This week former uber-spy and Communist espionage genius, famed as the “Man with no Face” and the man believed to be the character behind “Karla” in John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, died. Ironically Markus Wolf passed away quietly in his sleep on… get this… the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the 9th November. How appropriate.
I’m sure many of us know the ins and outs of this guy’s biography. He was very powerful and very influential. He had a hotline to Moscow and could pick up the phone anytime and speak to Andropov or any other of the party faithful. He had a monumentally large network of spies working for him, estimated at around 4,000.
What I find interesting is a short interview the guy did for Polish TVN. Messieurs Morozowski and Sekielski, two well-known Polish reporters, decided to talk to the guy whose name made most people quiver in the ‘good ole days’ of the Cold War. The interesting part about it was not the topic of discussion – Wolf flatly denied the KGB having any knowledge of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and maintained it to be the work of only Ali Agca and the Bulgarian secret service – but rather the manner in which the interview was undertaken, or rather the language of the interview. Morozowski and Sekielski asked their questions in Polish. An interpreter then relayed the questions directly to Wolf in German. However, Wolf then decided to answer the questions in… Russian. Elegant and fluent Russian. Not German, not English, but in Russian.
Was he trying to give the Polish interviewers the middle finger or was he making a blatant show of allegiance to his former masters (Wolf and his family lived in Moscow from the 1930s and only returned after the WWII to cover the Nuremberg trials)? Whatever it was he was attempting to do, it was still one of the oddest interviews I have ever seen.
Most people believe that the KGB were behind the assassination attempt on PJPII and most experts agree that Wolf was one of the best liars the world has ever seen. Perhaps a career in politics might have been more satisfying? But the blatant choice of using Russian in an interview has so many overtones for Polish people that I hardly know where to begin. Anyway, more interesting Cold War info can be gleaned from an interesting link to the Stasi Record Office and also the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.