Markus Wolf, also known as Mischa, was the director of East Germany’s foreign intelligence service between the end of World War Two and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Wolf’s identity was unknown to the world’s spy agencies during the Cold War. One of the most enigmatic figures of the era, he was known as the faceless man. Markus Wolf was born on January 19, 1923, in Hechingen, Germany, to Jewish parents. His father Friederich, a member of the German Communist party, passed down his passion for politics to his son. Young Markus soon joined a Communist youth organization.
When Hitler rose to power and the persecution of Jews began, the Wolf family moved to Moscow. Markus learned Russian and was nicknamed Mischa. In 1939, when he was 16, he obtained Soviet identity documents. In 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Markus was sent to Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. Mischa joined the Comintern, the international communist organization. Thanks to Soviet support, the Comintern encouraged the creation of Communist parties all over the globe. During these years, he learned to use weapons and became familiar with espionage techniques. At the end of World War Two Wolf returned to Berlin, working for the German People’s Radio in the Soviet sector. While working as a journalist, he covered the Nuremberg trials against the Nazi leaders. During the trial, a photographer captured a rare picture of Wolf. In 1952 he enlisted in East German intelligence. In 1953, when he was 30, he helped found the foreign intelligence division of the East German secret police, the Stasi. He led the division until 1987. The legend of the “faceless man” was created during this period. His identity remained a mystery until 1978, when Swedish agents photographed him during a visit to Sweden.
In over 30 years of activity, Wolf managed to place numerous spies in West German political, economic and cultural circles. His most sensational success was Günter Guillaume, an East German spy who advised West German Chancellor Willy Brandt from 1969 to 1974. Markus Wolf was also a proponent of the Romeo method, which was a strategy to recruit young men and women willing to use sex as a tool to obtain information. Wolf died in his sleep on November 9, 2006. His death occurred exactly 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was 83. In 1997, after spending two years in a German prison for espionage and treason, he wrote the book Man Without A Face.