Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence

(coco) #1
BAER, YISRAEL (1912–1966).Vienna-born Baer was a socialist
from an early age and joined Austria’s Social Democratic party. He
took part in street fighting against the fascists before Adolf Hitler
marched into Vienna in 1938. He also volunteered for the interna-
tional brigade fighting Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and
later studied at the military academy in Vienna. Baer immigrated to
Palestine in 1938 and joined the Haganah militia.
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 Baer served
in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and saw action in the War of In-
dependence. After the war he continued to serve in the IDF and as-
pired to be appointed deputy chief of the General Staff. When this po-
sition was denied him, he retired from the IDF and became a military
correspondent and commentator for leading Israeli newspapers. He
chaired the Department of Military History at Tel Aviv University.
Baer joined the socialist United Workers party (Mapam). After Ma-
pam split into two parties, Mapam and the Israel Communist party
(Maki), he shifted toward the center and joined the Israel Workers
party (Mapai). By now Baer had become a close friend of Prime Min-
ister David Ben-Gurion, who valued his expertise in military history.
Baer presented himself as holding a doctorate in military history. He
also became a close friend of Shimon Peres and Shaul Avigur. Ben-
Gurion gave Baer access to his private diary on the War of Indepen-
dence and asked him to write the official history of the war. This task
gave Baer access to the most highly classified documents on the war.
Suspicions about Baer had first arisen in 1956. The Israeli chief of
the General Staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Dayan, seeing Baer
walking about freely at IDF headquarters, jokingly asked one of his
assistants what “that spy” was doing there. Suspicions against him in-
tensified in mid-1958 when Baer asked to meet the director of West
Germany’s Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND),
Richard Gehlen. In those days it was no simple matter for Israelis to
visit Germany; their passports were stamped with a prohibition
against visiting Germany and Arab countries. The reason Baer gave
for his visit, to meet Gehlen, aroused particular mistrust.
In World War II Gehlen had served in Nazi Germany’s military in-
telligence, focusing on the Eastern Front. After the war he became the
director of the BND, still focusing on the Eastern Bloc until at least the
late 1950s. Gehlen had built a reputation as an outstanding spymaster.
The Soviet KGB wanted to know what Gehlen knew about the Eastern


06-102 (02) A-G.qxd 3/24/06 7:23 AM Page 31

Free download pdf