Cohen, Morris

(1910–1992); Cohen, Lona (1913–1992).
   Two of Moscow’s most important illegals in the first decade of the Cold War, Lona and Morris Cohen played a critical role in the Julius Rosenberg and Konon Molody cases. Morris Cohen, a communist since his high school years, served in the Republican Army in Spain, was wounded, and was subsequently recruited there by the NKVD. On his return to the United States, he married Lona Petka, a communist activist. During WorldWar II, Lona served the NKVD rezidentura in New York as a courier between Soviet intelligence officers and their agents in Los Alamos. She traveled to New Mexico to meet agents and take nuclear weapons information to Soviet case officers in New York. On one occasion, when she was being searched by a counterintelligence officer, she gave a box of tissues containing the documents to the officer to hold. Since tuberculosis was common in New Mexico, the officer never inspected the box or found the documents. The Cohens later became important players in the Rosenberg spy network in the late 1940s and were forced to flee to Moscow via Mexico when their roles were discovered.
   In 1954, under cover as Peter and Helen Kroger, they traveled to London to support Soviet intelligence. Operating from an antiquarian bookshop in a London suburb, they worked closely with Konon Molody (Gordon Lonsdale), who was running important agents within the British navy. They served as clandestine radio operators for several years with the KGB code name “dachatniki” (the vacationers). In 1961 they were arrested with Molody and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Eight years later, they were exchanged for a British agent. The Cohens’ life after their release from prison is a mystery. They may have served in Japan as illegals; they almost certainly worked to train a new generation of Soviet illegals in Moscow. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cohens surfaced in Moscow and gave interviews to both the American and Soviet press. They were of a generation of ideological recruits who had served Moscow and Joseph Stalin without question. Morris Cohen was decorated for service to Russia by President Boris Yeltsin shortly before his death.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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