Nisha Rathode (Editor)

John Peet (1915–1988)

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Name  John Peet
Died  1988, East Berlin
Role  Journalist
Books  Unhappy Union: How the Euro Crisis- and Europe - Can Be Fixed

John Scott Peet (1915 - 29 June 1988 in East-Berlin) was a British journalist who defected to East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) in 1950.


Parental family

John Peet was born on 27 November 1915, the third child of Hubert William Peet and his wife, Edith Mary, born Scott. He had two older sisters and a younger brother, Stephen. John's parents were Quakers, unlike his four grandparents who were Congregationalist. His mother's parents had served as missionaries.

John went to the Quaker boarding schools at Saffron Walden and then Bootham

His father, Hubert Peet (1886 - 1951), was a journalist, who wrote religious news and also edited the weekly Quaker magazine The Friend from 1932 to 1949. He was also an absolutist conscientious objector, who suffered three terms of imprisonment for his refusal to obey military orders.

Grenadier Guard

"For complex reasons", after Quaker School, John Peet joined the Grenadier Guards. According to his brother, Stephen, he was bought out after three months

Spanish episode

John Peet fought in the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigade.


He travelled and worked in various European cities, until 1939, when he joined the British Army, serving in the British Mandate of Palestine. There he ran the news section of Jerusalem Radio, until he was recruited by Reuters News agency in 1945.

International journalist

He worked for Reuters in Palestine, Vienna and Warsaw and covered the Nuremberg trials after World War II, November 1945 to October 1946.


After three years as a reporter in Berlin, Peet announced, during a Press Conference in East Berlin in 1950, that he was leaving the West because of West German rearmament.

From 1952 to 1975, Peet produced the Democratic German Report, a fortnightly newsletter targeting the left-of-centre public opinion in the United Kingdom. His positive portrayal of the GDR was among the GDR's most believable and powerful propaganda in Britain.

He spent the last ten years of his life translating Marx and Engels into English. The Times (London) published three of his letters to the Editor during his exile.

Many East Germans saw Peet as the archetypical Englishman, and he played this character in several East German films.

Peet was married three times. In 1952, he married the Bulgarian Ravensbrück survivor Georgia Tanewa (1923-2012) and they had two children.

He died on 29 June 1988, after a long illness. He was survived by his third wife, Engelgard. An autobiography, The long engagement was published after his death, with an introduction by Len Deighton. In these memoirs, Peet writes about his defection stating he "could no longer serve the Anglo-American warmongers ...". He also writes about his relationship with Soviet intelligence.


John Peet (1915–1988) Wikipedia