The head of the West German secret service fled to East Germany

The head of the West German secret service fled to East Germany

On February 20, 1954, an unexpected Cold War scandal occurred when Otto John, head of the West German BfV secret service (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz – Federal Service for the Protection of the Constitution), disappeared without a trace. This secret service is in charge of German internal security and counterintelligence activities. Otto John appeared three days later in East Germany, more precisely in East Berlin, and stated that he had decided to flee because of his opposition to the policies of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

In doing so, he was referring to Adenauer’s policy of rearmament and rapprochement with the West, which John saw as creating an obstacle to German reunification. He also said he opposed the appointment of former Nazis to positions in Adenauer’s government. This was especially true of Theodor Oberländer, a former Nazi official who became a minister in Adenauer’s government, and Reinhard Gehlen, a former Wehrmacht general who became a powerful Western intelligence officer and employed hundreds of former Nazis and even SS (known organization Gehlen).

Otto John was interrogated by the KGB in Moscow for some time, then returned to East Berlin and continued to criticize West German policy. The new turn came on December 12, 1955, when John returned to West Germany. Of course, he was arrested immediately. He now began to claim that he had not gone to East Germany voluntarily, but had been abducted by the KGB. They did not believe him, so he was tried for high treason. He was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released in 1958 and until his death tried to wash his name of charges of treason.

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