E-mail: hfield@bicnet.net


A Chronology of Related Events
May 1949 Noel Field disappears during visit to Prague.
Aug 1949 Hermann Field disappears at Warsaw airport during search for his brother.  His wife, Kate, in London notifies U.S. Embassy.
Aug 1949 Herta Field, Noel's wife, disappears in Prague during search for her husband.
Sept 1949 Kate notifies U.S. Embassy of disappearances of Noel and Herta.
Sept 1949 Hungary announces conspiracy within leadership of Hungarian communists.  In show trial, Lazlo Rajk, Foreign Minister, and others returned from exile, sentenced to death or prison as agents of U.S. Intelligence operative, Noel Field, who was not produced at trial.
1949-50 The name Field appears frequently in satellite and Soviet propaganda focusing on U.S. espionage.
1949-53 U.S. State Department sends repeated notes to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary as to possible whereabouts of the Fields in their territory.  Uniform denials.
Aug 1950 Erica Wallach, Noel Field's foster daughter, disappears in East Berlin during search for Noel.
1950-51 Wave of arrests among leading communist functionaries in East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Sept 1951 Wladislaw Gomulka, former head of Polish Communist party and former head of government, arrested with his wife.  Polish press hints of widespread leadership conspiracy.
Nov 1952 Czechoslovakia announces treason trial of Rudolf Slansky, former deputy premier and Communist party secretary, and other leading communist functionaries. Charged with Titoist/Zionist conspiracy organized by the Anglo-American network of Hermann Field, often the names of both brothers cited.  Most sentenced to death or long-term imprisonment.
Mar 1953 Stalin dies.
Mar 1954 Red Cross postcard from Erica Wallach from Vorkuta in Soviet Arctic.
Aug 1954 Washington produces Polish defector, Col.  Josef Swiatlo, responsible for Hermann Field's 1949 arrest and detention in the cellar of a secret safe house at Miedzeszyn, outside Warsaw.  Also reveals detention of Noel and Herta Field in Budapest. U.S. State Department sends notes demanding the release of the Fields.
Oct 1954 Poland announces release of Hermann Field, declaring him innocent of all charges.  He rejoins his family in the West.
Nov 1954 Hungary announces release of Noel & Herta Field, also declared innocent.
Dec 1954 Noel & Herta Field ask for asylum in Hungary and remain there.
June 1955 Erica Wallach released from Arctic labor camp Vorkuta where she was serving a 10 year sentence.  An earlier death sentence by a Soviet military tribunal in East Berlin had been commuted.  She returns to the West.

Historical Context

An American Family and the Show Trials, The Field Case At Mid-Century

Excerpt from a paper by Hermann Field delivered at: AAASS National Convention, Boca Raton, September 24, 1998

The Field Brothers and Stalin's Institutionalized Purges

       The Red Army's advance across Eastern Europe in the final days of World War II assured interim control over the future satellite states east of the Oder/Neisse line.  The transition to Soviet rule under the Warsaw Pact was an uneasy one.  These states had become the front line of Cold War contention.  The communist cadres assigned to run them were drawn from nationals that had spent the war years in exile.  A minority of them had been in the Soviet Union, the majority in Western allied countries as refugees.  It was this latter communist group that Stalin came to distrust, especially after Tito's defection.

       So many of these cadres came from the West due to two major undertakings.  One was the Czech Refugee Trust Fund in England that was responsible for rescuing some 8,000 anti-Nazis out of the former Czechoslovakia before the war.  The second was the American Unitarian Service Committee operating out of France and Switzerland during the war.  It primarily saved the former foreign volunteers of the Spanish Civil war now lingering in French internment camps.  The Unitarians ultimately rescued thousands of these refugees.

       The English undertaking was the result of the British public's reaction to the Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia.  The rescue included Sudeten activists as well as Germans and Austrians that could no longer be protected by Prague.  After the seizure of the entire country in March 1939, the Czech anti-fascists who themselves had become exposed to the Gestapo were also rescued.  An especially endangered minority among these refugees were the communists who were granted the same rights of passage to safety by England.

       After the German takeover of March 1939, the former Czech territory was surrounded on three sides with only Poland providing some opportunity for escape.  Having completed an architectural assignment in England, I agreed to an undercover mission to Prague to contact the people who had already received British visas but now were in hiding. The assumption was that an American had a better chance of surviving than a British national.  That Czech mission successfully completed, I was asked by the Refugee Committee in London to set up a refugee reception and processing center in Krakow, Poland, as the transit point for their movement via boat to England.  We got out many hundreds before September 1, but with still a large contingent-men, women and children of all ages-stranded in Krakow and Katowice.  Under the threat of all-out war, we then tried to use the only remaining route to survival by foot eastward to escape the advancing Wehrmacht.  An easy target for dive bombers and outflanked by German tanks, only a handful of us made it to the Rumanian border fourteen days later as the Red Army closed in from the East.

       Meanwhile, my brother had with the outbreak of the war become European Director of Boston's Unitarian Service Committee.  He had been a U.S. State Department specialist on disarmament and subsequently a League of Nation's official responsible for overseeing the evacuation of International Brigade volunteers from defeated Spain into France in l938. The Unitarian Service Committee effort quickly developed into a largely surreptitious rescue under the nose of the Vichy government.  It saved many hundred anti-Hitler activists from the French internment camps from death at Auschwitz.  Here too former communist cadres from Germany, Austria and especially Hungary, formed an important minority.

       Both my bother's rescue efforts during the war and mine in the months preceding it inevitably occurred in a shadow world outside the niceties of official diplomacy.  Our efforts to outmaneuver the Gestapo were to prove useful to Stalin some ten years later.

       In the course of our separate work we had acquired a unique knowledge of the twists and turns of life in the underground.  In Stalin's view, our inside knowledge of the political history of those individuals targeted by him for liquidation could be used to implicate them and obtain their confessions.  If we could be presented to them as admitted U.S. operatives, this would strengthen his case.  This method, perfected in the internal show trials in the 1930s, was used once again in the Rajk trial in Hungary in 1949 and the Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia in 1952.  The Gomulka trial in preparation in Poland never materialized.

       With the coming of the Cold War, these efforts on behalf of refugees which had been supported by both sides when we were wartime allies, were seen in a very different light. We found ourselves in a kind of no-man's land.  In the U.S. we were viewed as "fellow travelers" of dubious loyalty; in Stalin's mind we were disguised agents of the U.S. who had used the cover of saving refugees to recruit operatives among top communist cadres.  I was unaware of the extent of this new twist.  I still had the illusion that it was my role to keep communication lines open between East and West.  Thus it was easy to lure me, and my brother before me, into NKVD territory.  After all, it was there that the people we had saved ten years earlier were.

The Cold War and Show Trials: Topics for Further Analysis:

In the larger context of the show trials one inevitably looks at the system that spawned them, and its characteristics:

1.     Was Tsarist Russia, with its recent history of serfdom and its essentially peasant structure, too unlikely a venue for a first attempt at creating an industrial socialist society?

2.     Did the rigid Marxist/Leninist model contain the seeds of its own undoing? How much of the final Soviet debacle came from flawed Marxist ideology?  How much from Lenin's original strategy for seizing minority power, the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat"?
3.     Could the Soviet statist model for a socialist society based on Lenin's coup have survived as a viable alternative to our market driven one, but for Stalin's perversion of power?

4.     How much was the collapse of the Soviet Union due to economic exhaustion after eighty years of unequal battle with the west, as well as the country's monumental World War Two devastation?
5.     Did Gorbachev's "glasnost" and his effort to end the confrontation of the Cold War inevitably carry the seeds of the Soviet Union's implosion?

6.     What was the CIA's role in the Field case? There have been a number of theories, but even after half a century, the CIA has kept a tight lid on all efforts at access under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts.  The Hungarian government provided the author full access to the entire Noel Field files; the Polish government provided access to the archives on the author, to the extent that they were not destroyed; the American researchers have had access to considerable Russian archival material, but access to our own government files are persistently denied us.  Why?

Hermann Field, 1999

(Your comments and any information on these and other topics are welcome on our Discussion page.)

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