A senior counterintelligence official, burdened by personal and professional problems, said he defected to East Germany because he was in a “hopeless personal situation” and does not wish to return home, West German authorities disclosed Monday.
Hans Joachim Tiedge, 48, who headed Bonn’s department assigned to track down East German spies until his defection Aug. 19, made the comment in a handwritten letter to West German officials.
West German authorities had asked the East Germans to let them interview Tiedge, who is believed to be in East Berlin, but his letter says he has no desire to speak with Bonn representatives, a spokesman said.
Tiedge’s defection, centerpiece in the worst spy scandal in a country with a long history of embarrassing spy scandals, provoked a shake-up in West Germany’s intelligence apparatus. Other elements of the affair include the disappearance and presumed defection of two highly-placed secretaries in government ministries and the arrest of a third secretary on charges of spying for East Germany.
Tiedge’s comment about a “hopeless personal situation” apparently referred to his alleged drinking problem, more debts than he could pay and difficulties with three teen-age daughters he left behind at their Cologne home when he defected.
New Probe of Wife’s Death
Tiedge’s wife, Ute, died three years ago of injuries suffered at home, and the daughters have been quoted as saying that their parents had violent arguments and that their mother may have been beaten by their father. Cologne police have reopened an investigation into the cause of her death, listed as an accident at the time.
Tiedge’s letter was made public at a news conference at which government spokesmen tried to play down the possible security damage done by his defection. It is still uncertain whether Tiedge was a longtime East German mole in the West German counterspy agency or if he simply defected on an impulse because of accumulated personal pressures and a fear that he was about to be fired. He had been ordered to undergo a new security check just days before he disappeared.
“We have no proof that he worked for a long time for a foreign intelligence service,” said Wighard Haerdtl, an Interior Ministry spokesman.
Sources said it seems unlikely that Tiedge had been a longtime Communist agent because East Germany would no doubt have helped him meet his debts in order to keep him on the job.
Even as government spokesmen tried to minimize the effect of Tiedge’s defection, a federal prosecutor was quoted by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the West German news agency, as saying that the Tiedge affair is a “major case of treason.” It is known that Tiedge held extensive knowledge of his agency’s functions and that some counterintelligence operations have had to be suspended because of his flight to the East.
Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann reported on the Tiedge case Monday to the security committee of the Bundestag (Parliament), during which he admitted Tiedge’s importance.
But he declared that he himself was never informed by former counterintelligence chief Heribert Hellenbroich that Tiedge had the kind of personal problems that made him an obvious security risk.
Hellenbroich, who was promoted to head West Germany’s Munich-based foreign intelligence service less than three weeks before Tiedge defected, was fired last week by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.