Friday, November 17, 2006

Markus Wolf

Markus Wolf

Nov 16th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Markus Wolf, East German spymaster, died on November 9th, aged 83

Getty Images
Getty Images

FASCINATING to his fans, odious to his enemies, Markus Wolf embodied the dilemmas and complexities of the cold war in Europe. Seen one way, he was something of a hero: not just a professional but also a patriot and an idealist. Even his ardent communism could be excused: had not his Jewish family found refuge from the Nazis in the Soviet Union? Revealed after the collapse of communism as cultivated, charming, an accomplished cook and, to some, a heart-throb, he was utterly unlike most Soviet-block spymasters—crumpled, podgy men with thick glasses and steel teeth.

There was a whiff of glamour in the way that Mr Wolf's spies outwitted their bumbling West German rivals. As head, for 34 years, of the foreign-intelligence arm of the Stasi, East Germany's Ministry of State Security, he planted agents and recruited informers all over West Germany. Some found their way into the very departments charged with defending democracy, others into the highest reaches of the state, even the chancellery. For those who believed the West to be shamefully materialist or unduly forgiving of the Nazi past, it was tempting to admire the guile of one who so often humiliated it.

“The man without a face”, he was called. His identity was so well concealed that his Western counterparts are supposed to have secured a photograph of him only in 1978. In fact, the CIA had identified him as early as 1959, from photographs taken when he had attended the Nuremberg war-crimes trials as a young radio reporter. Still, many thought he must be the model for the elusive Karla, the fictional Soviet spymaster who ran rings round his Western adversaries in the works of John le Carré, a British novelist steeped in the world of espionage. (Mr le Carré says he was not.)

Mr Wolf was, if anything, even more glamorous in defeat. Spurning American offers of a deal if he would tell all, he sought political asylum in Russia. When that was denied, he returned, and eloquently defended himself against charges of treason. “Victors' justice”, he called his trials; like Western spies, he was doing a dirty but necessary job, and his sins were “those of every other intelligence agency”.

Yet there was nothing glamorous about the communist German state of 1949-89. Mr Wolf claimed that his subtle spycraft was a world away from the regrettable mistakes made by his Stasi colleagues in charge of internal repression and fostering terrorism abroad. After retiring—for mysterious reasons—from the Stasi in 1986, he published a book, “Troika”, which criticised Stalinism. Later he said he hoped that Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms would save a system nobly based on the “combination of socialism and freedom”.

He did admit that East Germany had proved a “sad reality”, but in truth it was far worse than that. The regime he served was a squalid dictatorship that jailed those who challenged it and shot those who tried to escape. Its secret police exploited the smallest weakness of anyone who might be useful or threatening. Husbands were coerced into spying on their wives, parents on their children. Mr Wolf's spies played a full part in a huge security system modelled closely on the Soviet Union's, and using identical tricks.

Though cleared, on appeal, of his 1993 conviction for treason, Mr Wolf was given a two-year suspended sentence in 1997 for his part in the abduction and torture of a German woman who had worked for the Americans in West Berlin. Those may be the methods of the war on terror now, but they were not part of the West's arsenal then, in a struggle won mainly by the potency of ideas, not by force or fear.

Mr Wolf said his most successful tactic was the use of sex: his “Romeo” agents seduced and suborned the lonely spinster secretaries of West German officialdom. The practice worked brilliantly, if you were prepared to overlook the attendant tragedies, such as the death of the hapless Leonore Heinz, who killed herself when she found that her husband had married her not for love but to steal secrets from the foreign ministry, where she worked.

It was all clever stuff, but Mr Wolf's chief target was an easy one. Every East German had the right to West German citizenship. That made it simple to plant sleepers, such as Günter Guillaume, an agent sent to West Germany in 1956, who ended up as a senior aide to the chancellor, Willy Brandt. He produced startling news—not just of Brandt's womanising, but also, paradoxically, that the Social Democratic chancellor genuinely accepted the post-war division of Europe, including the sovereignty of East Germany.

That may have usefully calmed Soviet nerves. But the East Germans' carelessness was their star's downfall: they sent him a coded message congratulating him on the birth of his son. When that was cracked, he was caught. Brandt resigned, and his policy of detente with the East—Ostpolitik—stalled. Mr Wolf admitted that this had been a blunder. Like other people, he said, he sometimes felt remorse.

Maybe he did. Other communists, though, were much quicker to see not just the practical failures but the bankruptcy of the entire creed. Mr Wolf's mild penitence fell far short of convincing contrition.

1 comment:

Rickahyatt said...

Because I have been since young central to an inheritance rights case (Never received a penny of it YET!) that would have otherwise shaken the capitalist world (The doc's get unsealed in the Phoenix Federal Court System Columbus Day, the 13th, so watch out!), I first met now legendary Spymaster Markus Wolf when I was only 5 years old, in Augsberg, Germany.
He had agent handler control over my Commie mother, and as such I found myself ushered into US Army Military Intelligence right out of high school, and "Turned."
I was then used to lure him and several very interesting others out, who were then caught red-handed in 1977 and also counter-run. To include a still-active assassination team (Unknowingly to them) that should be stopped!
The proof that Markus Wolf, Erich Mielke, and Dr. Aribert Heim (The trainer of this team) subsequently worked for and were protected by, the CIA, as did Rainer Rupp ("Topas," his wife "Tourquoise," the NATO economist Spy) and others are in the photographs and documents that I have kept from the era, and are now on my website,
I guess it's an amusing thing to hereby document that we knew the Berlin Wall was "Coming Down" even back then, and otherwise pretty much helped Wolf attain his own personal goals of a peaceful reunification of Germany.
When I worked with him in '77, I thought him to be quite a nice guy, actually, and an astute professional in the craft. (Although he obviously didn't like getting caught.)
Being of German heritage, I, too, am quite happy at that peaceful reunification and avoidance of another war.
It's also nice to be able to reveal, now, that Rainer Rupp was deliberately "Kicked Upstairs" to his vaunted Economist role at NATO for in that he passed over so much Disinformation (I gave it to him, I should know). That translates into in that, the current WALMART $ War upon the US is bad, but not as bad as the enemy thought it would be at this current critical juncture of our major elections.
Do me a favor, and help me get my website out there in Europe, would you? I'd appreciate it a lot.
And, also would I appreciate your feedback at rickahyatt@gmail com. I'd especially appreciate being contacted by the WGIS Intelligence Officers over there I knew from the period that might read this, or be told of it.
How can I know of all this? For in that I, myself, was to be the third of Wolf's trilogy, "Sapphire."
How I wish I could be "Schutlen und singen mit Brathendlen und Beir auf dem Wiessen!" Diesemal wieder noch.