Artorius Castus

East German spy swap fixer dies

Posted in Uncategorized by Patrick Truax on August 23, 2008

East German lawyer Wolfgang Vogel, who oversaw some of the Cold War’s biggest swaps of captured spies in Berlin, has died at 82, his family says.

Vogel died on Thursday at his home in Schliersee, Bavaria, after recently suffering a heart attack.

His swaps included KGB agent Rudolf Abel for US pilot Gary Powers, shot down over the USSR, in 1962.

He also oversaw the transfer of nearly a quarter of a million people from East to West Germany for billions of marks.

Vogel faced prosecution over his work for the East German secret police, the Stasi, after reunification in 1989 but the charges were eventually dropped.

Vogel revisited the site of his most famous swaps in 1997

Spies, prisoners, emigres

Born in Lower Silesia on 30 October 1925, Vogel studied law in Jena and Leipzig after World War II and graduated as a lawyer.

US pilot Gary Powers poses in front of a U-2 spy plane in this undated photo

The Powers-Abel swap made world headlines in 1962

Encouraged by the Stasi to make contacts among West German lawyers, he gradually became a broker for the spy swaps and prisoner exchanges which would make him famous in Germany.

The exchange of Powers for Abel, an English-born KGB man who had been caught spying in New York in 1957, was the first.

It was conducted, like some of the others which followed, on the Glienicker bridge between Potsdam in East Germany and West Berlin.

Guenter Guillaume, a Stasi agent unmasked among the closest aides of West German Chancellor Will Brandt, was exchanged in 1981 for captured Western agents.

In all, Vogel brokered the exchange of more than 150 spies and his swaps included the liberation of Soviet Jewish dissident Anatoly Shcharansky (now Natan Sharansky, an Israeli citizen) in 1986.

But he also helped to broker the transfer of more than 34,000 East German political prisoners and 215,000 ordinary citizens to the West, beginning in 1964.

West Germany paid nearly 3.5bn marks ($2.7bn) for their liberation.

After reunification, Vogel was accused of having blackmailed people who wanted to leave East Germany and having sold property at well below market value.

But he was cleared of the charges by the German Federal Supreme Court.

In its report on his death, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle writes that “during the height of the Cold War in the late 50s, Vogel was the only point man” between West and East Germany because the two states denied having any official contacts at the time.

BBC

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