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Double Spy by Peter van Wermeskerken

51QGZXjkJHLAs a young man in the 1960s, Dutch native Peter van Wermeskerken was an enthusiastic chess player who often competed in months-long chess tournaments with other players from around the world, all by mail. Each player would communicate a single move per letter, then wait several days, often longer, for his opponent’s response. For Peter, it was a great way to meet other young people and to expand his own ways of thinking. Before long, a correspondent in Germany asked Peter if he knew of anyone who might like to communicate with an attractive single woman named Kathë living in East Germany – Peter volunteered himself. The two hit it off (which isn’t always easy to achieve in hand-written letters), and Peter made several trips to Kathë’s hometown to visit her family. It happened that Peter’s presence in East Germany caught the attention of the local spy recruiters, who asked, very simply, if he might consider doing some work for them upon his return to the Netherlands. But Peter felt he needed to bring the matter to the attention of his father and of his country, after which he was encouraged to follow through as an East German spy while also reporting back to Dutch intelligence agencies on events unfolding in Eastern Europe. And just like that – Peter launched his career as a double agent.

Peter van Wermeskerken’s memoir entitled “Double Spy” is the honest account of his time spent as a spy, working between Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War. In Western society, the term “spy” is rife with numerous cultural connotations, not the least of which include dashing young gentlemen like James Bond and Jason Bourne, whose exploits always seem to end with several enemies expiring from gunshots to the head. “Double Spy” offers a different, yet perhaps more truthful, perspective on espionage. Van Wermeskerken recounts numerous reasons why a person might be tempted into spying: loyalty to one’s nation and people, loyalty to an ideology, or greed. But, in this case, it was love. Peter ends up a spy – and a double spy at that – because of the young woman he began writing letters to back home in the Netherlands. He hopes that his work with the Germans will allow him to return to his country with Kathë as his new bride. In the end, things don’t quite work out how Peter expects, though somehow he is able to look back on the whole ordeal with an unshakable sense of humor and good nature. This is definitely a story worth the attention of anyone interested in war stories or in romance.

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