meeting

In May 1951, Prime Minister Ben Gurion went on an unofficial trip to the U.S., at the invitation of Jewish organizations. He used the visit for a clandestine meeting with General Walter Bedell-Smith, the head of the CIA. Until then, the Americans had rejected every Israeli request to establish a clandestine liaison between the two countries, for fear that its discovery would harm their ties with the Arab world. Another reason for the American reservations was the fear that Israel - because of the kibbutzim, the immigration from Eastern Europe and the socialist parties - was a branch of the Soviet Union, and permeated with its agents.

"Ben-Gurion very much wanted a liaison with the CIA, but Bedell-Smith was hesitant," says Manor. "In the end he agreed, on condition that it would be super-secret. Ben-Gurion promised to maintain the secrecy." After Manor succeeded in exposing false reports by a Mossad agent in Vienna, Mossad chief Reuven Shiloah suggested that Manor transfer to the Mossad and be responsible for the secret liaison that had just been established with the CIA.

How was the connection maintained?

"They told me that I had to gather information about the Soviet bloc and transmit it to them. I didn't know exactly what to do, until I had the idea of giving them the material we had gathered about a year earlier, about the efforts of the Eastern bloc to use Israel to bypass the American embargo. We edited the material, made the necessary erasures, and informed them that they should never ask us to identify sources. We also made a rule, that we would never give them names of Israelis. The report was sent to Washington, and the reaction was unanticipated - great enthusiasm. They asked us to gather more and more material for them."

What did they ask for?

"Anything we could get about Eastern Europe. Sometimes I didn't understand why they needed us. They asked for Romanian money, telephone directories and maps of cities, and even the price of bread in the Eastern bloc countries."

And how did you manage to get the information?

"We conducted friendly interrogation of new immigrants who arrived in the country. And to our surprise, we discovered that they had interesting material. One had been a party activist, and another had worked in an industrial or military plant. Of course we mainly tried to get military information, from the construction of ships in the Romanian port of Constanza, to Soviet weapons that reached the Romanian or Polish army. Everything was conducted in absolute secrecy, and even in the Shin Bet they didn't know about it. There were perhaps four people who were in on the secret of the operation: I, my secretary Zelig Katz, Isser and Zvi Aharoni, who carried out the interrogations."

What was the code name of the liaison operation?

"Balsam. I think that either my secretary Zelig or Isser gave it that name."

Who worked with you on behalf of the CIA?

"At first I didn't know. Until early in 1952, when Shiloah and Teddy (Kollek) told me that Jim Angleton was in charge of the liaison with Israel. But they didn't know exactly what his job was at the CIA. And then one day in April 1952 he came to Israel. I greeted him at the airport in Lod, together with Reuven Shiloah. He stayed at the Sharon Hotel in Herzliya, which at the time was the only five-star hotel, but he spent most of the time in my little two-room apartment on Pinsker Street.

"Out of seven days, he spent four with me. He would arrive at 11 P.M. and stay until 4 A.M., and then I would drive him back to the hotel. My wife was in the next room, and from time to time she served coffee. He brought a bottle of whiskey with him, and drank all the time, but he never got drunk. I didn't understand how a person could drink so much without getting drunk. I myself didn't drink, and he came to terms with that."

What was your impression of him?

"That he was fanatic about everything. He had a tendency toward mystification. Eventually, after maybe 30 years, he told me why he had really come to Israel. He had understood from Teddy that I, a new immigrant from Romania, was conducting Operation Balsam, and that terrified him."

He suspected that you were a Communist agent?

"Yes. He actually came to examine me. That was the reason why he, the chief of counterintelligence, was in charge of the liaison. They suspected us. But at the end of the visit I felt that he had a positive impression, and he told Teddy and Shiloah that he was pleased to have me in charge of the operation."

And what happened afterward?

"I asked Angleton, and he agreed to organize an in-service intelligence course for some of our guys. In October 1952, six of our people went to take the course, but they weren't satisfied, because they were taught theory. To calm things down, Jim sent me two plane tickets, for myself and my wife, so I would come to Washington. I came and reassured the guys.

"Jim tried to ensure that I had a pleasant stay, I met with him a few times in the hotel. He also showed me a new device called a lie detector. I asked him to let one of the students in the course, Zvi Aharoni (a few years later, a member of the group that captured Adolf Eichmann), travel to Chicago to study with the inventor. Jim agreed. Zvi traveled to Chicago and returned with a polygraph machine, which he had received as a gift from Jim. That was the first such device in Israel."

Did you get other gifts from the CIA?

"I told Jim that we were weak on technology, so they gave us microphones, wiretapping equipment for telephones, cameras. But aside from that, we didn't ask for anything in return. We didn't ask them for information, because we were afraid that they would ask us for information about the Arab world.

Letters to the editor

Regarding "Trade secrets," Haaretz Magazine, March 10

Yossi Melman's interview with Amos Manor, which was devoted largely to the acquisition of Khrushchev's historic speech in 1956, is not journalism at its finest: The story of Viktor Grayevsky, including an interview with the very same Manor, was already broadcast on television not long ago. As for the achievement of smuggling the "secret" speech out and its publication in the West, I wonder if the praise Manor heaps on himself and on others in this regard is not somewhat exaggerated.

I am not an expert in intelligence or on the Soviet Union, but was the speech really all that secret? Even in the Soviet Union as it was, it is hard to believe that a speech that was delivered to 1,500 people and afterward also disseminated outside the country could be considered such a confidential document. It seems to me that what is more important here is the good public relations which this "achievement" gained for Israel's secret services with their American counterparts.

Yitshak Mesing

Kiryat Ono

How a Speech Won the Cold War

Speech of Nikita Khrushchev Before a Closed Session of the XXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956. The “secret speech”, which led directly to the Hungarian Uprising later in 1956 and the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, opened the cracks in the system that eventually destroyed the Soviet Union.

Israel's acquisition of Nikita Khrushchev's secret 'de-Stalinisation' speech to the 20th Soviet Party Congress in 1956 - and its transfer to the CIA - was the start of a close intelligence relationship which continues to this day.
stoke wrote:How a Speech Won the Cold War

this is too bold assertion, maybe more correctly expressed in Grayevsky words this was just glitch in the cold war era but way off some western victory ...

    What he had done, he says, was to remove the first brick from the Berlin Wall. which would finally collapse 33 years later. Subject Index Files/S Disk/Spy Grayevsky Victor/Item 01.pdf

and I dont see how this "spying" pushed the sinno-russian split which was not at all result of this leakage but open confrontation between reformists and marxists in the international ... as said as speech it was delivered to all communist leaders so it wasnt some breach, maybe spinn delivered exactly as it suppose to be so it would trigger needed or expected reaction in the west too!? so easily transferred top secret document is too good to be true spying story, eventually if it was so secrete it wouldnt become even document at all, even less redistributed further to commie leaders!'s_%22Secret_Speech%22
stoke wrote:Unbeknownst to Grayevsky, Barmor was a Shin Bet representative. Barmor photographed the document and sent the photographs to Israel.

If you go to an embassy of a foreign country and show them some documents you can assume they'll end in the intelligence of the said country. It's like a schoolgirl wearing a miniskirt and going alone to the worst biker pub in the city. Unbeknowst to her, guys here were molesters.

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