This is the first time this blog has an obituary entry. I wanted to report the fact that Markus Wolf, the former and last East German master spy died yesterday in his bed, aged 83. Contrarily to what the BBC mentions in this article, Western services did have a couple of photos of this man when he was in activity. I have seen them and I have to admit it didn't make any difference, as the pictures in question were unexploitable long distance blurry shots. I have always been fascinated by this man. He actually knew personally guys like Philby or Mc Lean. He was also an ideologist, believing (at least in the beginning) in Marxism-Leninism and its application in both local and international politics. Especially after Second World War, he became a fervent admirer of the Soviet Union. He was so brilliant, he managed to infiltrate the West German government to the absolutely top level, placing a Stasi spy as adviser to the German Chancelor.
This said, when East Germany reached its end, he had the intelligence (some said the opportunism) to recognize that his ideology had failed and he opposed personally East German Party members like Mielke who wanted to crush the rebellion. He made then his first public appearance in a political meeting, supporting the democratic pro-Western demonstrators. After the German reunification, he was put twice on trial but only condemned once, for abductions, to two years jail with parole.
And just for the legend, he was the initiator of the program consisting in sending female (or male) spies to have sexual relations with "high targets" in order to get their secrets "on the pillow"...
Edited on 14/11/2006: There has been an article by Anne Applebaum (Washington Post) on Slate on the same topic. Contrarily to me, Applebaum feels no sympathy of any kind for Wolf, and I can certainly understand why. If I am somewhat biased towards intelligence agencies people, she is a journalist and a scholar and is obviously biased against. This said, I thought fair to present an alternative view, if opposing mine.