Markus Wolf eluded Western agents for decades, then outwitted prosecutors after the Cold War. But now it appears the former East German spymaster will spend his 75th birthday behind bars.
Wolf was jailed for contempt of court during testimony Thursday in the trial of a former Western German lawmaker accused of passing secrets to East Germany for more than 20 years.
Wolf had refused to identify a Western informer he referred to as “Julius” in his 1997 memoirs.
Wolf admitted knowing the defendant, Gerhard Flaeming, but said the accused was neither an informer nor an agent - just an interesting conversationalist with whom he had met several times over the years.
When Judge Erich Schieferstein noted that Wolf’s description of “Julius” resembled 77-year-old Flaeming, Wolf said the person he wrote about had already died and that he would not reveal the real name to protect family members.
Wolf was so elusive during the Cold War that only one photograph of him was believed to exist in the West. On Friday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported that Swedish intelligence snapped some of the first photos of the spymaster when he visited Stockholm in June 1978.
The report said Wolf had traveled to Sweden on an East German diplomatic pass under the name “Dr. Kurt Werner” and that he was identified later by an East German secret police lieutenant who defected in 1979.
Wolf, who controlled East Germany’s network of an estimated 4,000 agents from 1953 until retirement in 1986, remained just as hard to get after communism fell and Germany reunified in 1990.
The Supreme Court overturned a 1993 treason conviction and accompanying six-year sentence, ruling that as an agent of East Germany, Wolf could not be accused of treason against West Germany.
On the contempt charges, he could be held up to six months. Wolf has already filed an appeal to the Federal Appeals Court.
But unless he has a change of heart soon, he’ll be spending his birthday Monday at Weiterstadt prison near Darmstadt.
“He won’t be getting coffee and cake from us,” said warden Ekkehard Hoffmann.