Stasi – East Germany’s Secret Police: An informative and chilling account of the history of the notorious East German secret police, the Stasi. Up to 90,000 full-time employees and more than 180,000 unofficial informants work for the Ministry for State Security of the GDR, and about one in 50 adults in East Germany collaborated with East Germany’s Secret Police.
Relative to population, it was the largest secret service in the history of mankind. Headed by the sinister Erich Mielke, the Stasi kept the East German population under constant surveillance. The Stasi – just another intelligence agency, in just another country?
“Shield and Sword of the Party” is what the Stasi calls itself. The Party dictatorship never dares to face its opponents. Instead, the secret police has to keep all dissenting opinions under control. The goal is total total surveillance. In addition to the state security, the “Stasi” is responsible for foreign intelligence and counter-espionage, personal and property protection, border and passport controls. As the party’s shield and sword, the MfS is supposed to keep all enemies of the state under control.
“Die Firma: Stasi” takes a look at the extent of Stasi work and shows the omnipresence of state security – from the enormous headquarters of the Ministry in Berlin through district administrations, local offices, detention facilities, prisons, disguised isolation camps, hidden bunkers, reconnaissance planes, eavesdropping stations to the secret execution site of the GDR. Through tapping phones, reading mail, and installing informers they created an insidious culture of fear and suspicion. This definitive doc reveals the calculated cruelty and brutal repression committed by East Germany‘s most infamous organisation.
Stasi – East Germany’s Secret Police
The Stasi was founded on 8 February 1950. Wilhelm Zaisser was the first Minister of State Security of the GDR, and Erich Mielke was his deputy. Zaisser tried to depose SED General Secretary Walter Ulbricht after the June 1953 uprising, but was instead removed by Ulbricht and replaced with Ernst Wollweber thereafter.
Following the June 1953 uprising, the Politbüro decided to downgrade the apparatus to a State Secretariat and incorporate it under the Ministry of Interior under the leadership of Willi Stoph. The Minister of State Security simultaneously became a State Secretary of State Security. The Secret Police held this status until November 1955, when it was restored to a ministry. Wollweber resigned in 1957 after clashes with Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, and was succeeded by his deputy, Erich Mielke.
In 1957, Markus Wolf became head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) (Main Reconnaissance Administration), the foreign intelligence section of the Stasi. 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 downfall of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in May 1974. In 1986, Wolf retired and was succeeded by Werner Grossmann.
Stasi- Relationship with the KGB
Although Mielke’s Stasi was superficially granted independence in 1957, until 1990 the KGB continued to maintain liaison officers in all eight main Stasi directorates, each with his own office inside the Stasi’s Berlin compound, and in each of the fifteen Stasi district headquarters around East Germany. Collaboration was so close that the KGB invited the Stasi to establish operational bases in Moscow and Leningrad to monitor visiting East German tourists and Mielke referred to the Stasi officers as “Chekists of the Soviet Union”. In 1978, Mielke formally granted KGB officers in East Germany the same rights and powers that they enjoyed in the Soviet Union.
Fall of the Soviet Union
Recruitment of informants became increasingly difficult towards the end of the GDR’s existence, and, after 1986, there was a negative turnover rate of IMs. This had a significant impact on the Stasi’s ability to survey the populace, in a period of growing unrest, and knowledge of the Stasi’s activities became more widespread. Stasi had been tasked during this period with preventing the country’s economic difficulties becoming a political problem, through suppression of the very worst problems the state faced, but it failed to do so.
Stasi officers reportedly had discussed re-branding East Germany as a democratic capitalist country to the West, which in actuality would have been taken over by Secret Police officers. The plan specified 2,587 OibE officers (Offiziere im besonderen Einsatz, “officers on special assignment”) who would have assumed power as detailed in the Top Secret Document 0008-6/86 of 17 March 1986. According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, the chief intelligence officer in communist Romania, other communist intelligence services had similar plans. On 12 March 1990, Der Spiegel reported that the Stasi was indeed attempting to implement 0008-6/86. Pacepa has noted that what happened in Russia and how KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin took over Russia resembles these plans.