Hansjoachim Tiedge: Intelligence officer whose defection to the East caused panic in the West

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The Independent Online

Hansjoachim Tiedge's defection to East Germany in 1985 caused panic and dismay in West Germany and Nato. The head of West Germany's counter-intelligence department, he was soon divulging all to the Stasi spy chief Markus Wolf.

Born in Berlin in 1937, Tiedge studied law, then in 1966 joined the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the body responsible for internal security. He was soon promoted to head of the department dealing with East German spies attempting to infiltrate West German institutions.

On 19 August 1985 he took a train into the GDR: it was thought he had been recruited several years earlier by Wolf. However, in 1997 Wolf claimed he could not believe his ears when, on holiday in Hungary, a call came through informing him of Tiedge's defection. His only worry was that his Stasi boss, General Erich Mielke, was annoyed that he had not been the first person to be informed. Tiedge always denied any previous GDR contact.

Wolf reported that Tiedge had a computer-like memory and was able to recall many details of personnel, plans and operations. Wolf knew most of what he heard already because Tiedge's colleague, Klaus Eduard Kuron, had offered his services in 1982.

Speculation mounted about Tiedge's motives; he was not a supporter of the GDR or the Soviet system, and like Kuron, had personal motives. He ran a turbulent household with a wife and three daughters; there was talk of wife-beating. After the death of his wife, in 1982, in what was claimed was a bathroom accident, he went downhill. His alcoholism worsened and he was said more than once to have left his briefcase in the Cologne pub where he was a regular. He was also heavily in debt.

Once in the GDR the overweight alcoholic was put on a recuperation regime, cutting down the booze, eating sensibly and exercising daily. His new friends found him a hideaway in the beautiful village of Prenden in Brandenburg), in a renovated mansion close to the where the East German leaders lived. There he was interro-gated. Later he was given a house in the East Berlin suburb of Köpenick.

In May 1988 he finished his dissertation, at East Berlin's Humboldt University about West German counter-intelligence work. He was awarded a doctorate and made a professor. He met and married a fellow student, and Stasi intelligence officer, Britta. His daughters were able to visit him, and he lived as a privileged citizen.

But his new life was upset by the peaceful revolution that began in October 1989; he watched as Mielke was imprisoned and the Stasi disbanded. In March 1990, Wolf's successor warned him: "the lights are slowly going out". As reunification approached, rather than face a trial and almost certainly a life sentence, he decided to escape.

His KGB contacts put him and his wife on a plane to Moscow just before reunification; his Stasi friends gave him money. In 2005, he was no longer eligible for prosecution in Germany but he did not contemplate returning – though he did not forget the long hours he had spent in his old Cologne pub, drinking kölsch and schnapps and playing the card game skat. According to the landlord, Johann Lorenz, he rang at the same time every Sunday to enquire about his old Skat buddies.

According to an official investigation, he was involved in 816 operations of which he gave details to the other side. In an interview with Der Spiegel in 1993 he admitted, "Naturally I am a traitor, I cannot deny that."

David Childs

Hansjoachim Tiedge, intelligence officer: born Berlin 24 June 1937; married; died near Moscow 6 April 2011.