Spymaster steps from shadow into courtroom limelight
Wednesday 08 January 1997
For most of the three decades that he ran East Germany's foreign intelligence service, the HVA, his Western adversaries could not even put a face to the name. Now his image fills television screens, his punditry commands exorbitant fees, a book entitled Secrets of Russian Cuisine pays the bills, and the last Cold warrior is about to hit stardom with a seminal work on the Cold War.
All that stands in the way of minting fame into fortune is a little misunderstanding with the German judiciary, who keep trying to throw him into jail. And so Mr Wolf returned yesterday to the windowless Dusseldorf courtroom where he was once convicted of treason, but this time as a common criminal.
Then - he was absolved by the highest court in the land, which ruled that East Germans who had spied on West Germany had committed no crime in their own country. Now - the prosecution is citing the East German penal code in an attempt to convict him on charges of abduction, coercion, and causing grievous bodily harm.
"My accusers have revealed no more than methods that have belonged to all secret services of all ages," Mr Wolf said, staring at his prosecutors. "Neither the constitution, nor the law of the country I served were violated." If he had ordered the kidnapping and brutalisation of innocents, then his actions had been no worse than those of the other side.
In response to the charge that he had ordered the imprisonment of a former Gestapo employee, Mr Wolf took a dig at the Western inclination to turn a blind eye: "Contrary to the West German secret services, the uncovering of former Nazi henchmen was one of the legitimate tasks of the HVA," he declared.
It was dedication to root out "Hitler-fascism" and to defend "socialism" that had driven him, he said. As if to justify his actions, Mr Wolf dwelt at length on his colourful life, his famed memory deserting him only when he was asked about the date of his third marriage.
His parents, atheist Jews who joined the Communist Party in 1928, fled Germany in 1933 after the burning of the Reichstag. Markus - or "Misha" - grew up in Moscow, and was educated at a school for German communists where teachers and pupils would often disappear in a Stalinist purge. Misha studied to be an aircraft engineer, but after the outbreak of war he was ordered to enrol in the Comintern's school for promising leaders of the future satellite states.
He returned to Germany shortly after the surrender, working as a propagandist for the Russian "liberators". Eventually, he became an East German diplomat in Moscow and then a party apparatchik in East Berlin.
On his career between 1955 and 1986, Mr Wolf remained silent, but he appeared keen to talk about his relatively short flirtation with journalism. In 1946, he covered the Nuremberg trials, which some commentators today regard as the precedent for bringing leaders of the East German regime to justice.
"It was a deeply emotional experience, one which I will never forget," Mr Wolf said yesterday, his now famous face betraying not a hint of irony.
The trial is expected to last until the end of March.
- 1 Cara Delevigne addresses awkward interview on Good Day Sacramento
- 2 Top Gear team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May officially heading to Amazon Prime for new car show
- 3 Stuart Baggs: Apprentice star 'The Brand' found dead aged 27
- 4 How to cancel Amazon Prime: after Top Gear hiring, how to leave premium service
- 5 MH370 debris: Investigators 'confident' that Boeing 777 wing found - live updates
Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
Cara Delevigne addresses awkward interview on Good Day Sacramento
Stuart Baggs: Apprentice star 'The Brand' found dead aged 27
MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
MH370 debris: Investigators 'confident' that Boeing 777 wing found - live updates
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Calais crisis: For desperate migrants it is 'England or death' as they brave dogs, riot police and speeding trains
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...
£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...
£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...