Nicholas Dozenberg was born in Riga, Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire) on November 15, 1882. After arriving in the United States in 1904, he went first to Boston, which had a colony of Lettish immigrants. Two years later, he went to work for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad as a locomotive machinist — a job he held for the next 14 years. He quickly became active in various Lettish workers’ organizations and, later, in the Lettish Workers Club of the American Socialist Party. In 1920 or 1921, Dozenberg joined the Communist Party, then called the Workers Party of America (WPA), and in about 1921 or 1922 he became the business manager of its unofficial organ, The Voice of Labor, in Chicago. After managing the business end of the The Voice of Labor, and then of the The Daily Worker, he became the Director of the Literature Department of the WPA. When the WPA headquarters were moved to New York City in 1927, Dozenberg handled the liquidation of the Party’s assets in Chicago and arranged the transfer of its publications office to New York City. Dozenberg was then appointed manager of the party’s small publishing house. After 1927, however, Dozenberg’s name disappeared from the records of the Communist Party.
According to his later admission to the American authorities, Dozenberg was recruited into Soviet military intelligence in the late 1927 or early part 1928, under the alias of “Nicholas L. Dallant.” Dozenberg named his recruiter as Alfred Titin’– the Soviet Red Army “illegal” resident in the United States, whose real name was Alfred Tyltyn’. Dozenberg’s early activities likely included spotting a few American Communists as potential recruitment targets. One of them was Albert Feierabend, a Lettish Communist from Boston. Dozenberg also named another Lettish Communist from the same city, Robert Zelms, alias Elmston, as a person whom he “had recommended for employment with the Soviet military intelligence in foreign countries.” 1
In late 1929 or, more probably, early 1930, Dozenberg went to Moscow, where, he said, he was introduced to “General Berzin,” “the head of the Soviet military intelligence department.” Berzin reportedly asked Dozenberg “to return to the United States for the purpose of assisting one Kirchenstein in setting up a cover for Soviet military intelligence activities in France. At the same time, Dozenberg was to do substantially the same thing in preparing a cover for operations in Rumania.” 2
From 1931 on, Dozenberg traveled to Russia, Germany and Rumania. After his return from Rumania, he established the American Rumanian Film Corporation under the laws of the State of New York, the offices of which were to be used as a front for Soviet military intelligence in Rumania. Dozenberg would later admit involvement in a Soviet counterfeiting scheme, executed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, which was exposed in 1933. During early 1933, Dozenberg was ordered to Moscow, where he reportedly spent the rest of that year.
In late 1933 or early 1934, Dozenberg was instructed to go to China and establish a business cover for Soviet military intelligence activities in that country, with the purpose of obtaining information about Japan. By his own admission, he then proceeded to Peiping, where he made arrangements to represent an American radio corporation in China. He went on to establish the Amasia Sales Company in the British concession in Tientsin, China and to run its affairs in order to provide a satisfactory cover for Soviet military intelligence activities.
In 1937, Dozenberg reportedly returned to Moscow, where he remained for four months, during which time he submitted a report on his business and commercial activities in China, and was instructed to endeavor to establish a similar business cover in the Philippine Islands. He left Moscow in mid-1937 and arrived on July 15 in New York City, where he proceeded to make arrangements to represent a motion-picture equipment corporation in the Philippine Islands. Once in Manila, however, Dozenberg quickly ran out of funds, and in July 1938 he returned to the United States.
In March 1939, Dozenberg reportedly received marching orders to go to Moscow, where he spent approximately three and one-half months. He was finally asked “to return to the United States to establish a business cover for Soviet agents in the United States, which he refused to do” — and “subsequently, he was given the sum of $600 to cover travel costs, and told to return to the United States.” 3
Dozenberg’s account of his work for Red Army intelligence cannot be verified for lack of documentation on the Russian side. 4
Dozenberg returned to the United States on June 5, 1939, again “using passports that had been obtained under false representations.” For the last two years, he had used the name of Nickolas Dallant, under which he married his second wife, who lived in Washington, D.C. On December 9, 1939, he was arrested in Bend, Oregon “for obtaining a passport under false pretenses.” He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve a term of one year and a day, which he served at the Northeastern Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa. According to an early 1940 report in The New York Times, “Dozenberg had been cooperating in the investigation since returning” to the United States. His mild sentence was due to his willingness to testify against the leader of the CPUSA, Earl Browder , who faced charges of passport fraud. 5
After his release from prison, Dozenberg lived in retirement under an assumed name and died in 1954.
- Statement of Nicholas Dozenberg [1940 affidavit], read at the HUAC public session, Nov. 8, 1949, in: Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage. Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, 81st Congress, First session, November 8, December 2, 1949, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington: 1951, pp. 3540-3542. Courtesy of Dr. John Earl Haynes. ↩
- Ibidem. ↩
- Statement of Nicholas Dozenberg [1940 affidavit], Op. Cit.; “Dozenberg Admits Passport Guilt; To Aid in Prosecution of Browder,” The New York Times, January 11, 1940; Theodore Draper, American Communism & Soviet Russia, New York: Viking Press, 1960, pp. 209-213. ↩
- The only record discovered in Russia thus far is a “Dozenberg, Nickolai” file in the Comintern’s personnel files collection, which consists of two clips from The New York Times for December 28, 1939 and January 11, 1940. – Fund 495, description 261, file 1254m, RGASPI, Moscow. ↩
- The New York Times, December 28, 1939; Ibid., January 11, 1940. ↩