The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has shown a photocopy of the very first letter that the legendary Soviet intelligence officer, Colonel William Fisher, known as Rudolf Abel, wrote in 1958 home from prison in the United States. It marked the beginning of a series of messages that played a big role in the subsequent release of the intelligence officer and his return to the USSR.
Material on this topic was published by RIA Novosti.
February 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the Fisher-Abel exchange for American spy pilot Francis Powers. The ceremony took place on the Glieniker-Brücke bridge, which connected East and West Berlin.
On the occasion of this anniversary, the SVR showed a photocopy of the first letter from the Soviet intelligence officer from prison. The text of the letter itself had previously been published in Russian, including in a collection of Fischer-Abel letters, written by veterans and active members of the Foreign Intelligence Service.
William Genrikhovich Fisher (1903-1971) after World War II worked from illegal positions in the United States, where he led the intelligence network. An illegal immigrant is a scout who works in a foreign country under the guise of an ordinary citizen. The illegal immigrant acts in accordance with a legend specially developed for him down to the smallest detail.
The intelligence network led by Fisher was tasked with obtaining the most important military-strategic and military-political information about the aggressive plans and intentions of the United States against the USSR, including plans for the atomic bombing of the cities of the Soviet Union. And Fischer and his colleagues coped brilliantly with this task.
In 1957, the illegal immigrant “Marka” (this was Fisher’s operational pseudonym) was revealed by his cryptographer, the drunkard Reino Heihanen, who went over to the side of the United States. Fisher refused to cooperate with American intelligence agencies. But in order to let Moscow know about his arrest and that he was not a traitor, the intelligence officer named himself after his late friend Rudolf Abel, and in fact created a new legend for himself, which the Center understood and accepted.
An American court in the same 1957 sentenced Fisher to 30 years in prison. For the scout, this meant, in fact, a life sentence.
At the same time, the court failed to prove that Fischer-Abel was engaged in espionage. There was not a single fact that would confirm that the accused received secret data and transferred them to a foreign state. However, the American prosecutor demanded that the defendant be found guilty only on the grounds that, as he said, for this it is not at all necessary that the criminal had already committed his act.
After the announcement of the verdict, “Mark” was first held in solitary confinement at a remand prison in New York, and then he was transferred to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. While in prison, the Soviet intelligence officer painted oil paintings, studied art theory, and solved mathematical problems.
Fisher asked the American side to organize correspondence with his family, and in July 1958 he received such an opportunity. But the first letter received the sanction of the American side only in September. It was sent to the Soviet embassy, and only reached the intelligence officer’s wife in December 1958.
The letter dated July 13, 1958 was written in English on an official letterhead, which was a lined, like a school notebook, sheet of paper with columns indicating the date of writing the letter, its author and addressee. The recipient of the letter is his wife Elena (Ellen Abel), the letter should have been sent through the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
“Dear Elena, finally I had the first opportunity in a long time to write to you and our daughter Lydia. I sincerely believe that you will receive this letter and be able to answer me,” the letter began.
Fischer’s wife was really called Elena. And here is the daughter of Evelina. The scout decided not to disclose her real name, since there was a real possibility that the Americans would try to find her among the few Muscovites who bore such a rare name at that time. But the Fishers had an adopted daughter, Lida, which few people knew, including some of the intelligence officer’s colleagues. Thus, the Soviet illegal immigrant additionally made it clear to Moscow that it was he, and not someone else, who was writing from prison under the name Abel.
Further in the letter, the intelligence officer said that he had been sentenced to 30 years for espionage and was in federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I feel good, I do mathematics and painting. Music is excluded here, but maybe later I will be able to do it again,” the illegal wrote.
“Please don’t worry too much about what happened; after all, what’s done is done. Take better care of yourself and your daughter and hope to see you soon,” the Soviet intelligence officer added.
In the letter, Fischer-Abel promised “to try to write as much as possible” and expressed the hope that his wife would be able to respond in kind.
“Give my regards to all our friends. Once again I ask you to take care of yourself and your daughter. I remain with love for you, your husband and father, Rudolf,” the letter ended with these words. Probably, the scout wanted to add something, but then changed his mind – below the signature is a crossed-out postscript, two letters PS
The number of the prisoner was indicated at the bottom of the letter. For Fischer-Abel it was #80016.
“This letter, like other letters from William Genrikhovich Fisher, was given as a gift to the Foreign Intelligence Service by his adopted daughter Lidia Borisovna Boyarskaya, whose name our great intelligence officer used in correspondence,” said Sergey Ivanov, head of the SVR press bureau.
According to him, one can only guess what the relatives of the intelligence officer who read those lines experienced.
“And a deep bow and memory to Lydia Borisovna for keeping the memory of “Uncle Willy,” as she called him, for many years, and saving this correspondence, too,” added the head of the SVR press bureau.
Back in November 1958, before Fischer-Abel’s first letter reached his family, Ivan Serov, chairman of the KGB of the USSR, approved a proposal to organize a permanent postal channel for communication with Mark. Response letters on behalf of the intelligence officer’s family were prepared with the participation of the Center. As a result, the Soviet illegal immigrant, who was in captivity, and his associates in the USSR, as far as possible, were able, in fact, to coordinate their actions.
“It can be assumed that the employees of the Center put words in letters that were understandable only to William Genrikhovich. In fact, at the level of nuances, at the level of the sound of individual phrases, they managed to establish understanding between an illegal immigrant who got into trouble abroad and his colleagues in Moscow. And this, without exaggeration , was an outstanding achievement of our intelligence,” said Sergey Ivanov.
Soviet foreign intelligence carried out a complex multi-way operation that allowed Fischer to be released from prison. His exchange was preceded by a large joint work of the state security agencies of the USSR and the GDR, which coordinated their actions with the American side. Diplomats and lawyers were involved, including high class lawyer Wolfgang Vogel.
Fisher’s exchange letter was personally signed by US President John F. Kennedy. This document was once presented in Moscow at an exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the SVR.