The spy who came into the kitchen Fresh scheme: The former head of East German foreign intelligence has written a book of recipes, memories and philosophy, comparing the arts of cooking and espionage.

Sun Journal

January 05, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BERLIN -- So Markus Wolf, the spymaster for the former East Germany, turns out to be quite a genial chap after all, not a shadowy super-spook with a rain-flecked trench coat and an exploding briefcase -- but a jolly bon vivant with a few well-informed ideas about Russian cooking.

Culinary success "depends, above all, on one's ability to communicate with other people, to let one's self be inspired by other people, or to pull them under one's spell," writes Markus Wolf in the introduction to his new cookbook, "The Secrets of Russian Cooking."

Markus Wolf. Wasn't he ?


In one of the ironic postscripts to the Cold War era, Mr. Wolf has just published a cookbook, one that claims the art of cooking has much in common with the art of espionage.

"Ordinary spying can be compared with the bread and potatoes of an everyday kitchen," Mr. Wolf writes. "But then, man doesn't live by bread alone."

And he was not an ordinary spy but a retired major general capable of obtaining top-secret construction plans for U.S. missile sites and NATO's contingency plans for a Soviet-led attack.

Cold Warriors and thriller devotees will recall Mr. Wolf as the longtime head of East Germany's Main Intelligence Administration, usually known by its German initials, HVA, and considered the most effective foreign spying agency in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Wolf -- who handled only external intelligence and denies involvement in the hated internal secret police apparatus that plagued East Germans -- is presumed by many to be the real-life model for the mysterious Karla in several of John Le Carre's espionage novels, the archenemy of the fictional British intelligence chief George Smiley.

It was Mr. Wolf's well-placed mole who provoked the 1974 resignation of West Germany's popular chancellor, Nobel peace laureate Willy Brandt.

For years, Mr. Wolf was known as "The Man Without a Face" because he managed to avoid being photographed by his Western adversaries.

He retired in 1987 and surprised jaded East Germans by publishing a rather tender memoir of his youth in the Soviet Union, revealing himself as something unusual in that repressed state: a powerful official willing to step away from his public persona for a moment and to reveal intimacies about himself to his information-starved compatriots.

Alas for Mr. Wolf, his early departure from the HVA and the candor of his early memoir were not enough to save him from the wrath of reunited Germans after the Berlin Wall fell. In 1990, he became an international fugitive, hiding for a time in Austria.

But by 1991, Mr. Wolf had tired of life on the run and returned to Germany, where he turned himself in. He was jailed in southern Germany.

He was put on trial, convicted of bribery and treason, then freed on bail. But in May, his sentence was effectively voided when Germany's high Constitutional Court ruled in a separate case that East Germans could not be convicted of treason against West Germany.

Today, Mr. Wolf walks the streets of downtown Berlin a free man, more or less. The --ing former world traveler, the fabled connoisseur of well-cut suits and beautiful women, is now forbidden to leave his gritty center-city neighborhood without obtaining permission from the court that granted him bail.

No job, a minuscule pension, 73 years old and a lifetime's worth of adventure stories and moral dilemmas: What else to do but write another book?

"The Secrets of Russian Cooking" is anything but a how-to guide for making borscht and blini, although he has certainly included recipes for such dishes. His new book is, once again, a memoir first and foremost, one that sometimes bitterly, sometimes wistfully recounts life as a spymaster.

Mr. Wolf's father, noted German playwright and doctor Friedrich Wolf -- himself the author of a cookbook, a collection of health-food recipes -- was a Communist and a secular Jew.

As such, he was doubly endangered when Adolf Hitler began his brutal repression of German civil liberties in March 1933. The elder Wolf packed up his family in a matter of days and decamped for Moscow.

And so it happened that Markus Wolf spent his formative years in the Soviet capital.

He came to speak Russian more routinely than he did his native German, formed Russian friendships that have lasted a lifetime and sat for hours, listening, at the family dinner table while his literary parents entertained the writers, war correspondents, fellow emigres and Soviet neighbors who made up their new social circle.

At 16, Markus Wolf acquired Soviet citizenship; at 19, he joined the Communist Party. He was assigned first to study aircraft engineering and later to the Comintern school, where young German exiles like himself were trained to occupy key posts in Germany once Hitler was defeated.

After the war, Mr. Wolf returned to Berlin and was made a chief commentator for Berlin Radio. He covered the Nuremberg War Crimes trials with a fake Soviet pass -- Germans weren't allowed into the tribunal facilities.

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