Gerhardt, Dieter

(1935– )
   Gerhardt’s German family was interned in South Africa during World War II. Despite his seething resentment of this “injustice,” he joined the South African navy and was commissioned as an officer. In 1960 Gerhardt walked into the Soviet embassy in London and volunteered to work for the GRU. A short time later, he divorced his English wife and married Ruth Johr, a Swiss woman who shared his interest in working against the South African government and getting rich in the process.
   For the next 23 years Gerhardt was successful as a South African naval officer and a Soviet agent. He rose to the rank of commodore and in 1983 was the commander of the Simonstown Naval Base. He and his wife received training in Moscow, as well as sophisticated communications equipment, and the Gerhardts provided their Soviet handlers with details about the South African defense establishment and its nuclear weapons program, as well as information about NATO armed forces.
   The Gerhardts were arrested in 1983. Dieter was sentenced to death by a military court-martial, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. His wife was sentenced to life by a civil court. Following the collapse of the apartheid government, the Gerhardts were released and settled in Switzerland. In 1994 Gerhardt told the South African press that he had told the Soviets that the South Africans and Israelis had tested a nuclear weapon in 1979 in the South Atlantic. This charge has never been fully substantiated, and some believe that his interview was an effort to excuse 23 years of treason.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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