On 11 July 1903, a Soviet intelligence officer, Colonel Rudolf Abel was born.

On 11 July 1903, a Soviet intelligence officer, Colonel Rudolf Abel was born.

Rudolf Abel (William Fischer) was born on 11 July 1903 in Newcastle upon Tyne (England). His parents were expelled from Russia in 1901 for their revolutionary activities. Since childhood, William was interested in natural sciences. At the age of 16, he entered the University of London.

In 1920, after returning to Russia, the Fischer family got Soviet citizenship. William worked as a interpreter in the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern). In 1924, he entered the Indian department at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow but he finished only one course: he was called up for military service.

In 1927, the young Fischer was hired by the Joint State Political Directorate (OGPU). He worked in the area of illegal intelligence in two European countries. In 1938, he was dismissed from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) and worked for some time in the All-Union Chamber of Commerce and then at an aircraft factory.

In 1941, he manages to return to intelligence activities. At this time, he was engaged in organising sabotage groups and partisan detachments behind enemy lines. In November 1948, the intelligence officer was sent to work illegally in the United States to obtain information from sources working at nuclear facilities. His work was so successful that in August 1949 he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

In 1957, after one confidant’s betrayal, a Soviet intelligence officer was arrested by FBI agents. In order to let Moscow know about his arrest, Fischer gave his late friend Abel’s name, whom he had met in 1941 when he had been arrested. During the investigation, he categorically denied that he belonged to the intelligence services. He was sentenced by the court to 30 years in prison.

On 10 February 1962, Fischer was exchanged for an American pilot, Francis Powers, who was shot down near Sverdlovsk and convicted of espionage by a Soviet court. Subsequently, William Fisher returned to work in the central office and took part in young secret agents’ training.

William Fischer died on 15 November 1971 in Moscow from lung cancer.


Translated by Elizaveta O. Ovchinnikova

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