Stalin’s Man in Canada

Title:                  Stalin’s Man in Canada

Author:                 David Levy

Levy, David (2011). Stalin’s Man in Canada: Fred Rose and Soviet Espionage. New York: Enigma Books

OCLC:    709681225

F1034.3 .R67 L48 2011


Date Updated:  February 25, 2016

Fred Rose was a labor organizer, left wing politician, Soviet agent, and atomic spy. He was born in Lublin, Poland, and lived in Montreal where he joined the Young Communist League. Rose quickly became a member of Gaik Ovakimyan’s North American NKVD network where he worked with Jacob Golos, Elizabeth Bentley’s employer, providing Canadian passports for Soviet agents. In 1942 he switched to the GRU, Soviet military intelligence. Rose was elected to the federal Canadian parliament from a working class district in Montreal. He was re-elected in 1945.

In September, 1945 Soviet Embassy GRU clerk Igor Gouzenko defected, revealing an elaborate espionage operation to acquire American atomic research. Fred Rose was a major player in the scheme. Rose was found guilty of conspiring to turn over information about the explosive RDX to GRU chief Colonel Nicolai Zabotin, and was sentenced to a six-year prison term.

He returned to his native Poland in 1953 after his release from prison and died in Warsaw in 1983. David Levy lives in Montreal, Quebec.

David Levy wrote more about Rose in “The Sad Tale of Fred Rose, Stalin’s Man in the True North,”[1]. Rose had connections with Elizabeth Bentley (see Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List[2] ) He was given charge of a Montreal group tasked with supplying information on war materials. Moscow had suggested that he should contact PRIMROSE, a cover name for the British atomic research physicist Alan Nunn May (see The Traitors[3] )Levy describes Rose as “A competent and enthusiastic recruiter of men and women who didn’t appear to need much coaxing.” He betrayed the labor movement and played fast and loose with the Cartier electorate, but was betrayed by his Soviet comrades, by the Party, and by political associates. Kim Philby was rewarded (posthumously) with a postage stamp. There would be no stamp for the faithful Party man, Rose, who, to paraphrase Soviet Leader Vladimir Lenin, was supported by his comrades the way the rope supports the man who is hanged.

Reviewed by Hayden Peake.[4]

Fishel Rosenberg, aka Fred Rose, was born in Poland in 1907. He emigrated to Canada with his family during WWI and settled in Montreal. At 18, encouraged by his older brother and enamored of the promises of communism, he joined the Young Communist League and later the Canadian Communist Party-long before the party became legal. His participation in labor activities brought him to the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and in 1931 he was arrested for sedition and spent a year in prison. He was more careful after his release and gradually developed a talent for pamphlet writing and for speaking at rallies. By 1940 he had been recruited by the NKVD and had contacts with Elizabeth Bentley and Jacob Golos, who ran a network of agents that included Rose. During the WWII, Rose was elected to Parliament, the first communist to become an MP. After the war, his espionage activities were exposed by the GRU defector Igor Gouzenko and later confirmed by Bentley. The resultant investigation led to Rose’s arrest in 1946, along with a number of other agents. His supporters declared the process a witch hunt, but he and several of his fellow agents were ultimately convicted. Rose spent the next five years in prison and, stripped of his Canadian citizenship, was subsequently deported. He died in Warsaw in 1983, a disillusioned believer.

In Canadian historian David Levy’s depiction, Rose comes across as what Lenin called “a useful idiot.” He didn’t accomplish much, and Levy devotes considerable space to stories of the more productive agents who crossed his path. While this book is generally accurate, Levy’s claim that NKVD illegal Gaik Ovakimyan collected “bomb material from Klaus Fuchs through Harry Gold” (p. 52) can’t be true. Ovakimyan had left the United States before Fuchs arrived. Stalin’s Man in Canada illustrates the power of the communist ideology and the consequences that befell so many who followed Stalin to the end. It is well documented and a useful contribution to the literature of espionage.

[1] Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Vol. 25, no. 2, Summer, 2012, pp. 350-366)

[2] Krasnov, Vladislav (1985). Soviet Defectors: The KGB Wanted List. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press

[3] Moorehead, Alan (1952). The Traitors: The Double Life of Fuchs, Pontecorvo, and Nunn May. London: Hamish Hamilton

[4] Hayden Peake is a frequent reviewer of books on intelligence and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (19, 1, Winter/Spring, 2013, p. 126). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Di recto rate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at


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