East German spy chief legend Markus Wolf dies

9th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

9 November 2006By Leon Mangasarian, dpa

9 November 2006
By Leon Mangasarian, dpa

Berlin (dpa) - Legendary East German spy chief Markus Wolf, whose agents brought down West German chancellor Willy Brandt, died Thursday at the age of 83, a family member said.

Wolf died peacefully in his sleep at the family apartment in Berlin, said his daughter-in-law. Wolf's publisher, the Eulenspiegel Verlag, also confirmed the death to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Dubbed the "man without a face" for managing to avoid being photographed, Wolf headed East Germany's foreign intelligence services from 1952 to 1986.

Wolf's "Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung" (HVA) - a branch of East Germany's Stasi secret police - ran a network of 4,000 spies.

One of his agents, Guenter Guillaume, became a top aide to chancellor Brandt. After years of spying in the heart of West German power the stunning unmasking of Guillaume forced Brandt to resign in 1974.

Other Wolf agents seduced lonely ministry secretaries in Bonn and convinced them to supply top-secret documents to the Stasi.

"Sex and espionage certainly go together - that's an old tradition," said Wolf in a 1998 CNN interview.

The approach was dubbed "the Romeo method" but Wolf always denied that his agency focused on what he termed "lonely hearts methods."

"Of all the human weaknesses, I would think the most common weakness in capitalism is the lust for money," he said.

East German spies also infiltrated NATO headquarters in Brussels and German business.

Wolf viewed spying as a long-term game of chess and his decades in command gave him time for the patient infiltration of agents.

He instructed spies in West Germany to spend years building themselves up as upstanding members of the middle class before they began supplying intelligence.

West Germany's foreign ministry was prime target and after the Cold War ended, Wolf revealed some of his best sources had held positions as West German diplomats.

Wolf, who was reportedly the model for John le Carre's spymaster Karla in the novel "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," was sentenced to a six-year prison term for espionage and treason after the 1990 German reunification.

But the conviction was overturned because he had been acting from the territory of then-independent East Germany. Wolf was later given a suspended sentence after being convicted of unlawful detention.

Wolf wrote two autobiographies, "Memoirs of a Spymaster" and "Friends don't Die." But he never revealed the names of his agents, vowing to take them to the grave.

Born in southwestern Germany in 1923 as the son of a Jewish doctor who was a communist, Wolf's family was forced to flee the country in 1933 when the Nazis took power.

After stops in Austria, Switzerland and France, the family finally settled in the Soviet Union in 1934.

During World War II, Wolf worked as reporter and commentator for a German radio station operating from Moscow.

He was flown into war-ravaged Berlin in 1945 with a group of top communists along with the first East German leader, Walter Ulbricht.

Wolf initially continued to work as a journalist and covered the entire Nuremberg War Crimes trials of Third Reich leaders in 1945 and 1946.

After a brief stint as a diplomat in Moscow, he took the helm of the fledgling East German foreign intelligence agency in 1952. Surviving a series of ideological purges during the 1950s, Wolf took command of the Stasi's HVA in 1956.

Despite holding this senior position for three decades, Wolf apparently also had his enemies in the East German leadership. This is indicated by the fact that he was never a candidate for a post in the communist party's key Zentralkomitee (central committee).

Wolf's resignation in 1986 led to speculation he had been ousted by hardline East German leader Erich Honecker for his reformist tendencies.

But Wolf denied this and said he had wanted to complete a project started by his late film director brother, Konrad Wolf, about German communist immigrant families in the Soviet Union.

Two months before the November 9, 1989 opening of the Berlin Wall - which led to East Germany's collapse - Wolf gave a surprisingly frank interview to a West German newspaper taking responsibility for East German problems.

Following Honecker's ouster, he took part in reformist left-wing protests while calling for the Stasi "not to be made the whipping boy of the nation."

Facing a West German arrest warrant, Wolf again fled to Moscow on the eve of the October 3, 1990 German reunification.

But he came back to Germany in 1991 and was briefly held in jail before being released after paying bail.

Wolf was married three times and is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter.


Subject: German news

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