Gerhard Wessel, 88; Did Espionage Work for Hitler, West Germany

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gerhard Wessel, 88, a former intelligence officer in Adolf Hitler’s anti-Soviet spy operations who later became chief of the West German intelligence agency, died of undisclosed causes Sunday at his home in the Bavarian town of Pullach, Germany.

Wessel served as president of the intelligence agency, which is known by its German initials BND, from 1968 to 1978. He is credited with modernizing the BND by hiring academic analysts and electronics specialists.

During his tenure as head of BND, the agency informed the West German government three months in advance of the Soviet Union’s plans to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Wessel was born in 1913 in Neumunster in northern Germany. During World War II, he analyzed the movements of Soviet troops while serving in the German army’s central command.

After the war, he worked for U.S. intelligence and in industry. Beginning in the early 1950s, he played a part in expanding the new West German army and its counterespionage unit.