He was dubbed “The Man Without a Face.” Markus Wolf – considered to be the Soviet Bloc’s greatest spymaster during the Cold War – has died at his home in Berlin at the age of 83. Earning his nickname because Western security services had no photograph of him for years, Wolf rose through the ranks of East Germany’s feared Stasi secret police. He headed its elite foreign intelligence division for three decades, running a network of 4,000 spies.
Wolf would later write an autobiography amid rumours his experiences may have influenced the novelist John le Carre.
Wolf masterminded audacious operations, planting agent Guenter Guillaume close to West German leader Willy Brandt in a move which brought about the Chancellor’s downfall when the spy was exposed in 1974.
While he has been romanticized in the West by some, others have condemned Wolf over his role in the oppressive East German communist regime.
Just before the Berlin Wall fell, he was one of the speakers at a pro-democracy rally, denouncing police attacks on earlier protesters. But he later fled to Moscow, returning to a reunified Germany where he was charged with treason and received a six-year prison sentence which was later overturned. In a subsequent trial he was given a two-year suspended jail term.
Wolf’s publisher said he died peacefully in his sleep, exactly 17 years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall.