A Well Kept Secret
Filmmaker Peter Stephan Jungk knew that his great aunt, Edith Tudor-Hart, was a talented photographer But he did not know that she had also been a spy for the KGB. He learned this after she died. By speaking with military historians, photo archivists, ex-KGB agents and family members, Jungk finds out that his aunt brokered the introduction between Kim Philby and Soviet agent Arnold Deutsch thus helping to bring about the espionage career of Britain’s most notorious double agent who had been the leader of the Cambridge Five spy ring.
Jungk takes us on a journey into his great aunt’s life. Spies are romantic figures to think and reads about and the stories never get old. Until fairly recently, the world of spies had been a world dominated by men even though the most famous real secret agent is undoubtedly Mata Hari. Women have long been considered particularly gifted in the craft of spydom.
Edith Tudor-Hart (nee Suschitzky) was born in Austria in 1908. She studied photography in Germany and at the same time was a Montessori teacher. It’s at work where her radical views came to fruition and she became active as an anti-fascist and communist. Photography was her way of disseminating her ideas, documenting poverty, social deprivation and the lives of the poor. Arnold Deutsch in Vienna recruited to work for the Soviets and through him that she became an integral part in Britain’s greatest spy scandal.
Peter Stephan Jungk’s “Tracking Edith” lifts the veil on a character who was instrumental in the establishment of the ‘Cambridge Five’, including turning Kim Philby. Combining interviews with family and friends, animated reconstructions and researching the archives, Jungk brings us a fascinating story of a pivotal and shadowy figure. We learn not only about her involvement in the world of espionage but also about her life and art.
The clue to her secret life lies in the double meaning ‘dark rooms. Edith was born into a progressive Jewish family in Vienna 1908 – her father renounced Judaism and founded a bookshop and a publishing company. Edith Suschitzky was only sixteen when she went to London in 1925 to study with Maria Montessori, the famous Kindergarten pioneer. On her return she worked in Vienna’s branch of the Montessori School and then her life changed when she met the academic Arnold Deutsch in 1926, who also worked as a recruiter for the KGB. Their relationship was significant for two reasons: he not only recruited her for the organization but also gave her a Rolleiflex camera, and she set out to picture the poorer districts in Vienna before she studied photography at the Bauhaus in Dessau under Kandinsky and Klee among others.
Edith developed radical tendencies. Her photos were published by TASS and after the Austrian Nazi Party became more and more powerful in the mid 1930s Edith and her husband fled to the England where they renewed their acquaintance with the recently married Litzi Friedmann and Kim Philby, who had also had to leave Vienna for the UK after the Nazi Party had killed the Austrian chancellor Dollfuss. In 1934 Edith introduced Philby to Arnold Deutsch in Regents Park and the rest is, as they say, history.
The documentary has interviews with family including Edith’s brother Wolf, and other witnesses of her life. Edith was an idealist who never saw the Soviet system but was faced, like all central Europeans, with the alternative of Hitler and Stalin. Above all she was a humanist who never received any money for her clandestine activities and always lived modestly.
Edith had a tempestuous emotional life that involved an affair with Donald Winnicott, the distinguished pediatrician (who was treating her son for autism). Because she was a spy for the Soviet Union, she has a real claim to having changed the course of history. She betrayed the country that took her in, though her rationale was always to promote the balance of nuclear power.