The Lawfare Podcast: Rainer Sonntag, Vladimir Putin, and the German Far Right

By Jen Patja Howell
Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 5:01 AM

Since his 1991 death, Rainer Sonntag has been remembered as a martyr by generations of neo-Nazis and other far-right activists, especially in his native Germany. Less discussed, however, is the fact that he was also a spy for the communist authorities of East Germany and their counterparts in the Soviet Union—and that a young KGB operative named Vladimir Putin played a prominent role in his rise to power.

To learn more, Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with Leigh Baldwin, the editor of SourceMaterial, and independent journalist Sean Williams, who co-authored a recent article on the relationship between Putin and Sonntag for The Atavist Magazine, entitled “Follow the Leader.” They discussed the relationship between communist intelligence agencies and far-right German movements, how those movements reacted to the reunification of Germany, and what Putin might have learned from his early dalliances with foreign far-right political movements.