The East German foreign intelligence service, the Hauptverwaltung
A (Main Directorate A, hereaft er HV A), is the stuff of legends. “It
was probably the most effi cient and eff ective service on the European
continent,” claimed Markus Wolf, who headed foreign intelligence
for thirty-four years.1
A boast to be sure, but many observers believe
he was the most successful spymaster of the Cold War.
There is no gainsaying the HV A’s feats, but the East Germans had a
little help from their adversaries. Offi cials in Washington, London,
and Bonn not only underestimated the HV A’s prowess; they also were
largely ignorant of its size, effi ciency, and contribution to Soviet intelligence. Warning signs went unheeded. In 1959, for example, an East
German defector claimed that the HV A was on its way to becoming
the premier espionage service in the Eastern bloc with 2,000–3,000
agents in West Germany.2
He was ignored. The Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) wrote off East Germany as a “backwater” of little or no
intelligence interest.3
As a result, the HV A became a stealth weapon of
the Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security), fl ying under the radar of
Western intelligence and wreaking tremendous damage in the process.
In several espionage trials of HV A agents aft er the Cold War, presiding
judges declared that the information they provided Moscow might have
meant the diff erence between survival and defeat in the event of war,
as serious a damage assessment as one can imagine.
Soviet intelligence and its Warsaw Pact allies referred to each other
as Bruderorgane, brotherly or fraternal services. The HV A, however,
was fi rst among equals. “We were Moscow’s prime ally,” Wolf declared. Former Soviet offi cers, perhaps with grudging respect, have
tipped their hats to the East Germans. One declared that the HV A
was “even more successful than the KGB.”4
Another said that the HV
A “had so deeply penetrated the West German government, military,
and secret services that about all we had to do was lie back and stay
out of Wolf’s way.”5
Never one to hide his light under a bushel, Wolf
himself once bragged that he had enough West German politicians
on his payroll to form his own bipartisan faction in the Bundestag.6
Even his former adversaries, with grudging candor but no respect,
have acknowledged his successes. German authorities estimated
1 Markus Wolf with Anne
McElvoy, Man Without a
Face: The Autobiography
of Communism’s Greatest
Spymaster (New York,
1997), xi.
2 Richard Meier, Geheimdienst ohne Maske: Der ehemalige Präsident des Bundesverfassungsschutz über
Agenten, Spione und einen
gewissen Herrn Wolf
(Berlin, 1992), 197–203.
3 See Benjamin B. Fischer,
“Deaf, Dumb, and Blind:
The CIA and East Germany,” in East German Foreign
Intelligence: Myth, Reality
and Controversy, ed. Thomas
Friis, Kristie Macrakis, and
Helmut Müller-Engbergs
(London and New York,
2010), 48–69, 49.
4 Christopher Andrew and
Oleg Gordievsky, MORE
Instructions from the Centre: Top Secret Files on KGB
Global Operations 1975–
1985 (London, 1992), 37.
5 Oleg Kalugin with Fen
Montaigne, The First
Directorate: My 32 Years in
Intelligence and Espionage
against the West (New
York, 1994), 171.
6 “Meisterspion für zweimal
A 13,” Der Spiegel, January
6, 1992, 32.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 151
that the HV A, by itself, provided some 80 percent of all Warsaw
Pact intelligence on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).7
Soviet Origins of German Intelligence
The HV A was a creation of Soviet intelligence. Its organization,
bureaucratic culture, and ethos were more Russian than German,
making it a hybrid German-Soviet intelligence service. Germans
off ered technical skills, discipline, and effi ciency that the Russians
typically lacked. Most important, they had entrée to the other half
of the divided German nation just across the border that geographically defi ned the Cold War. For the East Germans, West Germany
was the Hauptfeind (main enemy), a country they called simply the
Hauptoperationsgebiet (Main Operational Area).
German espionage for the USSR, however, did not begin with the
Cold War. Its origins reach back to the revolutionary upheavals
following World War I. Lenin and his Bolshevik followers believed
that their October Revolution in backward Russia, a predominantly
peasant country, could not survive without revolutionary upheavals
in the industrial West, where the large and well-organized working
class would come to their aid. They pinned their hopes above all on
Germany and prepared accordingly.8
Posters in Moscow declared that
“The German October is at the gates.” The moment of truth came in
1923, when the Comintern (Communist International), the general
staff of the Soviet world revolutionary movement, and Soviet intelligence funded and incited an uprising led by the German Communist
Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschands, KPD).9
The German proletariat, however, refused to throw off its chains, as
Bolshevik theory had predicted. The ill-conceived revolt fi zzled, and
Germany remained a capitalist country until it became the Third
Reich. Not all was lost, however. As one of the top Soviet operatives
in Europe noted:
When we saw the collapse of the Comintern’s eff orts, we
said: “Let’s save what we can of the German revolution.”
We took the best men developed by our Party Intelligence
. . . and incorporated them into the Soviet Military Intelligence. Out of the ruins of the Communist revolution we
built in Germany for Soviet Russia a brilliant intelligence
service, the envy of every other nation.10
7 “Die Gussen kommen,” Der
Spiegel, March 16, 1992, 129.
8 Bogdan Musial, Kampfplatz
Deutschland: Stalins
Kriegspläne gegen den Westen,
2nd ed. (Berlin, 2008), 26–27,
62–67.
9 Bernd Kaufmann, Eckhard
Reisener, Dieter Schwips, and
Henri Walther, “Die ‘Revolution’ wird organisiert
(1923),” Der Nachrichtendienst der KPD 1917–1937
(Berlin, 1993), 57–93.
10 David J. Dallin, Soviet Espionage
(New Haven, 1955), 92.
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The KPD created its own covert intelligence service, the KPDNachrichtendienst, in 1921. It spied on the Weimar government; the
Reichswehr, the small defense force permitted under the terms of
the Treaty of Versailles; and other political parties and paramilitary
units of rightwing nationalist organizations. Aft er 1923, however,
the KPD became increasingly involved in spying for the Soviet
Union and facilitating Soviet espionage in Germany and the rest
of Europe.11
The trajectory of the KPD intelligence service followed and refl ected
changes in the USSR. Aft er Stalin rose to power by eliminating the
Old Bolsheviks, he foreswore the idea of revolution in Europe and
in 1928 set out on a course of “building socialism in one country”
as the USSR’s strategic objective. The following year, the Comintern
declared that “war and the danger of war” in Europe was imminent.
All communist parties were obliged to accept Moscow’s “iron discipline” and join in a Waff enbruderschaft (alliance of comrade-in-arms)
to defend the USSR as “the center of the world revolution.”12
Historians debate whether the Soviet war scare was genuine or contrived, but its impact on the KPD was quite real. In preparation for
an impending civil war at home and an “imperialist war” in Europe,
the KPD created a new clandestine organization, the Abteilung
Militärpolitik (Department of Military Policy), which also was known
by cover names such as AM-Apparat, Kippenberger-Apparat aft er its
leader Hans Kippenberger, “Alex,” and “Adam-Apparat.”13 Increasingly, the KPD was forced to serve Soviet interests rather than its
own and to support the Soviet Union’s forced-pace industrialization
and massive armaments buildup.14 “The KPD-Nachrichtendienst
became essentially the product, the main instrument, and ultimately
the victim of Bolshevization [more appropriately of Stalinization].”15
At Moscow’s direction, KPD leaders were purged and replaced with
true Stalinists. The Germans’ tragedy was twofold. Many were arrested, tortured, and murdered in Hitler’s concentration camps, and
many others who fl ed to the Soviet Union suff ered the same fate
during Stalin’s blood purges. Kippenberger was one of fi rst refugees
executed in Moscow in 1937.
Germans Spying on Germany for Russia
Germany suff ered little damage during World War I. Its industrial
infrastructure had not only remained intact; it was the envy of the
world, especially in the production of iron and steel, chemicals,
11 Kaufmann et al., “Spionage für die Sowjets,” in
Der Nachrichtendienst der
KPD 1917–1937, 163–66.
12 Ibid., 173.
13 Ibid., 179–80.
14 Ibid., “Spionage fur die
sowjetische Rüstungswirtschaft ,” 200–203.
15 Ibid., 9.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 153
and electricity. Within a few years, with KPD support, the volume
of industrial and military-technological secrets purloined and sent
to Moscow became “an avalanche” of information on chemical
formulas and production methods, blueprints, and prototypes.
The eff ort was so sweeping and so effi cient that “Moscow oft en
knew about a new German invention before it went into serial
production.”16
Trials involving industrial espionage linked to the Soviet Union give
some indication of the scope and magnitude of the KPD-Soviet eff ort.
In 1928, German courts tried some 300 to 360 cases. In 1930, the
number soared to more than 1,000.17 Even these numbers, however,
understate the real situation. Because Weimar Germany maintained
good diplomatic and trade relations with the Soviet Union, and also
because the Reichswehr was conducting covert military training and
weapons R&D there, Berlin oft en turned a blind eye to such transgressions.18 Many cases never reached the courts, and some egregious
incidents were tried in camera and the records sealed so as not to
disturb relations with Moscow. Moreover, the German criminal code
did not treat industrial snooping as espionage. Hamstrung, the courts
could only apply a weak statute on “unfair competition,” which provided for light sentences of one to three months. Finally, in 1932 the
Reichstag issued a new law that called for three-year terms in cases
of routine industrial espionage and fi ve years if a foreign power was
involved. The Nazis replaced it with the death penalty.
Rabkors and Russia-Goers
In addition to party members who worked in industry, the KPD could
call on sympathizers and fellow travelers to acquire information for
Moscow. One especially rich source came from the so-called rabkor
or worker-correspondent movement aft er the Russian term rabochii
korrespondent. Instigated by the USSR, communist press organs in
Europe and the United States collected information from industrial
workers on labor relations and working conditions. The rabkor movement, however, was actually a cover for espionage. The KPD was the
fi rst party in the West to implement the rabkor movement, which by
1928 had several thousand members, many more than Great Britain,
France, and the United States.19 In Germany, the movement was
known as Betriebsberichterstattung and its practitioners as Betriebsberichterstatter, or simply BBs, both terms being literal translations
from Russian.
16 Dallon, Soviet
Espionage, 76.
17 Ibid., 76–77.
18 The treaty placed restrictions
on the size and armaments of
the Germany army or “defense
force” (Reichswehr). Weimar
Germany and Soviet Russia,
the two “pariah countries of
Europe,” reached an agreement under which the former
conducted research and development of tanks, poison gas,
and military aircraft in the latter, far away from the eyes of
Entente inspection teams. See
Manfred Zeidler, Reichswehr
und Rote Armee 1920–1933:
Wege und Stationen einer ungewöhnlichen Zusammenarbeit, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1994);
and Aleksandr M. Nekrich,
German-Soviet Relations: Pariahs, Partners, Predators (New
York, 1997).
19 Dallin, Soviet
Espionage, 86.
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The “best brains” in Soviet military intelligence ferreted out industrial
and military secrets to accelerate the USSR’s armaments program.20
The KPD routinely collected classified information on German
armaments R&D and production and on the Reichswehr, which it
occasionally exposed in the communist press before passing it on
to Moscow.
Communists, at least overt members of the KPD, were banned from
the army and military industrial and research facilities. Ordinary
workers who comprised the basis of the BB movement had neither the
access nor the capability for reporting on sophisticated military technology and R&D programs. With guidance from Moscow, however,
the KPD found a solution by recruiting German scientists, engineers,
and technicians who had no record of communist sympathies or affi liation.21 A primary source was the so-called Russia-Goers movement,
unemployed Germans who sought work in the Soviet Union. The
Soviets pored over applications submitted at their embassy and trade
mission in Berlin, looking for suitable candidates. Once recruited,
the Germans were steered toward fi nding jobs in Germany rather
than in Russia while spying for Soviet intelligence. A secretary and
KPD member at the Soviet trade mission ran a dummy employment
agency used to screen and recruit Russia-goers.22
The German-Soviet Intelligence Hybrid
The KPD worked for three Soviet organizations: the KGB, the Fourth
Department of the Red Army (later the Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye
Upravleniye, or GRU, Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency),
and the Western European Bureau of the Comintern, which was
based in Berlin.23 For security purposes, the Germans referred to the
intelligence services as the “two girls” or “Grete” for the KGB and
“Klara” for Krasnaya Armiya or Red Army.
German collaborators proved to be essential to the success of
Soviet intelligence during the 1920s and 1930s. As one historian
observed:
With their proverbial precision, discipline, and incomparable technical skills, the German members of the apparat
were quick to learn the methods of conspiratsia; indeed,
they improved upon them, and in more than one way outdid their teachers.24
20 For an account of Soviet
military espionage, see “5.
Military Targets,” in Dallin, Soviet Espionage, 112–
19; and Kaufmann et al.,
“Spionage für die sowjetische Rüstungswirschaft ,”
in Der Nachrichtendienst
der KPD 1917–1937,
200–203.
21 Kaufmann et al., “Betriebsberichterstattung,”
in Der Nachrichtendienst
der KPD 1917–1937,
194–200.
22 Dallin, Soviet Espionage,
85–86.
23 From 1923 to 1934, Soviet foreign intelligence
was reorganized and renamed twice. The more
familiar term KGB is used
here, although it did not
become the offi cial name
until 1954.
24 Ibid., 87.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 155
German support to Soviet intelligence “was enormous, exceeding in
quantity the contribution of all other non-Russian components of the
apparat abroad; in quality it exceeded even the Russian core itself.”25
The HV A saw itself as the heir and lineal descendant of the KPD
intelligence service, and, like their predecessors, the East Germans
oft en outperformed Soviet intelligence during the Cold War.26
For all their contributions, however, the German communists received
little credit from Moscow, and many of those who fl ed to the USSR
to escape Nazi persecution ended up in the Gulag or KGB execution
chambers. Stalin decimated about 70 percent of the KPD exile community. Some of those who survived, however, became Soviet citizens
and rose to high ranks in Soviet intelligence and in the Comintern.
They returned to their homeland on the coattails of the Red Army
in 1945, where they became the founding fathers of East German
intelligence.
Present at the Creation
In 1951, Markus Wolf, who was posted to Moscow as the chargé
d’aff aires of the East German embassy, was recalled to East Berlin.
There he was summoned to a meeting with Anton Ackermann, the
state secretary in the foreign ministry and, more important, a member of the ruling Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in the
recently established German Democratic Republic (GDR). Ackermann
told Wolf that he was being assigned to a new intelligence unit in
the ministry, which would report directly to Ackermann himself. An
organizing session was held on September 1, 1951, in a safehouse in
Bohnsdorf, an East Berlin suburb. HV A offi cers celebrated that date
as the founding of their service.
The new unit’s offi cial name was the Foreign Policy Intelligence
Service (Außenpolitische Nachrichtendienst, APN).27 The APN was a
clandestine organization; its very title and existence were classifi ed.
No one outside of a small circle of offi cials in the USSR and the GDR
had ever heard of it until aft er the Cold War. Old habits die hard; in his
memoir Wolf refused to “break cover” and referred to the APN by its
cover name, the Institute for Economic-Scientifi c Research (Institut
für Wirtschaft swissenschaft liche Forschung, IWF).28
The APN/IWF was a new organization, but it did not lack for talent or experience. The founding fathers, all veteran communists
from the prewar KPD underground, included Richard Stahlmann
25 Ibid., 92.
26 Bernd Kaufmann et al., Der
Nachrichtendienst der KPD
1917–1937, 11.
27 The following account of the
APN is based on Peter Richter
and Klaus Rösler, Wolfs WestSpione: Ein Insider-Report
(Berlin: Elefanten Press Verlag
GmbH, 1992), 13–30; Meier,
Geheimdienst ohne Maske,
145–60; Peter Siebenmorgen,
“Staatssicherheit” der DDR:
Der Westen im Fadenkreuz der
Stasi (Bonn, 1993), 114–15;
and Wolf, Man Without a Face,
43–48.
28 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
44. Wolf evidently did not remember that he had already
revealed the APN in a previous
publication. See In eigenem
Auft rag: Bekenntnisse und Einsichten (Munich, 1991), 267.
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(pseudonym of Artur Illner) and Robert Korb. Stahlmann was a
legendary fi gure in the international communist movement, a brilliant operative who had run Comintern operations in Scandinavia,
the Balkans, and China. Korb was a gift ed political analyst, who had
served as personal secretary to Georgy Dmitrov, the Bulgarian expatriate head of the Comintern.
Also present at the fi rst organizing session were Gustav Szinda,
Gerhard Hentschke, and Gerhard Heidenreich. Szinda had served
in Stalin’s foreign intelligence service, the Comintern, and the
Soviet-backed International Brigades during the Spanish Civil
War. He and Hentschke fought with Soviet partisans behind
enemy lines during World War II. Heidenreich, another KPD
veteran and protégé of SED leader Walter Ulbricht and Ulbricht’s
future successor, Erich Honecker, was head of the East German
youth organization, which screened candidates for the new intelligence service. To protect the APN’s covert status, even within
SED ranks, offi cials referred to it as the Heidenreich-Apparat,
since Heidenreich was openly known as the head of the SED youth
organization. Wolf represented the rising generation of young
communists, all devoted Stalinists, as did Werner Großmann,
who would succeed Wolf in 1986 as only the second head of the
HV A during its entire existence.
Soviet intelligence played a dominant role in the APN/IWF. Four Soviet
intelligence offi cers were present at the organizing session. Soviet
offi cers were omnipresent as “advisers,” guiding its operations and
making sure that the Germans carried out Moscow’s orders. As Wolf
noted, “Our Soviet advisers played a strong, even domineering role.”
The APN was “an exact mirror of the Soviet model”; its structure and
operational guidelines were based on verbatim translations from
Russian documents.29
KGB oversight of the HV A and its parent organization, the Ministry for State Security (MfS), remained in place throughout the Cold
War. A Soviet-East German protocol from 1978 revealed that Soviet
offi cers were issued passes that allowed them unrestricted access to
MfS and HV A offi ces, fi les, and technical equipment. The KGB also
reserved the right to recruit East German citizens without informing
the Ministry.30
The APN/IWF was created to fi ll a gap in the SED’s information on
West Germany and the Western Allies’ intentions in the unfolding
29 Wolf, Man Without a
Face, 46.
30 “Pingpong für Spione,”
Der Spiegel, February 17,
1992, 86.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 157
East-West confl ict. It also had critical implications for Soviet policy. In
the early stage of the Cold War, Germany, not the United States, was
the cynosure of Stalin’s foreign policy, as it had been in the prewar
period. The Soviet dictator’s greatest fear was that the Western powers would rearm and integrate the new West German state, founded
in 1949, into an anti-Soviet alliance. This became a self-fulfi lling
policy aft er Stalin ordered the 1948-1949 blockade of West Berlin and
gave the green light for North Korea to invade South Korea in 1950.
NATO was formed in 1949, and Bonn became a full-fl edged political
and military member in 1955.
The IWF provided non-alerting commercial cover for espionage. Its
overt mission was to facilitate interzonal trade between the Soviet,
American, British, and French sectors of East and West Germany,
which was still fl ourishing before the erection of the Berlin Wall. Access to West Germany was secured by opening a “research” branch
in Frankfurt and an East-West Trade Corporation (Ost-West Handelsgesellschaft ) in Hamburg.31 In addition to political and military
intelligence, East German operatives were tasked with collecting
information on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, chemistry, electrical engineering, electronics, aviation, and conventional weapons.
These intelligence requirements were of little interest to East Berlin
but of overriding concern to Moscow. With the exception of nuclear
issues, they were reminiscent of Soviet tasking of the KPD in prewar
Germany.
By 1952, APN/IWF had a staff of 200 offi cers. Ackermann was the
chief, and Stahlmann and Szinda were his deputies.32 The latter two
were in charge of day-to-day operations and divided responsibility
for managing several main departments and subordinate branches.
The main departments included political and military intelligence;
economic intelligence; evaluation and requirements, under Korb;
and administration. Wolf was initially assigned as Korb’s deputy but
soon took over a small counterintelligence unit. Heidenreich headed
the personnel department.
In December 1952, Wolf was summoned once again to the SED
Central Committee building, this time by none other than Ulbricht
himself. Ulbricht told him that Ackermann had asked to be relieved
of his duties for health reasons.33 “We have decided that you should
take over the service,” Ulbricht said — “we” meaning Ulbricht himself
and the Politburo. Wolf was thirty years old. He was ordered to report
directly to Ulbricht.34
31 Dallin, Soviet Espionage,
343–44.
32 See the table of organization,
Appendix 8, in Siebenmorgen, “Staatssicherheit“ der
DDR, 316.
33 In fact, Ulbricht purged Ackermann both because he was a
political rival and an advocate
of a “separate German road to
socialism,” a heresy that Stalin did not tolerate as he was
preparing to impose the Soviet
model of a command economy
and collectivized agriculture
on the GDR.
34 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
55–57.
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Wolf wondered why he had been chosen; he was not only young and
inexperienced but also lacked high standing in the SED. He acknowledged, however, that “I am sure that my upbringing and connections
with Moscow weighed heavily.”35
Richard Stahlmann, the acting APN chief, was already sixty-one years
old, but he gracefully accepted the role as Wolf’s deputy. Years later,
Wolf paid tribute to Stahlmann as his mentor, role model, and chief
adviser, saying the veteran communist apparatchik was “the true
organizer of our foreign intelligence” who had stood “side by side
with Soviet intelligence.”36
Mischa
Wolf represented the new generation of East German functionaries
and the amalgam of German-Soviet intelligence. Born in 1923, he
fl ed Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union with his mother and brother
in 1934. His father, a physician, prominent playwright, and communist offi cial, had arrived the year before. During the next eleven
formative years of his youth, Markus became Mischa and in his own
words “half Russian.” The Soviet Union, he added, was “our second
homeland [Heimat].”37
Wolf’s life in clandestine operations began in 1943 at the age of
twenty, when he was selected for admission to the Comintern school.
It was a stroke of luck that allowed him to escape the vicissitudes of
war, since the school had been relocated from Moscow to the safety
of Kushnarenkovo, about sixty miles from Ufa. The timing was signifi cant. Aft er the defeat of the Germany army at Stalingrad during
1942–1943, Stalin realized that victory over Hitler’s Germany was
now a matter of time. He was planning for the postwar occupation
and control of Germany, and he needed a cadre of young and reliable
Germans to carry out his plans.
Wolf returned to his native country in 1945, a committed revolutionary determined to realize the prewar goal of a Sovietized Germany. He
was a prodigy with prodigious ambition. A fellow exile and Comintern
student described him as
the type of very clever, calm offi cial who stands in the background [Hintergrund Funktionär], who only regards as a game
of chess everything that other comrades take seriously, that
35 Ibid., 57.
36 Meier, Geheimdienst ohne
Maske, 147.
37 Alexander Reichenbach,
Chef der Spione: Die Markus-Wolf-Story (Stuttgart,
2009), 49.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 159
they fi ght for, that they are inspired by. “Background offi –
cials” seemed to be inspired by nothing and apparently
nothing could shake their calmness. They confi ned themselves to working out the next tactical step cautiously and
carefully. . . .38
Wolf stood out among the returnees, despite his youth, due to his
fl uency in Russian and his “sparkling contacts with the Soviets.”
Unusual perks underscored his status. Still in his mid-twenties, he
was assigned a sumptuous country house on the Glienecker Lake
away from the ruins of Berlin. His compatriots had to make do with
lesser quarters and lower rations. Clearly, his Soviet masters were
grooming Mischa for more important assignments.39
The APN/IWF suff ered several setbacks on Wolf’s watch, one of
which could have ended his career. Several agents working in IWF
cover offi ces in West Germany were caught spying.40 Much more
serious was the case of Gotthold Krauss, a former banker hired by
the APN to work on economic intelligence who became a deputy
department chief. He defected to the United States in April 1953,
bringing with him copious information on APN staff offi cers, agents,
and operations. “I took it as a heavy personal blow, and it made me
realize that our young service was still far from secure,” Wolf wrote
years later.41 Yet fortune smiled on him; his Soviet overseers overlooked the security breaches.
In 1953, the APN/IWF was disbanded; its staff and fi les were moved
to the Ministry for State Security. Internal security and foreign intelligence were joined in a single ministry on the model of the KGB.
Wolf’s main department was designated HA XV. Two years later,
HA XV was renamed HV A.
Germans Spying on Germany for Russia Redux
From its modest start in 1951, East German foreign intelligence hit
its stride in the 1960s; registered spectacular successes in the 1970s;
and became the preeminent Soviet bloc service in the 1980s. It almost
certainly exceeded Soviet expectations.
Sheer numbers do not tell the whole story, but they indicate the scope
and magnitude of the HV A’s success in carrying out its main mission. The number of West Germans and West Berliners who spied
for East Germany almost defi es belief. The precise fi gures will never
38 Wolfgang Leonhard, Die
Revolution entlässt ihre Kinder
(Cologne, 1981), 576.
39 Reichenbach, Chef der Spione, 60.
40 Dallin, Soviet Espionage,
343–44.
41 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
58. Wolf misspelled Krauss’s
name and gave a spurious account of the defection, claiming that West German intelligence was in charge. In fact,
Krauss had been in contact
with the CIA in West Berlin
since 1950 and planned his
escape over the intervening
years. Krauss attended Wolf’s
fi rst staff meeting as chief of
the APN, during which Wolf
complained about the organization’s poor security. See
Benjamin B. Fischer, “Markus
Wolf and the CIA Mole,” Center for the Study of Intelligence
Bulletin (Winter 2000): 8–9.
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be known, but a rough estimate for the MfS and HV A from 1949 to
1989 ranges from 17,000 to 23,000.42 The HV A accounted for about
6,000 agents during the same period. Some 3,000 agents were still
active when the Berlin Wall fell. About half spied for the MfS and
the East German army’s intelligence service and the other half for the
HV A. Five of every 100,000 West German citizens were “working
clandestinely for the GDR.”43
Aft er reunifi cation, a German counterintelligence offi cial said, “You
see the entire society was sort of infi ltrated by hostile intelligence
agents. We didn’t understand that.”44 Between 1993 and 1995, Germany’s federal attorney investigated 2,928 cases of possible espionage or treason by West German citizens. Some 2,300 of those were
dropped. There were 388 indictments and 252 convictions. Sixty-six
persons were sentenced to two years or more in prison. The longest
sentence handed down was twelve years, but only a few served more
than six. Eighty-fi ve persons received sentences of one year or less,
probation, or a monetary fi ne.45
The Soviet decision to exploit the East Germans’ comparative advantage in spying on West Germany was vindicated many times over.
Common language, geographical proximity, past history, and family
and business ties all played a part. The main factor, however, was
the large number of intelligence offi cers focused on a single target.
The HV A employed 4,268 staff offi cers inside MfS headquarters,
and another 800 were assigned to MfS offi ces in the GDR’s fi ft een
administrative regions. The most important regional offi ces, such
as the one in Leipzig, were located along the inner-German border,
where they conducted operations to recruit and infi ltrate agents into
West Germany.
Soviet intelligence’s largest foreign rezidentura (fi eld station) before
World War II was in Weimar Germany. The Soviet embassy on the
famous Unter den Linden boulevard and the Soviet trade mission
provided diplomatic status, and therefore legal cover, for intelligence
offi cers. The Comintern’s Western European bureau in Berlin was
another base of operations that shielded intelligence operations.
Aft er World War II, the KGB established a rezidentura in the East
Berlin suburb of Karlshorst, the site of Nazi Germany’s surrender
to the Red Army. It became the largest in the world with a staff
of about 1,000 offi cers.46 About one hundred counterintelligence
offi cers were posted to another offi ce in Potsdam-Cecelienhof. By
42 Georg Herbstritt, Bundesbürger im Dienst der
DDR-Spionage. Eine analytische Studie (Göttingen,
2007), 70.
43 Ibid., 84.
44 John Marks, “The
Spymaster Unmasked,”
U.S. News & World Report,
April 12, 1993, 42.
45 Robert Gerald Livingston,
“Rosenholz: Mischa’s
Files, CIA’s Booty,” in
East German Foreign Intelligence, ed. Friis et al.,
70–88, 79.
46 Rita Sélitrenny and Thilo
Weichert, Das unheimliche
Erbe: Die Spionageabteilung der Stasi
(Leipzig, 1991), 114.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 161
itself, the rezidentura annually poured out as many intelligence
reports as an entire KGB main directorate, and the rezident (chief
of station) held a rank equivalent to that of a deputy director of
intelligence in Moscow.47
What the Moles Knew
With a few exceptions, the HV A spied with impunity. Very few of its
agents were caught, and the number of defections could be counted
on the fi ngers of one hand. The main reason: HV A counterintelligence penetrated and neutralized West German intelligence and
security agencies with “moles.” There were moles, in some cases
several of them, burrowed inside the BND (foreign intelligence); the
BfV (domestic counterintelligence) and its state-level components
(LfVs); the SS/BKA (state security department of the federal criminal
police); the MAD (military counterintelligence); and the BGS (federal
border security).48 The three most damaging moles were Klaus Kuron,
a senior BfV offi cer in charge of anti-GDR operations; Gabriele Gast,
a senior Soviet aff airs analyst with the BND; and the deputy chief of
MAD, Col. Joachim Krase.
The impetus to recruit moles inside West German national security
agencies resulted from one of the HV A’s few setbacks and one the
BfV’s few successes. The HV A dispatched agents to West Germany
as emigrants with false names and identities — called legends in
intelligence jargon — who resettled in West Germany and West
Berlin. Using computer analysis of records from the national network
of residential registration offi ces, the BfV developed profi les of the
“illegals.” Codenamed “Anmeldung” (Registration), the operation
netted several dozen agents. Arrests, however, were only part of the
problem. Wolf had to recall many other illegals, and years of careful
work and preparation were lost.49
Aft er that setback, Wolf later claimed to have “concentrated everything on one objective: We must get inside their [West German]
organizations so that the game is open again.”50 The HV A, according
to a history compiled by former offi cers, carried out Wolf’s orders
with alacrity.51
Scientifi c and Technical Intelligence
Political intelligence was a top HV A priority. Beginning in the 1960s,
however, acquisition of scientifi c and technical intelligence in the
47 Kalugin, First Directorate, 174.
48 See the List of Abbreviations.
49 K. Eichner and G. Schramm,
Konterspionage: Die DDRAufk lärung in den Geheimdienstzentren (Berlin, 2010),
110–13.
50 Berlin ADN 0708 GMT, September 29, 1991.
51 See Eichner and Schramm,
Konterspionage, 110–13.
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West became a paramount objective both for the GDR and even more
so for the USSR.
In 1971, Wolf created a separate component, the Sector for Science
and Technology (Sektor für wissenschaft liche-technische Aufk lärung,
SWT). SWT doubled in size within a few years. Its table of organization comprised fi ve departments.52 Three collected intelligence
on basic research in nuclear, chemical, biological, and agricultural
sciences; microelectronics, electro-optical components, lasers, and
soft ware; and vehicle manufacture, shipbuilding, aeronautics, and
astronautics. The other two departments evaluated and reported
the information and technology samples acquired by the operational
departments.
SWT offi cers, most of whom held degrees in science and engineering,
were the elite of the elite HV A, and their work was highly valued in
East Germany and the Soviet Union. By the mid-1980s, SWT alone
was annually acquiring an estimated 3,400 reports and samples of
technology and equipment.53 A review of the so-called Rosenholz
fi les, HV A records obtained by the CIA and then shared with German counterintelligence, revealed that almost half of all agents were
run by the SWT.54
Target NATO
Recruitment of West German citizens working at NATO headquarters near Brussels was another key HV A mission. Former offi cers
claim that NATO was “an open book” for the HV A.55 Starting
in the mid-1960s, well-placed agents provided comprehensive
knowledge of the Western alliance’s military plans, intentions,
and capabilities, oft en by purloining documents that reached
East Berlin before or at the same time NATO’s senior offi cials
received them. HV A agents also provided a steady stream of information on Western armaments production and deployments,
arms control policy, military-technological developments, and
material and human resources, and identifi ed the numbers and
locations of all nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe.56
Agents also acquired copies of NATO’s annual defense plans, as
well as the defense plans of its member states. “We knew exactly
the strengths and weaknesses of NATO. We could count down to
the last soldier, tank, and aircraft ,” former HV A offi cers claim.57
There were only two gaps on their list of intelligence requirements:
NATO’s nuclear-targeting plans, which they were forced to infer
52 See Appendix 17 in
Siebenmorgen, “Staatssicherheit” der DDR,
326–27.
53 Sélitrenny and Weichert,
Das unheimliche Erbe, 30.
54 Kristie Macrakis, “The
Crown Jewels and the
Importance of Scientifi cTechnical Intelligence,” in
East German Foreign Intelligence, ed. Friis
et al., 185.
55 R. Rupp, K. Rehbaum, and
K. Eichner, Militärspionage:
Die DDR-Aufk lärung in
NATO and Bundeswehr
(Berlin, n.d. [2011?].
See especially chapter
7.1: “Die NATO — ein offenes Buch für die HV A,”
235–48.
56 Ibid., 11–12.
57 Ibid., 193.
GHI BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT 9 (2014) 163
from analysis of military exercises and documents, and NATO’s
General Defense Plan.58
The former offi cers were bragging but not exaggerating. Research
based on some ten thousand pages of NATO documents acquired
by the HV A and deposited in the German agency that oversees
the archives of the former MfS, the BStU, supports their assertions.59 The HV A’s success was “striking.”60 From the late 1970s
until the demise of the Soviet bloc, East German “human intelligence operations targeting the Western alliance evolved into one
of the most successful enterprises by any communist intelligence
service.”61 HV A agents had access to classifi ed documents from
NATO, the West German Ministry of Defense and Bundeswehr
(Federal Armed Forces), US forces stationed in West Germany and
West Berlin, and the American embassy in Bonn. The HV A also
obtained information on a regular basis from every other member
of the Western alliance.62
Target USA/CIA
Until the late 1970s, the Eastern European services worked under
an explicit division of labor in which the KGB jealously guarded its
primary status in targeting the United States and the CIA. Each allied
service had to obtain KGB permission before developing an anti-US
operation, and then the operation had to be cleared in advance by
the KGB and serve KGB interests. By the turn of the decade, however, the division of labor had been revised. The HV A was allowed
to hit off its own bat. As two ex-offi cers reported, “the HV A became
increasingly engaged in targeting the US intelligence services under
the solipsistic slogan ‘the CIA is the main enemy; the West German
intelligence services are our main target.’”63
Wolf explained his new hunting license by saying that “the Soviets
believed that my country’s forward geographic position in Europe
and our immediate proximity to the American sectors of Berlin
and Germany gave us certain advantages in penetrating the United
States.” The large US presence off ered the HV A “a veritable smorgasbord of sources.”64 Only aft er the Berlin Wall had fallen and the
GDR had collapsed did US intelligence discover that the HV A had
netted dozens of American servicemen, businessmen, and students
in West Germany and West Berlin.65 Wolf’s reputation soared in
Moscow, and his offi cers began calling him the Eastern bloc’s rezident
for Western Europe.66
58 Ibid., 12, 236–37.
59 See the List of Abbreviations. The BStU has also been
known as the Gauck-Behörde,
aft er Federal Commissioner
Joachim Gauck and as the
Birthler-Behörde aft er Gauck’s
successor Marianne Birthler.
In 2011, Roland Jahn replaced
Birthler.
60 Bernd Schaefer, “The Warsaw Pact’s Intelligence on
NATO: East German Military
Espionage against the West,”
3; <http://www.hollings.net/
Content/ParallelHistoryProject-STASIIntelligenceOnNATO.pdf>
61 Ibid., 1.
62 Ibid., 3.
63 Richter and Rösler, Wolfs
West-Spione, 55.
64 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
292–93.
65 Jamie Dettmer, “Stasi Lured
Americans to Spy for E. Germany,” Washington Times, November 14, 1994, A1.
66 Günter Bohnsack, Die Legende
stirbt: Das Ende Wolfs Geheimdienst (Berlin, 1997), 60.
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The chief HV A analyst of the CIA, Klaus Eichner, noted that “it was
diffi cult to operate against the CIA without inside sources. But it
was not impossible.”67 The HV A’s solution was to dispatch double
agents to the agency, i.e., agents pretending to work for the CIA while
actually under East German control. The HV A term for double-agent
operations was Blickfeldmaßnahmen, fi eld-of-vision measures. Putting phony agents in the CIA’s fi eld of vision was one of the biggest
intelligence coups of the Cold War. As Wolf noted in his memoir:
By the late 1980s, we were in the enviable position of
knowing that not a single CIA agent had worked in East
Germany without having been turned into a double agent
[aft er being caught by East German counterespionage] or
working for us from the start. On our orders they were all
delivering carefully selected information and disinformation to the Americans.68
Former senior CIA offi cials have confi rmed Wolf’s claim, acknowledging that all of their putative East German agents were doubles.69 “We
were batting zero” in East Germany, one noted. Another added, “They
dangled people in front of us . . . [and] we wound up taking the bait.”70
The double-agent deception had serious implications. For one thing,
it meant that by controlling the agency’s putative agents, the HV A
neutralized an entire sector of Eastern bloc operations. For another,
the East Germans ensured that the CIA knew no more and no less
than what they allowed it to know. Disinformation was used to shape
the agency’s perception of East German realities. Another result was
to tie up CIA resources with bogus agents while keeping the Americans away from genuine sources of information.71
Target Field Station Berlin
Field Station Berlin (FSB) was America’s premier signals intelligence
(Sigint) site during the Cold War. Located in the upscale Grunewald
district in the British sector of West Berlin, it was perched atop the
Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), an earth-covered mound formed
from 25 million tons of rubble excavated from bombed-out Berlin.
To outsiders, FSB’s geodesic domes and protruding antennas made
it look like a radar station. In fact, it was a gigantic listening post that
off ered a 115-meter, 360-degree vantage point from which to monitor
Soviet and Warsaw Pact military forces and installations.
67 Klaus Eichner and
Andreas Dobbert, Headquarters Germany: Die
USA-Geheimdienste in
Deutschland (Berlin,
1997), 103.
68 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
285.
69 “Testimony of Bob Inman,
Hearings of the Commission on the Roles and
Capabilities of the United
States Intelligence Community”: <www.fas.org/
irp/commission/testinma.
htm>; see also “Remarks
of Former DCI Robert
Gates to the CIA
Conference ‘US Intelligence and the End of the
Cold War,’” Texas A&M
University: <www.cia.gov/
news-information/
speeches-testimony/
1999/dci_speech_
111999gatesremarkshtml>
70 John Marks, “The
Spymaster Unmasked,”
41, 45.
71 See Fischer, “Deaf, Dumb,
and Blind,” 51, 54–60.
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In the early 1980s, the HV A recruited an American sergeant,
James W. Hall III, who was assigned to FSB as a member of the
766th Military Intelligence Battalion of the US Army’s Intelligence
and Security Command (INSCOM). This single recruitment would be
enough to put the HV A in the record book of Cold War espionage.
The East Germans were not fooled by FSB’s cover story as a radar
facility, but they underestimated its range, believing that it extended
only as far eastward as Poland. Hall revealed that the Americans
could eavesdrop on Soviet troops as far away as the western USSR.
Hall caused inestimable damage. He compromised vital US capabilities for gathering real-time intelligence on Warsaw Pact armed forces
and providing early indications and warning of war. Markus Wolf
claimed that Hall’s treason “helped our service cripple American
electronic surveillance of Eastern Europe for six years.”72 US offi cials
confi rmed that the operations Hall compromised went dead in the
1980s.73
Hall gave the HV A and KGB insight into the worldwide organization,
locations, and operations of the US Sigint community. On just one
occasion, he handed over thirteen documents from NSA, INSCOM,
and the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Wolf passed
them on to MfS’s Sigint directorate, whose evaluation concluded that:
The material consists of some of the most important American signals intelligence directives . . . [and] is timely and
extremely valuable for the further development of our work
and has great operational and political value. . . . The contents, some of which are global in nature, some very detailed, expose basic plans of the enemy for signals collection
into the next decade.74
Hall left West Berlin in late 1986 for a stateside post and a year later
requested assignment to the 205th Military Intelligence Battalion
in Frankfurt am Main, which supported the US Army’s V Corps.
The new job was a windfall for Hall and for the HV A. As Hall later
confessed, he had access to “the same type of information as in
Berlin, only more current, more state of the art.”75 His biggest haul
was a complete copy of the NSA’s National Sigint Requirements List
(NSRL), which former HV A offi cers described as “a worldwide wish
list” of intelligence requirements. The NSRL consisted of 4,000 pages
that were kept in ten loose-leaf binders for continual updating.76
72 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
295–96.
73 Stephen Engelberg and Michael Wines, “U.S. Says Soldier Crippled Spy Post Set Up
in Berlin,” New York Times,
May 7, 1989, A1.
74 Kristie Macrakis, Seduced
by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s
Spy-Tech World (New York,
2008), 111.
75 Stephen Engelberg, “Jury
Hears Tale of Spy Who Did It
out of Greed,” New York Times,
July 19, 1989, A10.
76 Macrakis, Seduced by
Secrets, 105.
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77 Herbstritt, Bundesbürger
im Dienst der DDRSpionage, 158.
78 Sélitrenny and Weichert,
Das unheimliche Erbe, 115.
79 Markus Wolf, Spionagechef
im geheimen Krieg.
Erinnerungen (Munich,
1997), 335.
80 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
122–25.
81 Manfred Schell and
Werner Kalinka, STASI
and kein Ende: Personen
und Fakten (Frankfurt/M
and Berlin, 1991), 270.
82 Ibid., 122–25.
From 1982 to 1988, the HV A disseminated 232 intelligence reports
attributed to Hall. Of those, 169 received the highest evaluation of I
(very valuable), and 59 received a grade of II (valuable).77 Ironically,
Hall began spying for the KGB before the HV A recruited him. Eventually, the Soviets and East Germans compared notes and decided that
they were running the same agent and paying twice for his information. Hall was given a choice: work for the KGB or the HV A but not
both. He chose the East Germans.
Praetorian Guard of the Soviet Empire
During the 1980s, the KGB became increasingly dependent on the HV
A for foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and internal security
inside and outside the Eastern bloc. The Soviet service was a spent
force plagued by bureaucratization, poor morale, corruption, defections, expulsions from foreign countries, and an inability to recruit
well-placed agents.78
The HV A set the precedent in Poland. The rise of Solidarity, the labor union that ballooned into a ten-million-strong national protest
movement, sent shudders through the East German regime. The
MfS and the HV A formed task forces aimed at thwarting the Polish
“counterrevolution.”79 The HV A began targeting Solidarity as early
as 1980.80 Covert measures were used to sow distrust and discord
within the union’s ranks and discredit Solidarity as an alleged tool
of Western subversion. The campaign escalated aft er December
13, 1981, when a military dictatorship under the command of Gen.
Wojciech Jaruzelski seized power, declared martial law, and outlawed
Solidarity, driving it underground.
Aft er Jaruzelski’s coup, a task force of MfS and HV A counterintelligence offi cers arrived in neighboring Poland where it took over an
entire fl oor of the East German embassy in Warsaw and operated
from offi ces in consulates in Szczecin (Stettin), Gdańsk (Danzig),
Wrocław (Breslau), and Kraków.81 Along the East German-Polish
border, the main land route used for delivering humanitarian aid from
the West, the MfS controlled all traffi c entering and exiting Poland,
searching for printing equipment, radios, and other contraband being smuggled to Solidarity.82 The task force recruited its own agent
networks, intercepted mail, and conducted physical, audio, and video
surveillance of Solidarity leaders and Catholic Church offi cials who
supported it.
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The HV A also pursued Solidarity leaders in the West. Using intercepted correspondence, it forged letters suggesting that exiled activists were enjoying the “good life” while their colleagues were living
underground in Poland. Meanwhile, Wolf was tasked to spy on Western governments, political parties, and intelligence services, as well
as Polish émigré organizations, all suspected of helping Solidarity.83
The East Germans failed to disrupt or defeat Solidarity, which survived underground and then arose, Phoenix-like, in 1988 and then
won the fi rst free elections held in the Eastern bloc in 1989. Yet,
Moscow retained its confi dence in the MfS and HV A. On its orders,
more operations groups were deployed to Czechoslovakia, Hungary,
and Bulgaria, as well as to the USSR itself in Moscow, Leningrad,
and Kiev.84
The last Stalinist regime in Eastern Europe and the once young but
now aging Stalinists in the MfS and HV A became the Praetorian
Guard of the Soviet empire. That empire, however, was crumbling
under their feet. In just six months aft er Solidarity’s electoral victory,
all the other Eastern bloc regimes collapsed in “a chain reaction
originating in the Polish revolt.”85
New winds were blowing from Moscow, where the new Soviet
leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, was trying, and failing, to reform the
communist system at home and in Eastern Europe. During a visit
to East Berlin in 1989, Gorbachev warned the SED regime to get on
board with the reform movement. The warning was ignored. The
East German people, meanwhile, took to the streets in silent protests until the Berlin Wall was opened and the communist regime
fell, taking the HV A with it.
Final Thoughts
German reunifi cation spelled the end of German-Soviet intelligence
cooperation. For seventy years, Moscow benefi ted from a Fift h Column of Germans who spied on Germany for Russia. The German
contribution to Soviet intelligence was considerable, a fascinating
and still little-known subject in the history of intelligence, as well as
the history of Germany and German-Soviet relations.
For all the contributions the KPD and the HV A made to Soviet intelligence, however, their blind devotion earned no gratitude from
Moscow. Stalin ruthlessly purged the German communist exiles,
83 Wolf, Man Without a Face, 175.
84 Schell and Kalinka,
STASI and kein Ende,
274–75; and Sélitrenny
and Weichert, Das
unheimliche Erbe, 116.
85 Constantine Pleshakov,
There Is No Freedom
Without Bread!: 1989 and
the Civil War that Brought
Down Communism (New York,
2009), 6.
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who had helped him build an industrial base and the armed might
that defeated Hitler’s Wehrmacht and paved the way to the USSR’s
rise as a world power.
If the East Germans expected Soviet gratitude, they, too, were disappointed. Facing the prospect of indictment in the new Germany,
Wolf had two choices: an off er from the CIA of “a considerable sum
of money” and resettlement in the United States, or fl ight to Moscow, “the city of my childhood . . . where a large part of my heart
had always remained.”86 He chose the second course. Once there,
however, he found “no great rush of comradely support.” Indeed,
the KGB was in no position to help, since “the supposedly eternal
brotherhood to which we had raised our glasses down the years
was now a ragged band.”87 Wolf pleaded directly to Gorbachev: “We
were said to have made a great contribution to your security. Now,
in our hour of need, I assume that you will not deny us your help.”88
Gorbachev never replied. He was too busy trying to save what was
left of a ragged Soviet Union.
Benjamin B. Fischer is a retired chief historian of the CIA. Before he joined the
CIA’s History Staff , he served for twenty years as an active CIA offi cer. He is an
expert in Cold War and diplomatic history, as well as in intelligence, security, and
defense issues. His publications include At Cold War’s End: U.S. Intelligence on
the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1989-1991 (1999) and many articles in the
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
86 Wolf, Man Without a Face,
10–15, 4–5.
87 Ibid., 4–5.
88 Ibid., 7.