Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

This Spymaster Never Came in from the Cold Useful Memoir of East Germany's Top Spy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

This Spymaster Never Came in from the Cold Useful Memoir of East Germany's Top Spy

Article excerpt

Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster

By Markus Wolf With Anne McElvoy

Times Books 367 pp., $25 How do you evaluate the memoirs of a Communist spymaster, even when the cold war has ended? How complete, how accurate is the information he gives? It is widely believed that the memoirs of defectors to the Soviet Union, such as the infamous British traitor Kim Philby - autobiographies published at the height of the cold war - were filled with disinformation. Indeed, in "Man Without a Face," Markus Wolf, former East Germany's top spy, admits that the autobiography of Guenter Guillaume, the East German spy who served as an assistant to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, contains deliberate distortions of fact to mislead Western intelligence services. So how much of Wolf's memoirs can be taken at, pardon the expression, face value? It's a difficult question to answer, especially since few people outside the upper reaches of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal German intelligence have the information needed to evaluate his story. So the lay reader is wise to take some of what Wolf has to say with a grain of salt. But based on my experience as a former American diplomat who served five years behind the Iron Curtain, I found that parts of this book have the ring of truth and can give a Western reader, especially in North America, a much better understanding of what made East Europe's Communist regimes and the people who ran them tick. Wolf's East German foreign intelligence service - the HVA, or Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung - was generally acknowledged to be one of the best in the Warsaw Pact. It certainly riddled the West German government, which leaked like a sieve, with spies and moles. …

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