Birkbeck College London
E-Mail: emichels [at] bbk.ac.uk
Guillaume, the spy. A career between the two Germanys.
The Guillaume affair is one of the most famous scandals in German history. Günter Guillaume’s arrest as an East German Stasi agent in April 1974, after having worked for more than 18 month as a close aide to the Social Democratic Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt, resulted in the resignation of the latter two weeks later. Guillaume and his wife Christel, who was also a Stasi agent, had moved to West Germany in 1956 with the Stasi’s brief to infiltrate the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1981, after seven years in West German prisons, the couple returned to the GDR in exchange for West Germans who had been held in GDR custody. After 25 years of absence, the two former spies only adapted with difficulties to the life in the country for which they had spied. Because this prominent case has generated so much material, archival sources, autobiographical accounts of the protagonists and a very dense contemporary media coverage, it is perfectly suited to explore the personal dimension of Cold War espionage between the two Germanys. My book will investigate among other aspects patterns of recruitment for the Stasi and the original motivation of the Guillaume couple to work as a spy. It will also assess to what extent the environment in the West, changing personal circumstances and pure “Eigensinn” affected the intelligence performance of Günter and Christel Guillaume in the eyes of the East German spy masters, thus questioning the alleged superiority of the Stasi in “human intelligence” over its West German adversary. My biographical study, spanning from the early 1950s to the early 1990s, will look at how individuals experienced espionage and tried to make sense of their intelligence activities, be it as active Stasi spies, convicts in West German prisons, celebrated heroes in the GDR after their release or impoverished Stasi pensioners after German unification in 1990. Thus the book will also be an inter-German migration and mentality study at a micro level beyond the confines of mere intelligence history at “grass roots” level.