Aclose friend and one of three personal assistants to German chancellor Willi Brandt, for whom he worked in his private office; he was also a long-term mole run personally by Markus Wolf, the legendary chief of the East German Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA), who had recruited him and his wife Christel 18 years earlier.
Guillaume had arrived in West Germany as a refugee in 1956, four years after he had joined the East German army as a loyal Communist party member and had served as an officer with the rank of captain. He had also been trained as an agent, and when he settled in Frankfurt, supposedly as an authentic refugee, Guillaume joined the Social Democratic party (SDP) as a voluntary worker before becoming a full-time party functionary. In 1970 he expressed the wish to become a civil servant in Bonn and, having sailed through a security check that failed to reveal his service as an officer in the East German army, was appointed to the economic and social affairs staff of the Chancellery. Soon afterward, Brandt had picked him to act as his link to the SDP, and he maintained an office both in the party’s headquarters and in the Palais Schaumburg. For the next three years Guillaume enjoyed access to the very highest classifications of secret information and passed it back to Wolf, who shared it with Moscow. As well as material about West Germany’s foreign policy and relations with NATO, Guillaume passed on details of Brandt’s rather exotic extramarital affairs which, at that time, were completely unknown to the public.
The spy’s run of luck ended when suspicions were raised about the existence of a top-level mole with direct access to Brandt, and the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) launched an investigation. Exactly how the BfV got onto Guillaume remains a matter of speculation, and much of what has been written about the case, including by Wolf himself, has suggested that the BfV initiated an investigation after a study of illicit East–West communications found traces of an illegal code-named GEORG who had completed several missions in the 1950s. Allegedly a detailed analysis of contemporary decrypted East German wireless traffic had revealed a message, dating back to April 1957, in which a source known as “G.G.” had been sent birthday greetings. Supposedly this clue had led the BfV mole hunters to conduct a lengthy trawl for anyone with the same birthday, and eventually the field had narrowed to Guillaume’s son Pierre. “G.G.” was somehow linked to the missions undertaken by GEORG, and both agents were tentatively identified as Guillaume, who was placed under intensive surveillance.
Gunter Nollau, the BfV’s counterintelligence chief briefed his interior minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, on 29 May 1973 and informed him that Guillaume was the subject of an investigation. Wolf was probably told about this much later by his star mole in the BfV, Klaus Kuron (who had offered to spy for the HVA in 1982 and continued undetected until the collapse of East Germany in 1989), but instead of moving Guillaume away from access, no action was taken, and this inertia led to Nollau’s subsequent resignation. Thus, much to everybody’s embarrassment, Guillaume was allowed to continue spying for 11 months before he was finally confronted and was even allowed to accompany Brandt on his holiday to his hideaway retreat at Hamas, Norway. During these final months Christel reported that she thought she was being watched, but Wolf did not take much notice of this warning, on the assumption that agents often develop a healthy degree of paranoia, and failed to extract his two agents before they were finally confronted by the BfV. Wolf was also influenced, he admitted later, by Christel’s new job as an aide to Georg Leber, Brandt’s defense minister. Whatever the source of the initial tip, Guillaume came under intensive surveillance, which he also spotted. He was arrested by the BfV on 24 April 1974, provoking a major political scandal that led to Brandt’s resignation just 12 days later. When the police burst into his house, Guillaume did not attempt to deny he was a spy—indeed, he identified himself proudly as an officer and citizen of the German Democratic Republic and demanded the appropriate, respectful treatment! He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment in Rheinbach prison, outside Bonn, and Christel received eight. Suffering from kidney disease, he was released in October 1981 in a spy swap and returned as a hero to East Germany, where he died in April 1995.
According to the KGB rezident in Karlshorst, Sergei Kondrashev, the information from Guillaume, whose code name was HANSEN, was “of such extraordinary importance” that the KGB’s chairman, Yuri Andropov, often passed it personally straight to Andrei Gromyko, Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev’s foreign minister. An officer messenger then waited for him to read the material, “information of the best quality on the situation in Germany and on discussions with the Western powers,” and returned it to the KGB’s headquarters. After Guillaume’s exposure Brezhnev wrote a personal note to Brandt denying any personal knowledge of the espionage, but few believed him because he too must have been one of his recipients and beneficiaries.
Certainly, in political terms, Guillaume was in a position to reassure the Soviet bloc that détente was not a ruse and to supply crucial reports in 1973, when a potentially damaging political split had developed over policy between the Nixon administration in the United States and Washington’s European partners in NATO. The case established Wolf’s almost mythological reputation, and in January 1974 he was awarded East Germany’s most coveted decoration, the Karl Marx medal, while his minister of state security, Erich Miekle, was appointed to full membership of the Politburo.