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Guillaume, Günter (1927–1995)

Intelligence agent of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), whose activities toppled the government of Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) Chancellor Willy Brandt. Born in Berlin on 1 February 1927, Günter Guillaume joined the East German paramilitary forces in 1949 and was soon involved in military intelligence. He was trained as a sleeper, someone who would enter a target country and then work his or her way into a position of trust. He joined East Germany's ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) in 1952. In 1956, Guillaume "fled" with his wife Christel (also an East German agent) as a refugee to West Germany with orders to penetrate the West German political structure. Securing employment in photographic sales, he joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1957, rose steadily through its ranks, and then entered into government service.

In 1970 Guillaume secured a post in the chancellory as the liaison between that office and the SPD. He had already worked closely with Chancellor Brandt on several campaigns, but here Guillaume was Brandt's personal aide regarding the SPD. Guillaume handled numerous secret documents and enjoyed Brandt's full confidence.

Guillaume came under close surveillance in the late summer of 1973 when it became known that he had been an officer in the East German armed forces and had failed to indicate such on his applications for citizenship in West Germany and for government service. Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of the Free Democratic Party warned Brandt of this but only asked the chancellor to keep Guillaume under surveillance in order to ascertain the extent of his activities.

Guillaume was arrested on 24 April 1974 on charges of passing secret information to East Germany. Brandt publicly admitted his responsibility for the affair on 6 May and resigned. There were charges at the time that the staunchly anticommunist West German counterintelligence service (the Bundes-Nachrichtendienst, or BND), which opposed Brandt's policies toward Eastern Europe (Ostpolitik), deliberately drummed up the matter, already serious, out of proportion in order to embarrass the chancellor. In any case the arrest came only hours after East and West Germany had signed new agreements related to Ostpolitik. Certainly Brandt came under heavy attack from the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Guillaume and another master East German spy, Markus Wolf, claimed that it was never the intention of East German intelligence (the Stasi, or Staatssicherheit) to engineer Brandt's resignation and that this was one of its greatest mistakes.

Brought to trial, Guillaume and his wife were found guilty of spying. Guillaume was sentenced to a thirteen-year term; Cristel received eight years. They and four other East German agents were exchanged in October 1981 for 9 West German intelligence agents imprisoned in East Germany. At the same time, the East German government promised to release a number of political prisoners and to allow about 3,000 East Germans to join relatives in West Germany. In East Germany, Guillaume was celebrated as a hero. Upon returning, he assisted in the training of spies, divorced his wife, and wrote his autobiography, Die Aussage (1988). Guillaume died in Eggersdorf, a suburb of Berlin, on 10 April 1995 under the pseudonym Günter Brohl. Guillaume's relationship with Brandt was the subject of Michael Frayn's highly regarded 2003 play Democracy.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Guillaume, Günter. Die Aussage, Gutes Exemplar. Berlin: Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1988.; Marshall, Barbara. Willy Brandt: A Political Biography. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.; Prittie, Terenace. Willy Brandt: Portrait of a Stateseman. New York: Schocken, 1974.
 

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