Biographical Information:
Dates: 1908-1990
Dates in Ridgefield:

author, newspaper editor, Soviet spy

For those who are fascinated by espionage, one would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling story than that of Martha Dodd Stern, daughter of William E. Dodd, American Ambassador to Berlin from 1933 to 1937 during Hitler’s rise to power. After graduating from Chicago University in 1930, she worked for two years as an assistant literary editor for the Chicago Tribune. When, at the age of 23, she arrived in Germany with her parents and brother, she was initially favorably impressed by Nazism, and had an affair with Rudolf Diels, then head of the Gestapo (she is also said to have tried, unsuccessfully, to date Hitler). In time she became disillusioned by the Nazi oppression of Jews and others not acceptable to Nazi ideology, and chronicled this experience in Through Embassy Eyes, a memoir of her time in Berlin. While in Germany, she visited Russia, which she described as “a definitely going concern,” and fell in love with Boris Vinogradov, a Russian diplomat. Because of her access to her father’s confidential documents, she was recruited by Vinogradov to be a Soviet spy. In 1938, after returning to the United States, she married banker Alfred A. Stern–also a Communist sympathizer and with him established homes in New York and Ridgefield. During the 1950s the couple were targets of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and in a 1957 Federal indictment (dismissed in 1979 by the Justice Department), they were charged with supplying information to the Soviet Union, and for having used their country house in Ridgefield for meetings with Soviet agents. To avoid having to face grand-jury questioning about their espionage activities, in 1953 they fled to Mexico, renounced their American citizenship and obtained Paraguayan passports. Eventually they settled in Prague, where she died in 1990 (her husband died four years earlier), never having returned to the United States.

Through Embassy Eyes, 1939
Sowing the Wind, 1941
My Years in Germany, 1940
The Searching Light, 1955

–Sources: New York Times obit, August 29, 1990; Time magazine, Sept. 2, 1957; Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1986; In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson; “The Strange Case of Martha Dodd,” Penniless Press On-Line