Willie Fisher

Vilyam Genrikhovich Fischer alias Willie Fisher alias Rudolf Abel, one of the most important Soviet intelligence officers, was born in Benwell, Newcastle, in 1903. His parents were socialist ethnic Germans who had fled Russia two years earlier as the Tsarist secret police closed in on them. They lived in Cullercoats and Whitley Bay while Willie attended Whitley Bay Grammar school and then Rutherford College in Newcastle (whilst also following an apprenticeship as a draughtsman at Swan Hunter's). His father, Heinrich, meanwhile, was running arms to the Bolsheviks out of the Tyne and Blyth from a clandestine warehouse in Leazes Park Road.
The family returned to the newly-established USSR in 1921 where Willie trained as a radio operator and was recruited into the OGPU (KGB). He illegally entered the United States in 1947, where, while posing as an artist, he ran a network of 'atom spy' agents. He was captured by the FBI in New York in 1957 and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for espionage. In 1962, however, he was exchanged for the U-2 spy-plane pilot Gary Powers and returned to Moscow.
'Rudolf Abel' was the codename used by Willie on his arrest to alert the Soviet Government. He died in 1971. His last words, delivered in English and, it is said, with more than a slight Geordie accent, were "I was a German anyway".

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