Theodore Maly, an ethnic Hungarian, was born in 1894 in Transylvania when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He studied at the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology of the University of Vienna. At the beginning of World War I,
Theodore was drafted into the army, took part in military operations in the Carpathian region, and was promoted to chaplain. In 1916 he was captured.
Maly spent two years in a prisoner of war camp. In 1918, after being released from the camp, he volunteered for the Red Army and saw significant action in the Civil War in Russia.
Beginning in 1921, he served on the OGPU’s All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (VChK, commonly known as Cheka, or secret police). He held various positions in the central office of the OGPU. In the early 1930s, Maly was transferred to the Foreign Department of the NKVD. The pinnacle of his career as an intelligence officer was his work as the head of the illegal Station in London in the mid-1930s. His group consisted of about two dozen people, including Arnold Deutsch, who was the first intelligence officer to meet with Kim Philby and other members of the future Cambridge Five.
In July 1937, Theodore Maly was called back to Moscow. At that time, the old Chekist cadres of the NKVD were being purged, and many intelligence officers were executed. Anticipating a tragic fate, Maly met with Kim before leaving for Moscow. Philby remembered his parting words for the rest of his life: "Kim, we probably won’t meet again. Whatever you hear about me, continue to serve the sacred cause that you have chosen."
Theodore Maly was arrested in March 1938 By the verdict of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court, the former head of the illegal Rezidentura in London was executed on 20 September of the same year.
In 1956, Maly was rehabilitated posthumously.