WPR: Old Time Radio Drama
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As it happens, all nations and peoples want to know what’s happening with other nations and peoples. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, used to say: “You never know what’s cooking in someone else’s pot.” But as the quote implies, we’d all like to know what’s cooking in the other person’s pot.” So, there have always been spies. Some spies are well known, and are infamous, such as Kim Philby. Some have entered into the realm of folklore, Mata Hari for example. Other spies, such as Jonathan Pollard, are quite controversial and we don’t all agree about whether their spying was a bad thing.
You might enjoy this recording of a very popular radio show if the 1940’s, “Information, Please!” because this episode’s guest panelist was Moe Berg, a professional baseball player who caught for the Boston Red Sox among other teams. He was a mediocre catcher but a world-class spy during and after WWII, while he was playing in the major leagues and after he hung up his cleats. He spied for the USA on the Japanese and on revolutionary partisans in Yugoslavia. He spied against Germany to see how close they were to developing the atomic bomb, and if they were too close, he is assignment was to assassinate Werner Heisenberg, the top German nuclear scientist fur WWII.
Why do spies, and particularly Moe Berg, enter this blog? Berg was a Jew from New Jersey who read 10 newspapers a day, had degrees from Princeton and Columbia among other universities, was a world-class linguist who knew many languages, both modern and ancient, and was an enigma to his friends and colleagues who didn’t know until much later what Berg actually did or who he actually was. His true self was hidden not only from the people he was spying on, but also from fellow ballplayers, family members and neighbors. Moe Berg’s life is a great example of the anomalous Jewish identity in the 30s, 40s and 50s; at least it would be hard to find a better one. —Rabbi Kerry Baker