Edith Tudor-Hart

Edith Tudor-Hart, née Suschitzky, was one of the most significant documentary photographers working in Britain from the early 1930s to the early 1950s.

Born in Vienna, she grew up in radical Jewish circles. Edith married Alex Tudor-Hart, a British doctor, and the pair moved to England. There she worked as a documentary photographer, closely associated with the Communist Party, compiling a remarkable archive of images of working people in London and later, the south of Wales. Although still active in the 1950s, the difficulties of finding work as a woman photographer led eventually to Tudor-Hart abandoning photography altogether.


Brought up in a family of socialists, she trained in photography at Walter Gropius's Bauhaus in Dessau, and carried her political ideals through her art. Through her connections with Arnold Deutsch, Tudor-Hart was instrumental in the recruiting of the Cambridge Spy ring which damaged British intelligence from World War II until their discovery in the late 1960s. She recommended Litzi Friedmann and Kim Philby for recruitment by the KGB and acted as an intermediary for Anthony Blunt and Bob Stewart when the rezidentura at the Soviet Embassy in London suspended its operations in February 1940.


Her father, Wilhelm Suschitzky (1877–1934), was a social democrat who was born into the Jewish community in Vienna, but had renounced Judaism and become an atheist. He opened the first social democratic bookshop in Vienna (later to become a publishers). Tudor-Hart's brother, a filmmaker and a photographer like his sister, Wolfgang Suschitzky described their father as "a great man. I realised that later on in life, not so much when I saw him every day. But, I met interesting people, some of his authors who came and had lunch with us or met people who came to his shop." Suschitzky recalled boyhood memories of the family excitement that greeted the Russian Revolution in 1917.


She studied photography at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1928 before working in Vienna, taking photographs of working class districts while a Montessori kindergarten teacher. An anti-fascist activist and Communist, she saw photography as a tool for disseminating her political ideas.


Her brother Wolfgang Suschitzky also became a well-known photographer and cinematographer in Britain. He cited his sister as an influence on his decision to pursue an artistic career over a scientific one.


In 1933 she married medical doctor Alex Tudor-Hart, who she had met in 1925. She was described "by those who knew her in her youth as immensely vivacious, amusing, curious, and gifted". The couple fled to London, England in 1933, so that she could avoid prosecution and persecution in Austria for her Communist activities and Jewish background.


Following her marriage, she moved to South Wales where her husband practised as a GP in the area of Rhondda Valley, she began to produce photographs for The ListenerThe Social Scene and Design Today, dealing with issues such as refugees from the Spanish Civil War and industrial decline in the north-east of England. From the late 1930s, she concentrated more on social needs, such as housing policy and the care of disabled children. This change in work may have been because after separation from her husband who had just returned from the Spanish Civil War, their son, Tommy, became an incurable schizophrenic.


Tudor-Hart was instrumental in recruiting members of the Cambridge Spy ring, which damaged British intelligence from World War II through to its discovery in the late 1960s. While working as a photographer she also acted as a courier. Her rather unsubtle codename was "Edith". Tudor-Hart had met Arnold Deutsch in Vienna in 1926, and with him she worked in the OMS, the International Liaison Department of the Comintern.


Tudor-Hart was placed under surveillance by Special Branch after October 1931 when she was observed attending a demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Tudor-Hart was of interest because of her friendship with Litzi Friedmann, made when she moved to London. Arnold Deutsch discussed with Edith and Litzi the recruitment of Soviet spies. Litzi suggested her husband, Kim Philby[14] with whom she had arrived in London from Vienna in May 1934. Tudor-Hart had spotted him as a potential Communist agent during his stay in Vienna, where he was a sympathiser of the Social Democrats who waged a civil war against the government of Engelbert Dollfuss. According to her report on Philby's file, through her own contacts with the Austrian underground Tudor Hart ran a swift check for the NKVD and, when this proved positive introduced him to "Otto" (Deutsch's code name). Deutsch immediately recommended... "that he pre-empt the standard operating procedure by authorising a preliminary personal sounding out of Philby." She also helped to recruit Arthur Wynn in 1936.


She acted as an intermediary for Anthony Blunt and Bob Stewart when the rezidentura at the Soviet Embassy in London suspended its operations in February 1940. In 1938–39 Burgess used her to contact Russian intelligence in Paris.


She subsequently separated from her husband and suffered a breakdown. In later life she opened an antique shop in Brighton.


Fearing they might incriminate her, she destroyed most of her photographs and negatives, with those that survived being in the care of her brother, Wolfgang. As a result very few vintage or lifetime prints exist.


She died of stomach cancer in Brighton on 12 May 1973.