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Guillaume was born in Berlin. During the Hitler era, he was a member of the Nazi party NSDAP. In 1956, he and his wife Christel emigrated to West Germany on Stasi orders to penetrate and spy on West Germany's political system. Rising through the hierarchy of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, he became a close aide to West German chancellor Willy Brandt.
In 1974, West German authorities discovered Guillaume's spying for the communist East German government. The resulting scandal, the Guillaume Affair, led to Brandt's resigning the chancellorship. Guillaume was sentenced to a thirteen-year prison term for espionage, and his wife to an eight-year term. Guillaume was released to East Germany in 1981 in exchange for Western spies caught by the Eastern Bloc.
In East Germany, Guillaume was received and celebrated as a hero, worked as a spy trainer, and published his autobiography Die Aussage in 1988. Guillaume and East German spymaster Markus Wolf have said that Willy Brandt's downfall was not intended, and that the affair is among the Stasi's biggest mistakes. After Die Wende and German reunification, the reunified Germany granted Guillaume immunity from any further prosecutions. He was a supportive witness in Wolf's trial of treason in 1993. Guillaume died of kidney cancer on 10 April 1995, in Petershagen/Eggersdorf, near Berlin.
The Brandt-Guillaume story is told in the play Democracy by Michael Frayn. It follows Brandt's political career as West Germany's first left-of-centre chancellor in forty years, and his fall because of his assistant.
Guillaume's wife died in 2004.
- Die Aussage means The Statement, or My Stated View: Oxford Duden German Dictionary ISBN 0-19-864171-0)
- Craig R. Whitney (1995-04-12). "Gunter Guillaume, 68, Is Dead; Spy Caused Willy Brandt's Fall". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
- "Willy Brandt Biography: May 1974: Günter Guillaume". Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation. Retrieved 2009-05-20.