Fisher, William Genrykhovich

   One of the most famous Soviet illegals, Fisher was born in England of German Baltic parents who were clandestine members of the Bolshevik Party. Following the revolution, the family returned to Soviet Russia. Fisher joined the Red Army in the 1920s and served in northern Europe as a GRU illegal for more than 15 years. During the Yezhovshchina, Fisher was purged from the military but not arrested. Recalled to the NKVD during World War II, Fisher served as an officer training radio operators, and he was involved in radio game deceptions against the Germans. Following the war, Fisher entered the United States in early 1949 with a passport of a deceased American citizen of Baltic descent. For the next seven years, Fisher served effectively as the illegal rezident under the alias “Emil Goldfus” in New York City. According to a declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) study, “Fisher worked diligently to meet the agents he was responsible for and apparently worked to develop some new agents.”
   Fisher was a careful and professional operations officer who almost certainly would not have been caught had it not been for the defection of his assistant, Reino Hayhanen, who was an incompetent alcoholic. Fisher was arrested on 20 June 1957, whereupon he identified himself to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as Colonel Rudolph Ivanovich Abel, the name of an old friend that he and the KGB had agreed he should use for his final cover should he be arrested. He was subsequently tried under federal espionage statutes and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. While in prison, he taught French to his cellmate, a Mafia soldier, and painted landscapes that were prized by prison officials and his lawyer. Fisher was exchanged for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in a spy swap in February 1962.
   Fisher returned to a hero’s welcome in Moscow but was never used operationally after his exchange. He told one of his KGB colleagues that he was “a museum exhibit.” He was widely admired by both American counterintelligence and KGB professionals. He died in 1971 and was identified in an editorial in the Soviet press as “Colonel Abel.” His widow, enraged that he had not received his just deserts in death, convinced the KGB to allow a new stone to be placed on his grave finally identifying him as William Genrykhovich Fisher.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Abel, colonel Rudolph Ivanovich —    KGB created alias for illegal William Genrykhovich Fisher …   Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence

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