On a snowy night in January 1979, Werner Stiller stepped into his office in Berlin, pried open a safe and grabbed the transit papers that would allow him to travel safely from the city’s communist eastern half to freedom in the west.

He had already sent his wife a goodbye letter stuffed with 10,000 German marks, explaining that she and the children would be safer in East Germany, but acknowledging, “I don’t understand a lot of this myself.”

He had a gun inside his jacket, and inside his luggage was a stack of microfiche film four inches thick — the bulk of a secret document cache that made Mr. Stiller, a case officer with the East German police and intelligence agency known as the Stasi, one of the most notable defectors of the Cold War.

A trained physicist, he worked for seven years with the Ministry for State Security’s foreign intelligence service before turning to the West. He later transformed himself from an idealistic champion of communism to a freewheeling avatar of global capitalism.


Read the whole story from The Washington Post.

Featured image courtesy of Kristie Macrakis