Harry Rositzke, 91; Ran CIA Spies Against USSR

From the Washington Post

Harry Rositzke, a farmer, author, teacher, scholar and spy who for 25 years ran Central Intelligence Agency covert operations against the Soviet Union from Munich, New Delhi, New York and Washington, has died. He was 91.

Rositzke died of pneumonia Monday in Warrenton, Va.

An author of books on the CIA and the KGB, Rositzke also taught at Harvard University and researched such arcana as Anglo-Saxon grammar and vowel duration in High German. During the Cold War, he directed the parachuting of espionage agents into the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union.

His books include “The CIA’s Secret Operations” (1977) and “The KGB: The Eyes of Russia” (1981), but he also wrote “The C-Text of the Old English Chronicles,” which is considered a classic of Anglo-Saxon research. He did his doctoral dissertation at Harvard on “The Speech of Kent Before the Norman Conquest.”


Rositzke was a veteran of World War II duty with the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor in espionage to the CIA. He volunteered in 1946 to monitor the intelligence operations of the Soviet Union, a major wartime ally against Nazi Germany.

In the OSS, he served as chief of military intelligence in London and Paris, and later worked in Germany, where he operated out of a former sparkling-wine factory near Wiesbaden.

Arthur Schlesinger, who became an aide to President Kennedy and a presidential scholar, was one of Rositzke’s OSS colleagues. It was no surprise to him that Rositzke opted for a career in intelligence after the war.

“War had made him a professional. Peace evidently offered him a scope for analysis and action on questions more urgent than Anglo-Saxon grammar, his previous specialty,” Schlesinger wrote in a preface to Rositzke’s 1977 book on the CIA.

Harvard Doctorate

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Rositzke graduated from Union College and received a doctorate in Germanic philology at Harvard.

In 1935 and 1936, he studied experimental phonetics on a fellowship at the University of Hamburg, where he had an opportunity to witness the Nazis’ consolidation of power in Germany. He would later describe the experience as frightening.


From 1936 to 1942, he taught at Harvard, the University of Omaha and the University of Rochester.

As a specialist on Soviet intelligence after the war, he moved initially into quarters in Washington where, by his description: “The walls were pockmarked with holes and the ceiling smudged with stains from the rain and snow that leaked through the fragile roof.”

He ran agents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1949 to 1954, and was based in Munich for the last two years of this assignment. “We were sending people into the Ukraine; people forget that there was an active resistance movement there.... We’d fly them in and parachute them from C-47s. We never lost a plane. We were pleased to see how inefficient the antiaircraft forces were.”

The East German government in those years gave Rositzke one of the longer entries in its published directory of CIA agents operating in the region.

When he was CIA station chief in New Delhi from 1957 to 1962, Rositzke’s espionage targets were Soviets, Chinese and Tibetans. He lunched monthly with his resident counterpart from the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence arm, and he developed a working relationship with John Kenneth Galbraith, Kennedy’s ambassador to India, who was deeply suspicious of the CIA.

Recruitment Efforts

Later in the 1960s, he worked on CIA recruitment of Soviet diplomats in Washington and New York and began to focus on terrorism and wars of national liberation. He retired from the CIA in 1970 as chief of the international communism unit.


In 1955, Rositzke purchased a 350-acre farm in Middleburg, Va., where in retirement he raised cattle and wrote about the craft of intelligence. Espionage, he would argue, had a useful role in the maintenance of political order.

“Spies in the right places can induce a feeling of security by negative reporting or guarantee no strategic surprises by positive reporting. Their value in reducing the paranoid tendencies of the Soviet Union should not be underestimated.”

Writing about the KGB, Rositzke observed: “The clandestine mentality is rooted in a conspiratorial view of the world ... [that] someone out there is plotting against me.”

Rositzke wrote five books about Soviet affairs, the CIA and the KGB, most of which were intended to supply information for the 1970s public debate that accompanied disclosure of such covert CIA operations as assassination plots and the drugging of people.

By then, his thinking was at variance with the standard political posture of the Cold Warriors of earlier times.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Bourgeoise Rositzke of Middleburg; two children, John Brockman Rositzke of Jackson, Mich., and Anne Elizabeth Hunt of New York; and two grandchildren.