A Stone for Willy Fisher


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no longer occupied their two-room apartment on the Second Lavrskiy Pereulok but had been moved to a smaller unit (27 square meters) on Prospekt Mira. He was further disappointed in not receiving the award, "Hero of the Soviet Union," particularly since this honor had been awarded to Ramon Mercader, Trotsky's assassin.
Fisher continued to work at the KGB headquarters in Moscow. Mainly, he gave lectures to trainees or visited East European capitals for ceremonies (such as dedication of a monument to Richard Sorge in East Berlin) or, on one occasion, meeting a high ranking Catholic Church dignitary in Budapest. "I'm just a museum exhibit," he told a friend.
After Fisher returned to Moscow from his American imprisonment, he confided to friends his dissatisfaction with the headquarters mentality as well as with the newer leadership in the KGB. This did not represent a sudden change in his outlook because of disappointment.
In 1955, when he was on home leave trying to rid himself of Hayhanen, he had spoken, according to one friend, about his confusion concerning organizational changes: Beria was now gone; Abakumov had been arrested and executed, and Molotov was headed for oblivion. Fisher had been particularly critical of changes in the First Main Administration as being vastly overstaffed. "It took two hundred people today," he said, "to do work that had been done by five people in the old days. The inclusion of a single paragraph in an enciphered message required the signature of a department chief." After his experiences in World War II, Willy Fisher expressed to a colleague the feelings of a field man who never had much esteem for his bosses in Moscow. In earlier years, he observed, the bosses had at least been individuals with lengthy personal experience and possessed of the revolutionary ideals that made them serve the cause. The new bosses, he said, "were an altogether different breed of selfcentered careerists with no aims other than to advance themselves and move into privileged positions."
The final blow came during the summer of 1971. Fisher applied for leave, intending to continue some work on the dacha he had inherited from his parents. A secretary on the administrative staff asked him why he was going to take leave since she was typing his retirement papers. "Once you're retired, you can rest all you want," she said. After so many years of devoted service, to learn of a forced retirement from a secretary was a blow to Fisher's pride. His health failed and he died of cancer on 15 November 1971. His body lay in state for several days in a building behind the Lubyanka headquarters of the KGB, then, after cremation, his remains were buried in the Cemetery of the Monastery of the Don under a tombstone which identified him as Colonel Rudolf Ivanovich Abel. This was too much for the devoted Yelena Stepanovna. Enraged, she conducted a vigorous campaign for most of the next year. Finally successful, on the anniversary of his death, family and friends attended a dedication of a new tombstone correctly identifying him as William Genrikhovich Fisher (and in smaller letters, as Abel).

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 03:04 PM