- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

BERLIN — Markus Wolf, the “man without a face” who outwitted the West as communist East Germany’s long-serving spymaster, died yesterday at age 83.

Mr. Wolf died in his apartment in Berlin, his stepdaughter Claudia Wall said. The cause of his death, on the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, was not released.

Mr. Wolf planted about 4,000 agents in the West — most famously, placing Guenter Guillaume as a top aide to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. The agent’s unmasking forced Mr. Brandt to resign in 1974.

Mr. Wolf, who said he spurned a CIA offer of a safe new life in California after the Cold War, managed to steal NATO secrets for the Soviet bloc that could have been decisive if war had broken out in Europe.

Because of his elusiveness, his rivals nicknamed him “the man without a face.”

Born Jan. 19, 1923, in the southwestern town of Hechingen, Mr. Wolf and his family followed his father — a Jewish communist, doctor and writer — into exile in France in 1933 after the Nazis came to power.

The Wolfs moved to the Soviet Union in 1934, and the young Markus studied aeronautical engineering in Moscow before being sent for political training at a Communist International, or Comintern, school in the Bashkiria region.

He worked at German People’s Radio in Moscow from 1943 to 1945, when he returned to Germany with a group that included Walter Ulbricht, who would become East Germany’s longtime leader.

After reporting from the Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi leaders and returning to Moscow for a time as a counselor at the fledgling East German Embassy, Mr. Wolf joined the new communist state’s embryonic foreign intelligence service in 1951. He became its leader the next year, and stayed in the job until his retirement in 1986.

Mr. Wolf’s service was part of East Germany’s all-pervasive secret police, the Stasi, which was widely loathed and feared for its huge network of domestic informants. Mr. Wolf served under Erich Mielke, the hated Stasi chief, from 1956 until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Western agencies didn’t know what the East German spy chief looked like until 1978, when he was photographed during a visit to Sweden. An East German defector, Werner Stiller, then identified Mr. Wolf to West German counterintelligence as the man in the picture.

Some also think Mr. Wolf was the model for John Le Carre’s wily communist spymaster “Karla” in his espionage novels.

The Stasi, which at home enlisted spouses and lovers to spy on their partners, sent seductive “Romeo” agents to the West to steal secrets from lonely government secretaries.

Mr. Wolf said in his memoirs that “if I go down in espionage history, it may well be for perfecting the use of sex in spying.”

Mr. Wolf emerged as a supporter of reforms as East Germans took to the streets to press for change in the fall of 1989. A few days before the Berlin Wall fell, he drew applause at a pro-democracy rally in East Berlin when he denounced violent police attacks on earlier demonstrations.


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