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The History of the Stasi

The History of the Stasi: East Germany's Secret Police, 1945-1990

Jens Gieseke
Translated by David Burnett
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    The History of the Stasi
    Book Description:

    The East German Ministry for State Security stood for Stalinist oppression and all-encompassing surveillance. The "shield and sword of the party," it secured the rule of the Communist Party for more than forty years, and by the 1980s it had become the largest secret-police apparatus in the world, per capita. Jens Gieseke tells the story of the Stasi, a feared secret-police force and a highly professional intelligence service. He inquires into the mechanisms of dictatorship and the day-to-day effects of surveillance and suspicion. Masterful and thorough at once, he takes the reader through this dark chapter of German postwar history, supplying key information on perpetrators, informers, and victims. In an assessment of post-communist memory politics, he critically discusses the consequences of opening the files and the outcomes of the Stasi debate in reunified Germany. A major guide for research on communist secret-police forces, this book is considered the standard reference work on the Stasi and has already been translated into a number of Eastern European languages.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-255-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-xii)
  4. Introduction. Ten Years and Forty-five Days
    (pp. 1-10)

    Shortly before midnight on 13 March 1990, Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) disembarked from the Federal Border Guard helicopter in the garden of his official residence to relax and have a drink in the chancellor’s bungalow. He was joined by his wife, by Bernd Neumann, the chairman of the CDU in Bremen, who was working at the time as an election-campaign advisor in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and by Michael Roik, Kohl’s office manager at CDU party headquarters. The chancellor had just returned from an election campaign appearance in the GDR. It was...

  5. Chapter 1 Antifascism—Stalinism—Cold Civil War: Origins and Influences, 1945 to 1956
    (pp. 11-47)

    On the wintery Wednesday evening of 8 February 1950, the representatives of the Provisional Volkskammer of the GDR convened in East Berlin. It was their tenth session since the founding of the republic the previous October. After more than seven hours, just a few minutes past 9:00 p.m., the minister of the interior, Dr. Carl Steinhoff , took the floor and gave a short speech, introducing a bill to expand the East German government, the Council of Ministers, by adding a fifteenth department. Th ere had been repeated bombings of late, claimed Steinhoff, in national industries and on state farms,...

  6. Chapter 2 The Safest GDR in the World: The Driving Forces of Stasi Growth
    (pp. 48-76)

    In its first developmental phase, the Ministry for State Security took on and fulfilled the classic functions of a political secret police and intelligence service. The impulses of these early years, the high phase of Stalinism, the image of the enemy as omnipresent imperialist forces threatening with encirclement, the theory of a constant “intensification of class warfare” under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the formation of a stable base of cadre with Chekist ruthlessness, and an elitist self-understanding—all of this had a lasting impact.

    Yet the Stasi apparatus acquired a new quality in the late 1950s and early 1960s....

  7. Chapter 3 The Unofficial Collaborator: A New Type of Informer
    (pp. 77-95)

    The abyss that opened in 1990 when the first spies were unmasked has continued to affect the Stasi debate right down to the present. The official abbreviation “IM” (inoffizielle Mitarbeiter) became a symbol of universal collaboration, of the loss of confidence in interpersonal relations and what people thought they knew about each other. Suddenly it seemed that the GDR had been populated by a “nation of traitors,” as the newspapers wrote. “Him too?” or “How could he?” were the questions repeatedly asked, given the revelations about well-known and respected figures working under code names such asTorstenandDonald,Notary...

  8. Chapter 4 Blanket Surveillance? State Security in East German Society
    (pp. 96-123)

    How long was the arm of the Stasi and to what end did the ministry use it? The basic hypothesis, discussed above in connection with personnel development, was formulated by Klaus-Dietmar Henke:

    The MfS, greatly expanded since the 1970s, was indeed all-encompassing [flächendeckend], at least in the Honecker era, and could be deployed in manipulative ways. Presumably it was even capable of partly substituting state steering functions in key areas. A most likely indispensable special authority for administrative coherence, the tasks of State Security included, apart from repression, the stabilization of an increasingly poorly functioning polity. An irony of “dialectics”...

  9. Chapter 5 Resistance—Opposition—Persecution
    (pp. 124-153)

    State Security was active in many fields but never lost sight of its founding cause and main purpose: detecting and fighting any kind of resistance or rebellion against the SED regime. The opposition in the GDR was always strongly affected by the existence of two German states. A variety of contacts and interactions of both an affirmative and inhibitive nature evolved between the GDR and the Federal Republic. Sociologist Albert O. Hirschman developed a model to explain the two basic options East Germans had if they no longer agreed with the system and found their lives within it intolerable: exit...

  10. Chapter 6 Wolf and Co.: MfS Operations Abroad
    (pp. 154-187)

    The foreign intelligence operations of the GDR are surrounded by a special mystique. Strictly speaking, the most important respective unit, the Main Administration for Reconnaissance (HVA), was only formally part of the Ministry for State Security, or so its employees argue in retrospect. What’s more, it was an intelligence service of the kind any state would maintain for its own protection and benefit, whether capitalist or Communist, democracy or dictatorship. If there was anything unique about it compared to other intelligence services, they go on, it was its particular effectiveness and the quality of its work—and, of course, the...

  11. Chapter 7 Final Crisis and Collapse, 1989–90
    (pp. 188-200)

    On 7 October 1989, the fortieth anniversary of the GDR’s founding, the state and Party leadership once again had their “armed organs” parade down Karl-Marx-Allee in East Berlin. Unit by unit, the soldiers, tanks, and missile carriers filed past the packed reviewing stand: the National People’s Army and the “combat groups of the working class” (factory militias), border troops and the guard units of State Security. For months SED leaders did all they could to make sure the birthday of the republic was dignified and ceremonious. They wanted to present themselves to their own people and to the world as...

  12. Chapter 8 Legacy—Aufarbeitung—Culture of Memory: The Second Life of the Stasi
    (pp. 201-222)

    The dust slowly settled after the battle. Just a few weeks after the decision to disband it, the second life of the Stasi began with the case of Wolfgang Schnur—a burdensome legacy during the last, democratically ruled six months of the GDR and even in present-day reunified Germany. A sense of insecurity spread among the representatives of the opposition at the Round Table after the final decision was reached to dissolve State Security. There was no way of knowing what potentially explosive material the files contained and who would get their hands on it in the future. The rapid...

  13. Appendices
    (pp. 223-227)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 228-243)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 244-247)
  16. Index
    (pp. 248-265)