When counter-espionage agents finally caught up with sexy spy Karl Helfmann, he said “Thank God, now I am safe from those women.”
For Helfmann, nicknamed the Red Cassanova, was the most extraordinary Russian raven so far captured. He was nearly 60, and running a struggling wine business. when he was recruited at a trade fair in Leipzig in 1953. Iron Curtain countries agreed to buy his wine if he also provided secrets. So began a five-year love-in for the charming, sophisticated travelling salesman. He wooed secretaries in every town he visited, often bedding at least eight women a week as he went from Hanover to Frankfurt, from Dusseldorf to Bonn in his battered Volkswagon. His Communist controllers installed a hidden two-way radio in the car so they could contact him on his long drives. He seduced sources in West German government departments, scientific research laboratories, aircraft factories, steel plants and embassies, and received more than 15,000 pounds for his efforts from his delighted – and amazed – spymasters.
But in 1958 he was betrayed, possibly by a lover who saw him with one of her rivals. He was sentenced to five years hard labor. Compared to the previous five years, that was like a rest cure for Helfmann.