1. Whitney Biography
2. Follow-on Reportage
Whitney, Craig R. Spy Trader: Germany's Devil's Advocate and the Darkest Secrets of the Cold War. New York: Times Books, 1993. 1994. [pb]
Chambers comment: "One of the ... quintessential ceremonies of the Cold War was the early morning exchange of captured spies from East and West at the Glienicke Bridge that spanned the gap between the two Berlins. One of the prime movers in this practice was the best known and richest of East Germany's minuscule cadre of lawyers: Wolfgang Vogel. Vogel was also involved in another group of exchanges carried out in even greater silence and unparalleled in scale since the ransoming of hostages in mediæval times and also unparalleled in cynicism: the buying of the freedom of East Germans by West Germany. Craig Whitney charts the rise of Vogel from an unwilling informant of the Stasi to a major player in a trade he helped to instigate until the collapse of European communism left him out in the cold.... Whitney sees Vogel's career as an example of the Faustian bargain that often seems to be a feature of German history."
Surveillant 3.2/3 says this book has been "thoroughly researched and clearly written by a highly qualified senior correspondent of the New York Times." Stern, FA 72.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1993), notes that Vogel's is "one of the great shadowy stories of the Cold War." He was the "central contact between the Stasi and the East German regime on the one hand and West German government leaders and church organizations on the other. The book is at once a thriller, a piece of contemporary history, and a judicious, sensitive guide through the morally complex world of the Cold War."
For Adams, IJI&C 7.4, Whitney's account is "on balance ... not unsympathetic" to Vogel's case, but he "shows no appreciation for the sophisticated psychological stratagems that had replaced the cruder, more physical means of persuasion" used by the Stasi. There are "numerous historical and factual errors" which diminish the book's value. Included in this list is "repeatedly" referring to Col. Rudolf Abel as a Soviet "agent," when in fact he "was a KGB officer who ... ran a network of Soviet agents in the United States."
Mapother, FILS 12.4 and CIRA Newsletter 18.4, comments that "Vogel's story [is] told ... from sources including the lawyer's files and officials, East and West, who managed the exchanges.... [Vogel's] clients and ... governments ... found the lawyer trustworthy... The account of Shcharansky's release is a tonic for the human spirit.... Vogel is seen by Whitney as more good than evil."
According to Reuters, 10 Jan. 1996, a Berlin court found Vogel guilty of "perjury, four counts of blackmail and five counts of falsifying documents." The court gave Vogel "a two-year suspended sentence and a 92,000 mark ($63,500) fine." Vogel's lawyer said his client would appeal. Associated Press, 10 Aug. 1998, notes that a German federal court has lifted Vogel's extortion conviction. The court "ruled it was the former communist government -- not its negotiators -- who was accountable for extorting payment for permission to leave.... However, the court left untouched Vogel's conviction on perjury and forgery charges, along with the 14-month suspended sentence for perjury and $51,000 fine for forgery."
Whitney, Craig R. "Former Iron Curtain Lawyer Cleared of Blackmail Charges." New York Times, 16 Aug. 1998. [http://www.nytimes.com]
"In January 1996, a state court in Berlin found [Vogel] guilty on five counts of blackmail. He appealed the convictions, and the same court acquitted him of 32 similar charges later the same year.
"Now Vogel, 73, has his good name back. Germany's highest court found in his favor on two of the appealed cases and announced this week that prosecutors had agreed to drop the others. He and his lawyers say they expect that next week a Berlin tax court will drop parallel charges of evading $5.6 million in taxes on money the West German authorities paid him for arranging secret prisoner releases....
"As part of the bargaining that settled the criminal cases..., he and his lawyers agreed not to contest another conviction two years ago for perjury and falsely swearing in notarized statements. That conviction stands, with a suspended 14-month jail sentence and a $65,700 fine, so it would be impossible for Vogel to practice law again even if he wanted to."
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