Arrival in England
Brought up in Austria, in a family of socialists, Edith trained as a Montessori kindergarten teacher in England in 1927. She was deported in 1931 for attending a communist party rally, then studied photography at the Bauhaus and began working for a division of the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB. In 1933, in Austria she married a medical doctor, Alex Tudor- Hart, whom she had met while in England. The couple fled to England so she could avoid persecution for her Communist activities and Jewish background. Alex worked at a practice in London while she established a photographic studio in Brixton. Edith saw photography as a way to disseminate her political ideas and specialised in photos dealing with refugees, industrial decline and poor children at her husband’s surgery. Her brother, Wolfgang (still alive aged 103 in 2016) followed her to England and also became a photographer but her photos were more politically opinionated than his.
Her son Thomas was born in 1936 but suffered from autism and, eventually, had to be cared for in a home. After the break up of her marriage, she moved into a ground floor flat in Grove End Gardens. She became a friend of photographer, Margaret Monck, who took many photos in St John’s Wood in the 1930s.
Introducing Kim Philby to his Soviet agent
In Vienna, Edith’s main communist contact had been Litzi Friedman, who had recently married Kim Philby. When the Philbys moved to London she arranged to introduce Kim to Arnold Deutsch, an old friend from Vienna who was now a Soviet agent, doing post graduate work at London University as his cover. KGB files in 1991 showed how Edith and Kim Philby spent several hours zigzagging across London before finally arriving at Regent’s Park, where Deutsch – code name Otto – was waiting. Kim Philby later wrote :The rendezvous took place in Regent’s Park. The man described himself as Otto. I discovered much later from a photograph in MI5 files that the name he went by was Arnold Deutsch. I think that he was of Czech origin; about 5ft 7in, stout, with blue eyes and light curly hair. Though a convinced Communist, he had a strong humanistic streak. He hated London, adored Paris, and spoke of it with deeply loving affection. He was a man of considerable cultural background.”
Questioned by MI5
It was in 1951 that MI5 began to take a close interest in her, and in 1952 they burst into her flat and interrogated her 48 hours before Philby was questioned about Burgess and Maclean’s disappearance. The eight-man team hoped they could catch her alerting Philby to his danger, and bugged her home and tapped her phone. However she claimed to have resigned from the Communist Party and denied any knowledge of Philby. Although they watched her closely, they never caught her spying; her only offence was dodging paying a bus fare on one occasion. The interrogation did affect her, however, and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for ‘persecution complex’. Her communist friends believed she could no longer be trusted and “was off her head”.
In fact, Edith had been working with the NKVD all the time and, in 1964, when Anthony Blunt was exposed he confessed that she “had been the grandmother of us all”. The NKVD had noted on 8 October, 1936:
“Through EDITH (Edith Tudor Hart) we obtained SOHNCHEN (Philby). In the attached report you will find details of a second SOHNCHEN who, in all probability, offers even greater possibilities than the first. EDITH is of the opinion that he is more promising than SOHNCHEN. From the report you will see that he has very definite possibilities. We must make haste with these people before they start being active in university life.” This was Anthony Blunt.
Later, Edith opened an antique shop in Brighton, and died in 1973.