BONN -- Otto John, 88, a top West German spy-catcher who caused one of the biggest scandals of the Cold War when he crossed to East Berlin and then fled back to the West a year later, died March 26 in a sanitarium in Innsbruck, Austria. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Mr. John insisted to the end of his life that he had been drugged and kidnapped by the East German secret service. But the exact circumstances of his disappearance in 1954 remain one of the great mysteries of the Cold War. He portrayed his 1956 treason conviction and four-year jail sentence as an act of revenge by judges who had served the Nazi regime, which he had fought as part of the resistance. Mr. John was named the first head of West Germany's counterintelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, in 1950. He vanished in July 1954, reappearing a few days later in East Berlin, to the horror of his own government and Western allies. There he remained for more than a year before fleeing back to the West. During his trial, the court saw speeches and statements made by Mr. John in East Germany, in which he vehemently criticized the policies of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, as proof he had gone to -- and remained in -- the communist country voluntarily. Mr. John insisted he had made the comments to guarantee his safety in East Germany. Certainly there were celebrated cases of West Germans being kidnapped to the East. Equally, there were hair-raising instances of very senior West German intelligence officers defecting to the East. Mr. John was released from a West German jail in 1958 and began a long campaign to overturn his conviction and restore his tattered reputation. "I do not want to die as a traitor," he once told a newspaper interviewer. But the case remained unclear despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of previously secret files from East Germany's Stasi intelligence service. Some members of the Stasi and the KGB who broke their silence after the end of the Cold War said Mr. John had come to the East of his own accord but stayed against his will. Mr. John's fifth and last bid to have his case retried was rejected by a Berlin court in January 1996. The Federal Court of Justice ruled that Mr. John had voluntarily changed sides and then returned. Mr. John had been a member of the World War II resistance movement against Adolf Hitler. After the abortive attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944, Mr. John escaped arrest and certain death by boarding a plane to Madrid. His brother was executed. WILLIAM F. CURTIN World Bank Official
William Francis Curtin, 80, a retired World Bank chief procurement officer who was active in Catholic groups, died of arteriosclerosis March 28 at his home. He had lived in Silver Spring since the 1960s.
He worked for the World Bank for more than 30 years before retiring in 1978. In the 1970s, he had served three years as president of the Purchasing Management Association.
Mr. Curtin, a Washington native, was a graduate of St. John's College High School. He had attended Benjamin Franklin University. Before joining the World Bank, he had worked for the Franciscan Monastery in Washington.
Over the years, he had been active in groups at St. Bernadette's and St. John's Catholic churches in Silver Spring and at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Washington. He had served as the official scorer of the Washington Catholic Duckpin League and was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Holy Name Society and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He had done volunteer work at nursing homes.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Joanna Herlihy Curtin, and a brother, Richard V., both of Silver Spring.