Court reunion for German spy and his master: Former East Berlin agent meets his old boss Markus Wolf after 20 years

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The Independent Online
THE two men, one decidedly showing his years, burst into broad grins and clasped each other warmly by the hand. The setting for their reunion - an oppressive basement courtroom in Dusseldorf - was hardly of their choice. But they had not seen each other for some time. And, although it was now 20 years on, the memory of what they achieved together was still enough to provide a glow.

For Gunter Guillaume, the East German spy whose discovery in the office of Willy Brandt in 1974 led to the dramatic resignation of the then West German chancellor, yesterday's appointment in Dusseldorf was particularly poignant. He knew the windowless courtroom well. It was largely built for his trial on charges of treason for which he was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment in 1975.

Back then, Mr Guillaume was in the dock, and throughout the 42 days of the trial, refused to utter a single word. Yesterday he returned as a witness, called by the prosecution in connection with the case against Markus Wolf, the former head of the East German espionage service, on charges of treason, espionage and bribery.

Although at 66, he is four years younger than his dapper former boss, Mr Guillaume, who last year suffered a heart attack, exuded an air of fatigue. Arguing that he could barely remember details of events stretching back over 40 years, he repeatedly referred to his 1988 book Die Aussage in answer to questions put by Klaus Wagner, the presiding judge.

Mr Guillaume's dramatic career was once again sketched: the apparent flight from East Germany with his wife, Christel, in 1956 and application for West German citizenship; joining the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the early 1960s and steady progress through the ranks of its Frankfurt branch; the attachment to Georg Leber, a rising figure on the right- wing of the party who was heading for Bonn and, in 1970, the invitation to come and work in the Chancellery.

'It (the job) came as a great surprise to me,' said Mr Guillaume, insisting that there had never been long-term plans for him to become one of Mr Brandt's personal assistants and even less so, plans to bring him down. His orders from Mr Wolf - whom he met conspiratorially in East Berlin ('Haupstadt der DDR') in 1964 - had been simply to stick with the SPD, viewed as likely future coalition partners in government.

Mr Guillaume said he was given extensive freedom of manoeuvre when it came to his espionage duties, filing back reports to East Berlin only when he considered them necessary. He had access to top secret material - especially while accompanying Mr Brandt on a summer holiday in Norway in 1973. Mr Guillaume described yesterday how, on the journey home, he had swapped a suitcase containing souvenirs for one with classified documents which he left in a hotel room to be copied by an East German agent.

Despite his commitment to his masters in East Berlin, Mr Guillaume took pride in his work for the SPD and the fact that, in 1972, when he was already at the chancellor's side, he helped the party achieve the greatest electoral victory in its history.

Mr Guillaume justifies what he did on the grounds that it helped preserve peace. 'I saw my work as a contribution towards ensuring that the Cold War did not become a hot one,' he said in an interview in 1990. 'I was not interested in Marxism but in securing peace in Germany.'

He has always maintained that his discovery as a spy in 1974 was used as a pretext by those pushing to replace Mr Brandt with Helmut Schmidt. How had he felt about the former chancellor on a personal level? Mr Guillaume was asked. 'That is a very difficult question,' he said. 'Put it this way, there are only two people in my life that I have done my utmost to serve. One was Willy Brandt. The other was Markus Wolf.'

Lawyers for Mr Wolf, concluding yesterday's session, demanded that Klaus Kinkel, the current Foreign Minister but former senior interior ministry aide, be called to testify. According to the defence, although West German intelligence sources suspected that Mr Guillaume was a spy long before he was arrested, he was inexplicably allowed continued access to classified material.

(Photograph omitted)