Elizabeth Zarubina

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Elizabeth Zarubina

Elizaveta Yulyevna Zarubina (Zoya Zarubina) (1900 – 14 May 1987). She was known as Elizabeth Zubilin while serving in the United States, and also known as Lisa Gorskaya. Born in Russia of Romanian background, she studied history and philology at universities in Russia, France, and Austria, and was freely conversant in Romanian, Russian, German, French and English and Hebrew. She came from a family of revolutionaries related to Ana Pauker, the founder of the Communist Party of Romania. Elizabeth's elder brother had been the head of the military terrorist section of the Romanian party. She was one of the most successful agent recruiters, establishing her own illegal network of Jewish refugees from Poland, and recruiting one of Leó Szilárd's secretaries, who provided technical data. She was the wife of Soviet Intelligence Rezident Vasily Zarubin.


Zarubina was an active participant in the revolutionary movement in Bessarabia after World War I. In 1919 she became a member of the Komsomol of Bessarabia. Elizabeth became part of the intelligence system in 1919 as a junior case officer in Felix Dzerzhinsky's secretariat. She met and fell in love with Yakov Grigorevich Blumkin, the assassin of Count Wilhelm Mirbach, the German ambassador in Moscow in 1918. Blumkin was a key figure in the plot of the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin in July 1918. When the plot failed, Blumkin was pardoned and continued to work for Dzerzhinsky and Leon Trotsky.

In 1923 joined the ranks of Austrian Communist Party. From 1924 through 1925 she worked in the embassy and trade delegation of the USSR. Form 1925 to 1928 she worked in the Vienna Rezidentura.

In 1930 Elizabeth and Blumkin were posted as illegals in Turkey, where he sold Hasidic manuscripts from the Central Library in Moscow to support illegal operations in Turkey and the Middle East. Blumkin gave part of the sale proceeds to Trotsky, who was then in exile in Turkey. Elizabeth denounced her husband and Blumkin was immediately recalled to Moscow and executed by a firing squad. Shortly thereafter Eizabeth married Vasily Zarubin, and they traveled and spied together for many years, using the cover of a Czechoslovakian business couple for work in Denmark, Germany, France and the United States.

In Germany during April 1941, Elizabeth Zarubina is credited with obtaining important information on Germany.


Shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed in In 1992, an 84-year-old man wrote,

My name is Pavel Anatolievich Sudoplatov, but I do not expect you to recognize it, because for fifty-eight years it was one of the best-kept secrets in the Soviet Union. ...My Administration for Special Tasks was responsible for sabotage, kidnapping, and assassination of our enemies beyond the country's borders. ...I was responsible for Trotsky's assassination and, during World War II, I was in charge of guerrilla warfare and disinformation in Germany and German-occupied territories. ... I was also in charge of the Soviet espionage effort to obtain the secrets of the atomic bomb from America and Great Britain. I set up a network of illegals who convinced Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Bruno Pontecorvo, Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs, and other scientists in America and Great Britain to share atomic secrets with us.[1] ...In developing Oppenheimer as a source, Vassili Zarubin's wife, Elizabeth, was essential.[2]

In 1941 Elizabeth Zarubina was a captain in the KGB. After her husband's posting to Washington, she traveled to California frequently to cultivate the Oppenheimer family through social contacts arranged by Gregori Kheifets. Kheifets then introduced Elizabeth to Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty Harris, who was sympathetic to the Soviet Union and Communist ideals, and the two worked out a system for future meetings.[3]

Zarubina and Kheifetz persuaded Oppenheimer to share information with 'antifascists of German origin,' which provided a rationale for taking Klaus Fuchs to Los Alamos. Oppenheimer agreed to hire, and promote these people, provided he received confirmation of their opposition to Nazism before they came to the project. Elizabeth Zarubina gave a code word—in fact, a code sentence—to a member of Oppenheimer's circle to pass to Oppenheimer. Its use could identify someone friendly to their cause: 'My escape from Germany was similar to the escape of Lise Meitner.'

In 1943, under the influence of Kheifetz and Zarubina, Oppenheimer suggested that Klaus Fuchs be included in the Los Alamos British team. Fuchs was instructed to tell Oppenheimer the code sentence and to emphasize that he was spiritually close to the ideals of Lise Meitner. He was to identify himself as the only one of the British team who had escaped from a German prison camp, and thus gain the respect and absolute confidence of Oppenheimer. In this way, under Oppenheimer's initiative, Fuchs was given access to material that he had no right to look at.[4]

See also


  1. Pavel Sudoplatov, Anatoli Sudoplatov, Jerrold L. Schecter, Leona P. Schecter, Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness -- A Soviet Spymaster, Little Brown, Boston (1994), pg. 3.
  2. Special Tasks, pgs. 189-190.
  3. Pavel Sudoplatov, Anatoli Sudoplatov, Jerrold L. Schecter, Leona P. Schecter, Special Tasks, pg. 190.
  4. Special Tasks, pgs. 190, 193.
  • Russian Foreign Intelligence Service
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (1999).
  • Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999), pgs. 162, 249-50, 251, 274, 276, 303, 341.
  • Zoya Zarubina (in Russian)
  • Mysterious Erna (in Russian)