Stasi

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Image:MFS 01.jpg
Logo of East Germany's Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS or Stasi) / Ministry for State Security

This article is about Stasi, the secret police of East Germany. See Commission Stasi for its other common meaning.

The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS / Ministry for State Security), commonly known as the Stasi (from Staatssicherheit), was the main security (secret police) and intelligence organization of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Stasi was headquartered in East Berlin, with an extensive complex in Lichtenberg and several smaller complexes throughout the city. Widely regarded as one of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world, the Stasi's motto was "Schild und Schwert der Partei" (Shield and Sword of the Party), showing its connections to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the equivalent to the CPSU of the Soviet Union. Another term used in earlier years to refer to the Stasi was Staatssicherheitsdienst (State Security Service).

Contents

[edit] History

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Mielke and Stasi Officers

The Stasi was founded on February 8, 1950. It was modeled on the Soviet MGB, and was regarded by the Soviets as an extremely loyal and effective partner.

Wilhelm Zaisser was the first Minister of State Security of the GDR, and Erich Mielke his deputy. Zaisser was removed by Walter Ulbricht, the leader of East Germany, in 1953 and replaced by Ernst Wollweber. Wollweber resigned in 1957 after numerous clashes with Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker and was succeeded by his deputy, Erich Mielke.

Also during 1957, Markus Wolf became head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) or General Reconnaissance Administration, its foreign intelligence section. As intelligence chief, Wolf achieved great success in penetrating the government, political and business circles of West Germany with spies. The most influential case was that of Günter Guillaume which led to the fall of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.

However, the Stasi also played another, more external, role; it saved the lives of many leftist activists and politicians during the 1970s, especially in South America. For example, it is suspected that immediately after the Pinochet Coup in Chile (September 1973), Stasi agents organised the rescue and transportation to the GDR of hundreds of members and cadres of People's Unity.

In 1986, Wolf retired and was succeeded by Werner Grossmann.

In 1989, just before the dissolution of East Germany, the Stasi was renamed the Office for National Security and headed by Stasi general Rudi Mittig.


[edit] Influence

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Statue of workers and Stasi official in front of the former Stasi archives building, Mitte district, Berlin (The official has been pelted with eggs numerous times)
The Stasi's influence over almost every aspect of life in the German Democratic Republic cannot be overestimated. Until the mid-1980s, a civilian network of informants called Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (IMs, Unofficial Collaborators) grew within both Germanies, East and West. By the East German collapse in 1989, it is estimated that the Stasi had 91,000 full time employees and 300,000 informants. This means approximately one in fifty East Germans collaborated with the Stasi, one of the highest penetrations of any society by an intelligence gathering organization. Additionally, Stasi resources were used to infiltrate and undermine West German government and intelligence (see above). While notably succeeding in these infiltrations, the Stasi purportedly never suffered any intrusion from Western intelligence personnel.[citation needed]
Image:Mielke generaele.jpg
Mielke and Stasi generals singing

The Stasi monitored politically incorrect behavior among all citizens of East Germany. During the 1989 peaceful revolution, the Stasi offices were overrun by enraged citizens, but not before a huge amount of compromising material was destroyed by Stasi officers (See below). The remaining files are available for review to all people who were reported upon, often revealing that friends, colleagues, husbands, wives, and other family members were regularly filing reports with the Stasi. Files with the names of East German foreign spies were captured by American intelligence agencies ("the Rosenholz files").

After German reunification, it was revealed that the Stasi had also secretly aided left-wing terrorist groups such as the Red Army Faction. Loss of support from the Stasi was a major factor in the dissolution of these groups.

The opening of the Stasi archives also had its effects on the former informants, some of whom command high offices today. In Finland there was a Stasi informant whose identity remains unknown; Alpo Rusi, a presidential advisor, was suspected but later cleared of charges.

[edit] Recovery of Stasi archives

During the regime's final days in 1989-90, panicking Stasi officials attempted to shred the files of their documents, both using paper shredders and tearing them by hand when the shredders collapsed under the load. The hastily stored bags of paper pieces were found soon after and confiscated by the new government. In 1995, the German government hired a Zirndorf team to reassemble the documents; 6 years later the three dozen archivists commissioned on the projects were through only 300 bags; they then switched to computer-assisted data recovery to process the remaining 16,000 bags - estimated to contain 33 million pages. [1]

Following a declassification ruling imposed by the reunited German government in 1992, the Stasi files were also slowly opened to the public, leading individuals to come looking for the files compiled about them. Timothy Garton Ash, an English historian, wrote The File: A Personal History after investigating the file about him compiled while he was completing research for his dissertation in East Berlin.

CIA agents acquired some of the Stasi records after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent looting of Stasi premises. The united Germany has sought their return. They received some, but not all, of the files back in April 2000. BBC


[edit] Museum in the old headquarters

Image:StasiHQ.jpg
Stasi HQ in Lichtenberg

The Anti-Stalinist Action Normannenstraße (ASTAK), an association founded by former GDR Citizens' Committees, has transformed the former headquarters of the Stasi into a museum. It is divided into three floors:

  • Ground floor

The ground floor has been kept as it used to be. The decor is original, with many statues and flags.

  • Between the ground and first floor:
    • Surveillance technology and Stasi symbols: Some of the tools that the Stasi used to track down their opponents. During an interview the seats were covered with a cotton sheet, to collect the perspiration of the victim. His name was written in a glass and the sheet was kept in the archives. Other common ways that the scents would be collected is through breaking into a home and taking parts of garments. The most common garment taken was underwear, because of how close the garmet is to the skin.The Stasi would then use trained dogs to track down the person using this scent. Other tools shown here include a tie-camera, cigarette box camera, and an Ak-47 hidden in luggage.
    • Display gallery of Directorate VII. This part of the museum tells the history of the Stasi, from the beginning of the GDR to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • First floor
    • Mielke's offices. The decor is 60s furniture. There is a reception room with a TV set in the cafeteria. They still serve coffee in it.
    • Office of Colonel Heinz Volpert
    • Lounge for drivers and bodyguards
    • Office of Major-General Hans Carlsohn, director of the secretariat
    • Secretariat
    • The Cafeteria
    • Kitchen
    • The Minister’s Workroom
    • The Conference Room with a giant map of Germany on a wall - one of the most impressive rooms.
    • The cloakroom
  • 2nd floor
    • Repression - Rebellion - Self-Liberation from 1945 to 1989

Photo gallery:

[edit] Society for Legal and Humanitarian Support

Ex-Stasi officers continue to be politically active via the Gesellschaft zur Rechtlichen und Humanitären Unterstützung e.V. (Society for Legal and Humanitarian Support) (GRH). Former high-ranking officers and employees of the Stasi, including the Stasi's last director, Wolfgang Schwanitz, make up the majority of the organization's members, and it receives support from the German Communist Party, among others.

Impetus for the establishment of the GRH was provided by the criminal charges filed against the Stasi in the early 1990's. The GRH, decrying the charges as "victor's justice", called for them to be dropped. Today the group provides an alternative if somewhat utopian voice in the public debate on the GDR legacy. It calls for the closure of the museum in Hohenschonhausen and can be a vocal presence at memorial services and public events. In March 2006 in Berlin, GRH members disrupted a museum event; a political scandal ensued when the Berlin Senator (Minister) of Culture refused to confront them.<ref> Stasi Offiziere Leugnen den Terror. Berliner Morgenpost 16 March 2006. [2]</ref>

Behind the scenes, the GRH also exerts pressure on people and institutions promoting opposing viewpoints. For example, in March 2006, the Berlin Senator for Education received a letter from a GRH member and former Stasi officer attacking the Museum for promoting "falsehoods, anticommunist agitation and psychological terror against minors". <ref> Backmann, Christa. Stasi-Anhänger schreiben an Bildungssenator Böger. Berliner Morgenpost 25 March 2006. [3]</ref> Similar letters have also been received by schools organizing field trips to the museum. <ref>Schomaker, Gilbert. Ehemalige Stasi-Kader schreiben Schulen an. Die Welt, 26 March 2006. [4]</ref>

[edit] Chairmans of the Stasi


[edit] Informants

[edit] In fiction

The award winning German movie Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of The Others), released in March 2006, is set in an East Berlin riddled by secret agents of the Stasi.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] German

[edit] English

[edit] Footnotes

<references/>

[edit] References

Stasi by John O. Koehler, West View Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8133-3409-8

bg:ЩАЗИ

ca:Stasi da:STASI de:Ministerium für Staatssicherheit es:Stasi fr:Stasi it:Stasi he:שטאזי lt:Stasi nl:Stasi ja:シュタージ no:Stasi pl:Stasi pt:Stasi fi:Stasi sv:Stasi tr:Stasi

Stasi

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