The Tyranny of Intimacy
The Tyranny of Intimacy
The Stasi and East German Society
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter sets out to revise common understandings of the infamous Ministry of State Security and its role in East German society. In particular, this chapter aims to reread the Leviathan-like Stasi as an institution embedded in socialist society, rather than hovering above it. The first part of the chapter will address the historical emergence of the Stasi's secret surveillance empire and how it affected those under scrutiny. The second part looks at the Stasi's transformation in the 1970s, as it developed new duties, strategies and networks of informants to monitor the private lives of ever-more citizens. A central theme of this chapter is how the secret police's targeting of private lives as a haven of secrecy and danger created its own limits and backlashes. In effect the Stasi's secret machinery of power both undermined and in turn inadvertently fostered a sense of privacy among GDR citizens.
FAUST: Do you spend much of your free time in spying?
MEPHISTOPHELES: I'm not omniscient yet—but I keep trying.
In the beginning was the Stasi. This perspective has long been a staple of popular appraisals of the German Democratic Republic, serving as Genesis 1 in chronicles of the trials and tribulations of Germany's first socialist state. The GDR's infamous Ministry for State Security—the Stasi for short—encapsulates the jealous dominion of a highly developed ‘police state’ that kept its captive population under rapt attention and control for four decades. In the aftermath of 1989 the Stasi's reputation has only grown as the world's most elaborate surveillance outfit, brimming with ‘spy-tech’ intelligence-gathering gadgetry and subtle psychological warfare techniques that shamelessly preyed on the fears and foibles of a cowed society.2 The ‘House of 3000 Rooms’ (referring to the Ministry's massive compound in Berlin-Lichtenberg) stands in as the epitome of East German Stalinism long after the death of the Soviet dictator in 1953. So extensive was its reach that commentators have described the East German secret police as the ‘centre of the most extensive spy organization in world history’ and the ‘most pervasive and efficient secret service in history’.3 For many observers, the Stasi was the grim realization of Jeremy Bentham's infamous Panopticon, wherein ‘a permanent, exhaustive omnipresent surveillance’ had ‘transformed the whole social body into a field of perception: thousands of eyes posted everywhere’.4 Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 2006 box-office hit, The Lives of Others, further fuelled this fascination with the Stasi's dark empire for an international cinema audience. No wonder that Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel 1984 was repeatedly invoked as the ready reference for making sense of East Germany's defunct ‘totalitarian’ regime in the aftermath of Reunification. That Orwell's book was banned in the GDR as ‘trash’ that ‘discriminates against the conditions created by the state and the political and economic situation in socialist society’ only hastened the association.5 In this sense, Mirabeau's well-known quip about Hohenzollern Prussia (‘other states (p.22) possess an army, Prussia is an army which possesses a state’) seems to have found its East German correlative: a secret police in possession of a state.
Exaggerated as some of these views are, they contain a certain amount of truth. There is no denying that the Stasi was a massive organization with tendrils stretching deep into East German state and society. By the end, it had amassed some 180 kilometres of files, one million pictures, and 200,000 tapes to monitor its citizens. There were over six million dossiers in a country of only seventeen million inhabitants. So large was the sheer quantity of data produced by the secret police that Klaus-Dietmar Henke, who headed the Research Department of the Stasi File Authority (BstU) in the 1990s, likened it to ‘the equivalent of all records produced in German history since the Middle Ages’.6 But the Stasi's presence went far beyond file production. It was a pivotal part of the criminal justice system, ran its own prisons and internment camps, operated terrorist training programmes for foreign insurgents (such as the West German Red Army Faction), and possessed its own postal network, university-style training centre, supermarket, soccer team (Dynamo Berlin), and even a barber shop.7
Nonetheless, it was its ability to penetrate the very fabric of everyday society that caught the public's imagination after 1989. The ears and eyes of the state were seemingly everywhere. The Stasi lorded over a world in which mail was routinely opened, houses bugged, citizens harangued, and dissidents imprisoned for ‘hostile negative’ attitudes and nonconformist activities. Six hundred Stasi agents were responsible for checking mail in East Berlin alone.8 Tiny holes were drilled in the walls of apartments and hotel rooms to watch suspects, and even bathrooms were secretly videotaped by Stasi voyeurs.9 Confidentiality between doctors and patients was routinely breached, as medical information about suspect citizens (including their psychiatric files) was passed to the secret police.10 One journalist's account of the Stasi's surveillance of citizens laid bare the state's outsized obsession with the private lives of troublesome residents:
The Stasi knew where Comrade Gisela kept the ironing board in her apartment…and how many times a week Comrade Armin took out his garbage and what color socks he wore with his sandals while doing it…The Stasi kept watch on trash dumps and lending libraries—the names of those who checked out books on hot air balloons or rock-climbing equipment were of particular interest—and tapped the booths of Catholic confessionals and the seats at the Dresden Opera. Stasi cameras monitored public toilets. The Stasi photographed every slogan found scrawled on a wall and wrote down every rumor. Some of its dossiers on East Germans had a hundred categories of information—even the number, location, and design of tattoos. The Stasi kept a library of smells: a few hundred glass jars containing bits of dissidents's dirty underwear, so trained dogs could sniff and match the smell to an antigovernment pamphlet found on the sidewalk.11
Hannah Arendt's assertion, in her 1951 classic, Origins of Totalitarianism, that both the Nazi and Soviet systems created worlds of ‘ubiquitous spying where (p.23) everybody may be a police agent’ and where ‘each individual feels himself under constant surveillance’, seems to have found supreme expression in Orwellian East Germany.12 Not for nothing was the Stasi nicknamed the VEB Horch und Guck, or ‘The People's Own Listen and Look Company’.
Harrowing revelations of husbands spying on wives and children informing on their parents drove home the extent to which the lines between state and society, public and private, had seemingly been effaced in the GDR. The shocking discovery of the millions of Stasi files in January 1990 by various citizen groups—including the ‘complete smell collection’ of the Leipzig opposition—has furnished some of the most disturbing images of East Germany's homegrown ‘tyranny of intimacy’.13 While no one could deny the secret police's power and presence, it pays to recall that the Stasi grew quite slowly and unevenly. In fact, its heyday was actually in the 1970s and 1980s, paradoxically during a period of détente and relative liberalization. Retrospective reinventions of Stasi omnipotence from the very beginning were often quite self-serving efforts to deny complicity after the fact. The shopworn characterization of the Stasi as a kind of ‘state within a state’ by the likes of state leaders Erich Honecker and Egon Krenz helped to mythologize the agency's untouchable conspiratorial subculture as well as to exonerate their own responsibility for its actions in the face of post-1989 accusations of governmental abuse.14 Such Stasicentric views of the GDR are really a post-cold war invention. Until the 1990s, the main books on East Germany scarcely addressed the secret police. As a consequence, the Stasi remained all but invisible in the historiography of the 1970s and 1980s, precisely when the state security organ was at its zenith of power.15
This chapter endeavours to take a different tack, namely to reread the Stasi as an institution embedded in socialist society rather than hovering above it.16 Even if the Stasi became a latter-day secret society in its own right, it could never have achieved its wide influence without the participation and compliance of hundreds of thousands of people, often in the form of a reserve army of voluntary informants. It was also part of a social world whose covert tactics and public image changed over the years. What primarily interests me is how, and to what extent, the secret police bore down on people's private lives. The first part of the chapter will address the historical emergence of the Stasi's secret surveillance society and how it affected those under scrutiny. The second part looks at the Stasi's transformation in the 1970s, as it developed new duties, strategies, and networks of informants to monitor the private lives of ever-more citizens. A central theme of this chapter is how the secret police's targeting of private lives as a haven of secrecy and danger created its own limits and backlashes. In effect the Stasi's secret machinery of power both undermined and in turn inadvertently created a sense of privacy among GDR citizens. (p.24)
The Stasi as ‘Scratchy Undershirt’
The East German Stasi was modelled after its Soviet forerunner and counterpart, the Cheka and KGB, and functioned for almost four decades as the fabled ‘sword and shield’ of the ruling Socialist Unity Party. As Mike Dennis has noted, the construction of a secret apparatus within the Party was an integral element of communism from the very beginning. Indeed, secrecy was a mandatory condition of membership into the Communist International only a few years after the Russian Revolution, as articulated by the Comintern's Second World Congress in 1920. This was the birth of communism's identity as a conspiratorial confraternity, an identity that only intensified during the experience of the Second World War.17 After 1945 every Eastern bloc country created a secret police force along these lines. The clandestine dimension was central to the Stasi as well. Stasi agents, for their part, were forbidden any contact with foreigners, sworn to secrecy, and prohibited to discuss their work with family or friends. Dozens of disguises were used—dressing up as refugees, gas station attendants, waiters, tour guides, train conductors, and even West German tourists—to coax coveted information.18 The statutory basis of the Stasi was also secretive—the 1950 law creating the ministry consisted of one vague paragraph. No history of the Stasi was ever published in the GDR for security purposes. Its power lay precisely in its clandestinity. Over the decades the Stasi provided the regime with a kind of arcana imperii, uniquely exploiting the power of mystification to stifle independent action and the emergence of a public realm.19
But despite its secret fraternal subculture, the Stasi was heavily involved in wide-ranging state affairs. It commanded substantial state funding, absorbing some 2 per cent of the country's entire budget. The Stasi even had its own separate banking system, along with some 2,000 properties across the country. It was the GDR's largest employer, with 1.5 times more people than the country's standing army. By 1989 the number of paid Stasi employees was estimated to be 91,000, with a budget of over 4 billion marks.20 In a country of seventeen million inhabitants, the density of the Stasi translated into roughly one operative for every 180 citizens. By comparison, there was one secret police officer per 595 citizens in the USSR, and one in 1,574 in Poland.21 The Third Reich's notorious Gestapo, by contrast, had only 7,000 employees in a population of sixty-six million by 1939, and its informer network was also relatively small. As for the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, 366,000 people were working for it by 1939, translating into one secret service operative per 500 citizens, or roughly twenty times the size of the Gestapo. Yet the Stasi network easily dwarfed them all, especially if we factor in the vast network of ‘unofficial collaborators’. The number of informers active during the closing years of the GDR varied from 110,000 to 180,000, which meant that about one in thirty citizens had served at (p.25) one time or another for the Stasi. All told, it is estimated that some 800,000 people worked for the Stasi over the decades.22
While large secret police organizations were certainly hallmarks of twentieth-century politics, their historical roots stretch back much further. The formalization of political policing had its origins in the absolutist monarchies of the eighteenth century, most notably in the reign of Habsburg emperor Joseph II (1780–90). In Central Europe political policing intensified in the conservative backlash following the French Revolution, as police forces were established during the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath to combat new political threats.23 National police and intelligence services were further beefed up in the wake of the 1848 revolutions to maintain public order, as nationalists, reformers, and radicals of all stripes were kept under a close eye by all European states.24 But it was really the First World War that gave birth to the modern national security state in Europe, as all wartime governments became increasingly preoccupied with the moods and morale of its citizenry and soldiers. This was the first blush of government-level war propaganda departments, organized postal censorship, and citizen surveillance in the modern sense, as information was used to sculpt and mobilize a fighting body politic. This found heightened expression in the Soviet Union, in part because its war experience lasted until 1921 and in part because Soviet communism built its identity on a siege mentality about hostile enemies. Elaborate surveillance cultures were developed among all of the belligerents during the Second World War as modes of knowledge and administration; so common were they that even wartime oppositional groups—such as White Russian intelligence networks in the Great War or German Social Democratic morale reports compiled from exile in the Second World War—drew on the same surveillance techniques of mass observation.25
Such trends continued after 1945, especially in Soviet Occupied Europe. Nowhere was this more important than in war-torn Germany. That the armed enemy was just across a porous makeshift border—defended only by barbed wire and low-level checkpoints until 1961—made security a pressing concern. For the Soviet authorities, the top priority was to set up a ruling Communist Party equipped with an effective German security service. It was justified as a necessary response to the threat of the West. The presence of the US-sponsored Gehlen Organization in the American Zone, an anti-Soviet intelligence agency led by a former Nazi general who just a few years before had headed the intelligence operations of the Wehrmacht's foreign auxiliaries on the Eastern Front, gave credence to Socialist Unity Party accusations of Western subversion. In 1947 the Soviets created a special department of the East German People's Police, the so-called Komissariat-5, to carry out de-Nazification measures in the broadest sense. It built a sizeable base of information-gathering and surveillance in its zone, patterned on KGB methods. All three of the GDR's Ministry of State Security directors—Wilhelm Zaisser, Ernst Wollweber, and most famously, Erich Mielke—had previous careers as Soviet intelligence officers. Early secret police (p.26) activity—as noted in the activities of the so-called People's Control, or Volkskontrolle—centred on combating extortion, black marketeering, and hoarding across the Soviet Zone. Intelligence was vital for its success. According to the agency's founding document, the aim was to ‘form a comprehensive and as seamless as possible network of confidants and informants’ in order to help the communist cause. Thousands of Social Democrats were imprisoned for opposing the Party's merger with the KPD in forming a new Socialist Unity Party, or SED, as were hundreds of Christian Democrat adherents.26 With it the union of the SED and secret police was consecrated.27
The official creation of the Ministry of State Security in February 1950 followed the founding of the GDR state a few months before.28 For justification, the SED claimed that the new security force was part of the great revolutionary tradition dating back to the abortive Spartacist uprising in Berlin in 1919. From the outset there was a high degree of integration between Stasi, Party, and state organs of coercion, and it recruited heavily among former Gestapo, SS, and Wehrmacht officers, apparently so as to prevent them from going over to the West.29 Many of them had been persuaded to enlist in Soviet-run antifascist schools for POWs, and thereafter invited to form part of the new police force in the Soviet Zone.30 The Stasi's early task was to protect the ‘people's property’ and communally owned businesses from banditry; to fight against hostile agents, saboteurs, and spies; as well as to defend the country from outside threat. But until the June 1953 Uprising of nationwide wildcat strikes, the Stasi was relatively small, employing only 601 full-time staff in 1949. The seismic 1953 revolt was construed as a massive intelligence failure,31 after which the Stasi swelled to 9,000 agents by 1955, adding more again in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The 1961 construction of the Berlin Wall unleashed a wave of Stasi repression against potentially hostile citizens: 18,297 people were sentenced for crimes against the state in the second half of 1961,32 and the Stasi leapt to over 19,000 staff members by the end of 1962.33 While the Stasi at this point mostly concentrated on foreign threats, it was preoccupied with domestic issues too. By the late 1950s full-time Stasi officers were posted in all industrial plants, and in every apartment building one tenant was designated to report on residents to the local Volkspolizei, or People's Police.
This is not to say that GDR citizens were without rights. In the 1949 GDR Constitution, for example, people enjoyed the right to express opinions freely and publicly, the right of assembly, and even the privacy of post. However, these classic liberal civil rights were rarely respected. Whereas liberal law was built on protecting individuals from the state, socialist jurisprudence presumed that the state was the people. Law was invariably subordinated to power. As Stasi Chief Mielke put it: ‘Power is the most important position from which to fulfill the historical mission of the working class, to establish Communist society…Socialist law is an important instrument of exercising, enhancing and consolidating power.’34 To this end the definition of ‘negative hostile’ behaviour was left (p.27) deliberately vague for maximum exploitation. In a 1958 official guide, for example, the Stasi's central role was so defined: ‘The Ministry of State Security is entrusted with the task of preventing or throttling at the earliest stages—using whatever means and methods may be necessary—all attempts to delay or to hinder the victory of socialism.’35
But the Stasi was neither the only—nor even the most significant—repressive organ in East Germany during the country's first decade and a half of existence. That dubious honour went to the GDR's People's Police. It was the first institution created by the new East German state, and even predated the formation of the government by four years, having been created by the Soviet Military Government immediately after the ceasefire in the summer of 1945. The Stasi was essentially an offspring of the People's Police. By 1952 the People's Police expanded its reach by creating a new voluntary system of Abschnittsbevollmächtige, or Auxiliary Police, which helped strengthen the power and presence of the police at the residential level. Local ‘sectional commissioners’ worked alongside other police branches in patrol and criminal investigation. They were required to move into their residential jurisdiction, keep office hours, be available by phone, and make regular visits to all households. This often meant keeping track of nonconformity in whatever guise. Homosexuals for example were often singled out as dangerous citizens by these Auxiliary Police officers. One gay East Berlin worker recalled his experience from the early 1950s: ‘I moved into my apartment in the early 1950s. Just before I moved in the Auxiliary Police officer went from household to household where young people lived, and informed them: in the first courtyard, second floor on the right one of them is about to move in. Beware.’36 After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the police began to adopt a less confrontational line. Regular police officer meetings with wayward citizens were considered a key part of the regime's expansive notion of re-education, in that the Auxiliary Police used a non-conflict model of citizen improvement as a means of governing at the local level.37
The state used other networks to intervene more directly in people's private lives. The lack of any real avenue of unregulated popular expression—be it uncontrolled mass media, alternative culture, or of course voter choice—meant that the state was always unsure about citizen loyalty. In fact, the SED created a secret Institute for Opinion Research in 1963 to ferret out popular attitudes towards economic policy, work life, internal political changes (such as the revised constitution of 1968), international events, and general satisfaction in the Party so as to rule more effectively. Still, there was much that the SED had a hard time finding out, and morale within residential communities was one of the most impenetrable.38 The state thus felt compelled to organize networks of intelligence, snooping, and supervision in order to scout out potential wellsprings of dissatisfaction. The home was routinely singled out as the most worrisome cell of secrecy and dissent. After all, GDR citizens had long made clear that their homes were places where they discussed all sorts of problems, ranging from (p.28) mismanagement at work and at school, the lack of people's voices as well as encounters with the police and Stasi, often in ‘crass contradiction to what the classic doctrines of communism envisaged for a proletarian state’.39 Private life needed to be kept under close supervision.
The socialist state's fear and suspicion of private life was nothing new, having become a staple of communist ideology ever since the Russian Revolution. Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaia, made no bones about declaring that ‘a distinction between private life and public life will lead sooner or later to the betrayal of Communism’. In 1927 Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Soviet Union's Commissar of Education, wrote that ‘[t]he so-called sphere of private life cannot slip away from us, because it is precisely here that the final goal of the Revolution is to be reached’. On this theme Stalin reportedly said that ‘A true Bolshevik shouldn't and couldn't have a family, because he should give himself wholly to the Party.’40 Here and elsewhere private life itself was viewed with great trepidation by communist authorities, and the GDR was no exception.
Monitoring private life in East Germany increased dramatically in the wake of the June 1953 Uprising. A good deal of this was linked to the perceived (and sometimes real) threat of Western espionage, as reports of American spy activities were routinely published in East German newspapers.41 One of the earliest state incursions in the private sphere was the so-called Hausbuch, or ‘Housebook’, programme. While this initiative started in the early 1950s, it was expanded considerably after 1953. In this case, every GDR citizen was required to register all house guests in a Hausbuch kept by an elected housing supervisor, significantly named the Hausvertrauensmann, or Residential Confidence Man. It not only enabled the government to keep track of who was entertaining visitors (especially foreign ones) on a regular basis; it also helped create a new cadre of so-called ‘confidence men’ (and they were nearly 90 per cent men) to keep tabs on tenants. Not surprisingly, the West German press made much of this ‘invasion of the private sphere’ as the ‘realization of Orwell's sinister vision of the dictatorial state’, with overtones of Nazi terror.42 Even so, such measures were introduced to help monitor what civil society existed and to inspire citizen confidence in the state as the guardian of public order.
Likewise, new ‘housing communities’, or Hausgemeinschaften, were set up in the early 1950s to help ‘rationalize’ residential life and instil it with a new developed sense of community. Historical precedents could be found in the Kaiserreich's Ehrenämte, which were late nineteenth-century agencies of neighbourhood-based urban administration, as well as in Lenin's ideal of small cells of local self-government to help train citizens in the tasks of democratic political life. Such housing communities continued to exist through the Weimar Republic, but were expanded considerably after 1933 as part of a new Blockwart system of neighbourhood associations to better bind the Nazi Party and German society. By the late 1930s some two million residential block leaders across Germany (as well as in Austria and the Sudetenland) were elected as ‘confidence men’ to (p.29) oversee residential concerns, and after the outbreak of war were even entrusted with organizing civil defence against bomb attacks. They kept card catalogues of all residents, and routinely visited people in their homes to gather opinion, information, and advice, keeping an eye on any untoward activity or behaviour.43 These neighbourhood block leaders were often more effective than the Gestapo in making the regime present in the lives of ordinary people.44
The Soviets built their East German intelligence network on the Third Reich's old neighbourhood-based Blockwart system of social surveillance, appointing block and house leaders to report to Soviet authorities.45 After 1949 the SED continued this policy by strengthening these organs of neighbourhood order and control. In Ulbricht's eyes, the ‘housing communities’ were to help raise ‘national consciousness’ and mobilize the masses in the collective construction of genuinely socialist residential culture.46 Housing community leaders drafted innumerable reports on communal housing life, material problems, and ‘uncooperative citizens’, and were key representatives of the state in neighbourhood life. In close cooperation with the National Front, they helped build common rooms, create inter-housing sports leagues and organize parades in connection with 1 May festivities. By early 1953 there was already much talk within the National Front about using these housing communities to extend patriotism ‘into every house’ and to root out the influence of Western ‘warmongers and their agents’.47 While this was already evident in the early 1950s,48 this campaign was accelerated in the wake of the 17 June Uprising. The ‘housing communities’ were used to make sure that everyone knew that the ‘provocation’ engineered by ‘foreign powers’ in Berlin and elsewhere had been successfully suppressed, and to help ensure ‘loyalty to our government’ by keeping a ‘watchful eye on our residences and families’.49 One pre-Wall Berlin National Front report registered the cold war rhetoric: ‘we must strengthen our persuasion tactics, since the enemy is trying to beat us in a war of nerves. They want to confuse our people and to precipitate a mass exodus from our republic. Every house must be a defense…If we don't succeed in bringing such progress to every home and to pull together all residences in this common fight, we will be lost.’50
Such tactics were intensified after the construction of the Wall a few months later. In one December 1961 report it was stated that
many negative habits of small segments of the population, such as shiftlessness, listening to RIAS [Radio in the American Sector], watching West German television and black marketeering, are being practiced by families in the home. In these residences such issues must be confronted and discussed, since the formation of politically-functioning housing communities is of uppermost significance. The educative role of the housing community is to complement the citizen's broader socialist education received at work and in the factory.51
Scattered evidence indicates that there was a widespread perception about the glaring contradictions between public conformity and individual behaviour. (p.30) This disjuncture was not even limited to private life, but occurred in public institutions as well. A good example can be found in a 1954 letter to Queen Elisabeth-Hospital in Berlin-Lichtenberg, in which the complainant was shocked to learn of the blasé attitude on the part of hospital authorities toward the ‘constant playing’ of the supposedly taboo RIAS in a public building. She brought the matter to the attention of the director, who concurred that it was ‘forbidden to listen to it in a public building’. Yet, so she reported, he concluded by saying that ‘privately one can do as one pleases’.52 This vignette illustrates the common perception that public and private behaviour were two different matters altogether. Home life was seen as a particularly troublesome refuge of non-compliance. Even if the early 1950s dream of ‘having a housing community representative on every single East German street’ never came to pass, some 30–40 per cent of GDR communities were involved in the programme by the mid-1960s. Older residents looking back on those years recall that 1961 marked stepped-up state interest in people's private life, as well as ‘increased spying on friends and families’.53 Its general success of course is difficult to gauge with any certainty, as some local authorities were more zealous and engaged than others. East Berliners interviewed in 2005 and 2007 had very different recollections of the Hausbuch and Hausvertrauensmann system. While some remember them as unobtrusive, others recall the tenant life as riddled with nosy neighbourhood authorities. Whatever the case, these initiatives did represent powerful state interventions into the private lives of GDR citizens in the Ulbricht era.
Certain people were routinely targeted by the authorities as dangerous. In the housing communities' effort to ‘restore confidence in the government’, particular social groups—non-SED members, artisans, Mittelständler, and farmers—were seen as recalcitrant and in need of special scrutiny. Youth were also identified as potentially unreliable and resistant, and in need of close observation.54 Yet no group was subjected to more overt pressure than Christians. The Party viewed them as reactionary and dangerous fifth columnists, whose loyalties lay outside the GDR. From the outset the SED's ultimate objective was a state without churches, a society without Christianity. There were a range of pre-Stasi police reports from 1948–9 on church activities, and many of them pointed out the menace of the pastor's house as a cell of alternative culture.55 Numerous Stasi reports were written about house searches of suspect pastors, accusing them of ‘politically negative’ and even ‘decadent’ behaviour, especially toward their young charges.56 Christian student groups were regularly placed under Stasi surveillance, and a great deal of attention was paid to young Christians who opted out of the communist youth group, the Free German Youth.57 By the 1960s the Stasi had created a special ‘Section XX/4’ responsible for the observation and subversion of the churches, showing the extent to which private matters of conscience were issues of serious state concern.58 This was especially so when it came to the so-called Bausoldaten, pacifist ‘civil construction soldiers’ who refused armed service from the mid-1960s on, usually under the aegis of the (p.31) Church. Countless files were compiled on these conscientious objectors, with tabs on background and activities through the 1980s. The persecution of Christians became a favourite topic of cold war tension, as the West German press eagerly published many a report about life in GDR jails by East German Christians who eventually fled to the West.59 Through the 1970s and 1980s the Stasi continued its assault on the churches, often working to discredit pastors by ‘outing’ them as alcoholics, homosexuals, or libertines. At the behest of the Stasi one 1973 ‘unofficial collaborator’ organized sex parties for churchmen in order to scandalize and ensnare them, and did so all the way until 1989.60
Even after the construction of the Wall in 1961, anti-socialist behaviour of all kinds was considered as dangerous as ever, and systematically targeted for ‘re-education’.61 The ‘confidence people’ and ‘housing communities’ were now entreated to play more active roles in this regard. Housing administrators were urged to devote more attention to the private life of its citizens, as evidenced in the new ‘housing community leader’ handbooks.62 Calls for expanded communal control were largely fuelled by growing fears of violence and crime, particularly among youth, which spurred wide discussion in the 1960s and 1970s among GDR sociologists, educators, and social workers. For them, a great deal of the problem lay in identifying the roots of deviant behaviour within state socialism, especially since traditional Marxist sociology maintained that crime essentially sprang from capitalist sources (economic inequality, material misery, and social alienation), all of which the GDR supposedly had overcome with its successful revolution. Residential life was thus increasingly singled out as largely responsible, giving rise to widespread interest during the 1970s in studying ‘socialist personality’, ‘socialist lifestyle’, ‘socialist living conditions’, ‘socialist childraising’, ‘socialist family life’, and above all ‘asocial behavior’ as new targets of social reform.63 While some of these problems were patently quite old, the state approached them in new ways. Over time the GDR explicitly adopted a range of Western social science models in developing socialist psychiatry, behavioural psychology, criminology, and urban sociology. Socialist selfhood and character became favourite new subjects of research and policy-making.64 These trends were not perforce bad in themselves, as they often brought great benefit to suffering citizens. The cumulative effect, however, was that the private life of citizens became a growing state concern. In this sense, the state's preoccupation with the private sphere was a marriage of old ideology and new science, as the dwelling was viewed as a key testing ground for socialist education and good citizenship.
As a consequence, the Stasi was not merely interested in dissident activists. Often they spied on ordinary people who were seen as nonconformist in a broad sense. One late 1980s Stasi file in Leipzig is quite revealing in this regard. It featured a report on Erdmuthe P, a young woman ‘without Party affiliation’ who apparently was uninvolved in any ‘mass organization’, outside of her Free (p.32) German Youth membership. Stasi reports on her political views didn't turn up anything, and her attitude toward the West was vague:
Her political position cannot be ascertained, she apparently has not expressed any opinions about political problems. Numerous conversations with house residents have also revealed nothing…She does not decorate her home for festival days and does not participate in neighborhood activities. Whether her parents put out a flag for festival days is also not known…Whether she receives West German radio and television cannot be determined, since she has never spoken about it with her neighbors.
She was apparently a Lutheran, but even this—along with her musical interests—was kept private: ‘Occasionally Family P makes “house music” together, and the mother or father is active in the church choir. But in the residential community the family never speaks about confessional activities, nor do they seem to have any Christian visitors. According to the neighbors they pursue their confessional activities outside their residence.’ But it was her attitude towards her neighbours that was singled out as suspicious. Although commended for being ‘friendly and polite to her neighbors’, she was also ‘very quiet and withdrawn’, without ‘any close or friendly contacts to her neighbors. She does not seek any conversations with them, and only engages with them when spoken to, and then does so only with great economy and superficiality.’65 There may be little of great drama here, to be sure, but the Stasi report is significant in several respects. First, it reveals how the Stasi operated at the local level, gathering intelligence from ‘numerous conversations with neighbors’; secondly, it reflects the state's preoccupation with nonconformity and those apparently opting out of socialist society. Thirdly, as we shall see later, it also points up the Stasi's frustration with ‘non-transparent’ characters and limited intelligence in the face of wily citizens' ability to protect their privacy.
Yet Stasi harassment was not just aimed at so-called ‘asocials’. In fact, it devoted a good amount of energy spying on its own agents. During the first five years of the regime the SED undertook a number of expulsions and purges of its members, often using forced confessions and brutal interrogations. This changed over time, though, as repression turned into disciplining. With it the functionary's lifestyle became increasingly important. It is worth recalling that, apart from clear oppositional groups, the Stasi's early targets were mainly those sectors entrusted with physical violence—the military, the defence industry, border security, and the police. Once these groups were brought to heel, the Stasi moved on to scrutinize the reliability of the functional elites and the so-called nomenklatura.66 Nowhere was this more evident than in the work of the SED's Control Commission, or Kontrollkommission. This commission was explicitly created to vet the suitability of young SED Party cadres (such as police officials and Stasi agents) for government service, which included prying into their private affairs in the name of ‘socialist morality’ and proper comportment.67 Such puritanical communist standards had their roots in the early Soviet Union. As early as 1920 a Communist (p.33) Party Control Commission was established as a modern-day ecclesiastical court to ‘civilize’ the private actions of wayward Party brethren. In these quasi-legal ‘comradely conversations’, fellow Bolsheviks were admonished for alcohol abuse or sexual misconduct, and reminded how far short they fell from the lofty ‘monastic ideals’ of Bolshevist morality.68 This kind of communist asceticism and moral policing was typical across the Eastern bloc after 1945. As Czeslaw Milosz observed about 1950s Poland: ‘The higher one stands in the Party hierarchy, the more attentively is one's private life supervised. Love of money, drunkenness, or a confused love-life disqualify a Party member from holding important offices. Hence the upper brackets of the Party are filled by ascetics devoted to the single cause of Revolution…The general ideal of the New Faith is puritanical.’69
In the GDR this took on an extreme form. The pressure to maintain upstanding private lives was considered important as they were instances of ‘socialist personality’, and the private lives of government officials, police officers, and Stasi agents were often placed under severe scrutiny.70 As a testament, the words of Feliks Dzierzynski, the founder of the Soviet Cheka, were conspicuously displayed on Stasi office walls: ‘Only a person with a cool head and a warm heart and clean hands can be a Chekist. A Chekist must be cleaner, more honest than anyone—he must be as clear as a crystal.’71 Notably, these were often understood as particularly male codes of conduct. Indeed, the Stasi was one of the last bastions of East German patriarchy. For a society that prided itself on the equality of the sexes at work and in public life, the Stasi was a remarkably traditional male preserve of power and privilege. It was often ridiculed by GDR feminists as a ‘men's club’ that directed its misogyny at ‘alternatively-thinking and independently-minded women’.72 Women working at the Stasi were generally relegated to traditional gender ghettos, such as secretaries, cleaners, and cooks. As one female agent recalled in the 1990s: ‘The functions associated with a lot of work but little honor were always filled by women. Because they had children, women were not put in functions which were really important.’73 Wives and daughters of Stasi employees were often recruited for service since they were presumed to be particularly loyal. The percentage of women in the Stasi's foreign intelligence unit was higher (around 18 per cent), but this seems to be because they were often used as so-called Juliets—‘romantic decoys’ or prostitutes.74 Early Stasi recruitment guidelines stated that ‘young, good-looking female unofficial employees with good manners, the ability to pick things up quickly and who are able on account of their professional position to form connections to specific social groups’ were considered a great advantage.75
The Party's Control Commission files were predominantly about male officers. They noted if SED members married Christian partners, since they were suspected of being ‘without an honest connection to the GDR’.76 Drinking habits and sexual behavior of Stasi officers were also favourite subjects of comment and investigation.77 The expectations of marital solidity were (p.34) especially high for the aspiring SED elite. If married functionaries were caught in adulterous relationships, for example, they were often forced to confess all before the commission, express contrition, and recommit to their spouses at the next Party forum.78 No less interesting is that it was often the wives of functionaries who initially brought the cases before the quasi-court, as citizens looked to the Party as a moral arbiter of private domestic conflict.79 And these commissions took their task seriously. They kept track of subsequent behaviour, and there was little chance of career advancement in government if the Party functionary in question was divorced.80 In the despondent words of one Stasi officer interviewed in the mid-1990s, when recalling the Stasi's control of private life: ‘You couldn't marry without the Ministry' approval. If your wife' father or even uncle had been in the SS, you would have to choose between her and your job…Why, you weren't even allowed to grow a beard.’81 The Stasi subculture was one built on a severe code of conformity, superiority, and model citizenship, whose repressive politics were geared towards itself as much as to ‘asocials’. So whereas the occupying Red Army maintained a segregated subculture, rarely mixing with the larger East German population, the Stasi very much reflected—and helped maintain—East German social norms and ideals.
How ordinary people reacted to this network of surveillance is not easy to gauge with any precision. No doubt the Stasi, along with these other quasi-state networks such as the ‘housing communities’, cast a wet blanket over GDR society, making open discourse risky business. In the mid-1970s a number of GDR residents who had recently fled to the West were interviewed by a West German journalist. Here they recalled their abiding fear of speaking too frankly at work or around the neighbourhood.82 Others interviewed remarked that they were apprehensive to talk about their personal problems outside a small circle of friends and family.83 How draconian or repressive this actually was of course depended on the individual person. In the twenty-five interviews and thirty questionnaires on private life that were conducted for this book over the period 2004–7, I was surprised how few people communicated any real conflict with either the Stasi or the Hausvertrauensmann. Invariably they all knew who these people were in the neighbourhood and residential building, and that they had to be very careful and discreet in their dealing with them. Many recounted an atmosphere of fear and mutual surveillance. Yet those who kept their heads down and never fell foul of the state's purview—probably the vast majority of people—rarely encountered any real problems, and even dismissed the state's security presence as more akin to an accepted annoyance. One questionnaire respondent likened the confidence men and Auxiliary Police to ‘bothersome stairwell terriers’ (lästige Treppenterrier) in tenant life.84 For most citizens, the Stasi was less a repressive organ than a constant irritant, what publicist Jens Reich described as an irremovable ‘scratchy undershirt’.85
Experiences certainly were very different for dissidents, though. Christians, as noted, suffered greatly in the face of Stasi persecution. But so did other dissident (p.35) activists. Writer Jürgen Fuchs, who eventually emigrated to the West in the early 1980s, chronicled how he had been constantly victimized by Stasi terror.86 Theatre director Freya Klier kept a diary about the octopus-like reach of the Party, as well as her constant fear of the next police visit.87 Dissident Robert Havemann was the subject of constant Stasi harassment and eventual house arrest, and his activities (visitors, phone calls, and intimate relations) filled dozens of dossiers at the Stasi office.88 In her 2003 collection of short stories Meine Freie Deutsche Jugend, Claudia Rusch, whose mother was close to the Havemann family, recalls how she and her family lived under constant surveillance from Stasi ‘cockroaches’ from the late 1950s onwards.89 This had profound psychological effects on those under observation. As Joachim Gauck, the Rostock pastor who headed the Federal Government's ‘Gauck Authority’ charged with overseeing the Stasi files after Reunification, asserted in 1991, ‘[t]o be caught in Stasi crosshairs normally meant years of psychic pressure and the need to put up with a constant feeling of being observed—even more [it meant] the experience of impotence and being unable to carry on with one's life’.90 As a reaction, ‘most withdrew into whatever privacy could be carved out’ to cope with these conditions.91 But this did not always work. People dreamt of being followed and observed by the Stasi.92 Some internalized fear to such an extent that the Stasi were believed to be able to spy on their dreams.93 One East Berlin photographer recorded in his diary that Stasi agents dominated his recurring nightmares in the 1980s, often imprisoning him in a cage to prevent him from escaping to the West.94 Such internalized fears were also common during the Third Reich, as nightmares about the regime were often characterized by a world ‘without walls’, with the eyes and ears of the state everywhere.95 As one GDR interviewee laconically remarked, ‘We were a large collective…to be private was not looked upon kindly.’96
Diary Writing (or Not)
Such anxieties found their way into secret East German diaries. Some registered unpleasant encounters with the Stasi. One East German banker for example wrote how he was accused by the Stasi of extortion, and how he had to fight to restore his reputation and post before eventually migrating to West Germany in 1982.97 Pastors recorded rough Stasi harassment, while others recounted how they were spied upon by the Stasi in their residential areas or elsewhere.98 Several women chronicled violence within the home, whether in the form of rapes from Russian soldiers or physical abuse from their husbands.99 (Domestic violence will be discussed in Chapter 3.) One Potsdam actress wrote in the 1970s about her ‘flight into a so-called private life’ as a retreat from state surveillance and the atmosphere of mistrust. In one of her diary entries from 1979, she penned that it was widespread disillusionment towards GDR state and society that spurred (p.36) the desire for ‘private, soft love’ among friends and partners as a ‘protest against violence’.100
Drawing on diaries as historical sources is certainly not new, and has been used by historians for years as unique—if not necessarily representative—insights into the past.101 In recent years the study of diaries has offered fresh perspectives on the study of the Third Reich, as noted with the 1998 publication of Victor Klemperer's two-volume eyewitness testimony, I Will Bear Witness, as well as Saul Friedländer's landmark two-volume, Nazi Germany and the Jews, published in 1997 and 2007.102 Yet one of the most interesting—and rarely remarked—aspects of GDR society is how few East Germans kept diaries. This is extremely striking to anyone researching at the two research archives for modern German diaries, namely the Deutsches Tagebuch-Archiv in Emmindingen and the Walter Kempowski-Archiv in Berlin. Both contain a good collection of German diaries from the late Wilhelmine period to the 1960s, but comparatively little on the GDR. To say however that this is a natural result of authoritarian regimes is not very useful. After all, the lion's share of both archives focuses on the Third Reich, as people kept diaries in various forms by the tens of thousands across the country. And this went for the victims as well. For their part, Jews tirelessly chronicled the transformation of Germany and Germans during these years, often at their great peril, writing in circumstances far more threatening than anything any East German diarist ever encountered.103 And yet private diary-writing was rarely done in the GDR, and if so with great trepidation. As several interviewees noted to me, East Germany was ‘no diary culture’.
The lack of diaries was apparently due in part to a Stasi-inspired culture of fear. As noted in interviews, the main thing that inhibited people from keeping a diary was the possible consequences of what would happen to them if it were discovered by the police. They recounted many personal stories—especially from those affiliated with the Church or any dissident group—of burning letters or diaries in moments of anxiety about a possible house search. Gustav Just, the former editor of Sonntag news magazine and the GDR's first Secretary of the German Writers Union, expressed his fear of keeping a diary in the 1950s in his secret notebooks at the time: ‘I don't write this diary at home. Because I am fearful…fearful that suddenly the doorbell could ring, and outside six men could be standing there, with an arrest warrant from the state court due to “urgent suspicious activities,” and while searching the house they could find this journal with my true thoughts.. To this I should say where I write this journal: at my parents house in Bad Schmiedeberg.’104 Such anxiety was registered by others too. Another diarist put it this way in an entry as late as May 1989: ‘I hate this diary! Nobody here in the “East” may ever be allowed to find it, while in the “West” I can't go public with it.’105 Diary-writing in the GDR was at once isolated and isolating, endangered and dangerous.
Of course diary-writing was not strictly taboo in the GDR. Heroized accounts of exemplary antifascists—such as Ernst Thälmann or East German Spanish (p.37) Civil War veterans—were standard references within East German official culture.106 Pupils were required to write diaries to document school trips to the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc states. From the late 1950s diaries were even promoted, but in state-sponsored ways. An initiative took wing with the pivotal Bitterfeld Conference in 1959, after which workers were entreated to pick up their pens to chronicle the heroic and world-historical construction of socialism in the form of so-called ‘brigade books’. The aim was to integrate workers into GDR literary culture with the catchphrase ‘Grab Your Pen, Mate!’ and to write ‘collective diaries’ of labour achievement and socialist solidarity. Workers were encouraged to contribute to them at their workplace, and many did so by the thousands in the 1960s and 1970s. The opening of one 1969 Leipzig collection of worker short stories commemorating the country's twentieth anniversary was typical: ‘The members of the writing circle [of this collective diary] would like to express their thanks that they have grown up in this republic. The republic has always been a homeland to them, and has shown them the good way, a way to the future in which the small happiness of the individual is embedded in the great happiness of our socialist community.’107 But such collective diaries were predicated on eradicating the distance and singularity of individual diary-writing. This was precisely the antithesis of bourgeois diary-writing, as one's private views and feelings were to be incorporated into the collective framework of common enterprise and historical optimism. Perhaps this was why that there was such great attention paid to—and popular interest in—those writers who published diaries or tales of ‘subjective authenticity’, like Christa Wolf, Brigitte Reimann, and Maxie Wander, since the presence of uncensored first-person subjectivity had relatively little place in GDR culture.108
In the few GDR diaries one can find, there is a noticeable disinclination to communicate anything really intimate, revealing, or judgemental, reflecting a deep and widespread fear of discovery. It is not that people were uncritical; but they were reluctant to commit their private thoughts and feelings to paper. This was certainly true of writing and sending letters. Everyone knew for example that the secret police closely monitored all correspondence, especially if it involved contacts in the West. But such self-censorship continued on even in their private diaries too, as East Germans whom I interviewed reiterated.109 The result was that state and society—along with the whole world of ideology—hardly figured at all. I never encountered one diary that chronicled socialist life with the enthusiasm or excitement encouraged in the ‘brigade books’, or anything like the proud private chronicles linking personal triumph and national achievement so common among German diary-writers in the Nazi years. Instead, entries were almost exclusively shaped by personal or family concerns, with society itself as quite distant or non-existent. Work life rarely entered either, nor was there much material or references to the Stasi, residential authorities, community life, or neighbours, aside from the exceptions discussed above. Basic quotidian concerns—material shortages, consumer acquisitions, love stories, Christmas (p.38) celebrations, births and deaths of family members—served as the main pivot points. While some might see such ‘apolitical’ diaries as denoting the limit of the state, others could counter that they represented the remarkable internalization of Stasi censorship even at home. As writer Jurek Becker averred:
One of the Stasi's greatest strengths lay in the fact that one often presumed its representatives to be present when in reality this wasn't the case. Many telephone conversations only took place for the benefit of the person listening in. Letters contained empty phrases which were not meant for the person they were addressed to but for the person monitoring them, and at public gatherings (everyone's life was full of public gatherings) you even made yourself sick with your applause at certain points.110
Fear and self-censorship were not just limited to public behaviour, but seemed to have found expression even in the most private activity of all—diary-writing. The famed ‘double life’ of East German citizens, built on the split between public and private self, outward conformity and inward dissent, was infrequently registered in the most bourgeois of all genres of selfhood. That privacy in the GDR was rarely recorded in this traditional cultural form may attest in some measure to the perceived power of the Stasi in the lives and imagination of East German citizens. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, East German citizens were not shy about narrating their private lives, but they used different forms.
‘Operative Psychology’ and Privilege
The ascension of Erich Honecker as Walter Ulbricht's successor in 1971 augured a spirit of change and even liberalization in the country. Not so with the Stasi. In fact, the Stasi grew both in numbers and importance under Honecker. Almost immediately Stasi Chief Erich Mielke was named as a full member of the all-powerful twelve-man Politbüro, underscoring the Stasi's central role in the Age of Détente.
At first this may seem odd, not least because the potential threats from West Germany and the West more generally had been clearly mitigated by both the 1961 construction of the Wall and the advent of Ostpolitik, or Eastern Policy, a decade later. National security, international recognition, and domestic stability had all been achieved, while the economy was posting quite satisfactory results overall. The signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 also reaffirmed the sanctity of borders of Stalin's Europe. It signalled that the West's original outrage towards the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a thing of the past, to the extent that the Yalta partition was now given international blessing. A growing sense of normalization reportedly pervaded the country, as the state effectively relaxed its reformatory zeal toward the vast majority of its law-abiding citizens. But it seems that it was precisely this new distancing of state and citizen that fuelled renewed state apprehension about citizen conduct. (p.39)
Key international events shaped East German domestic policy. For instance, the Stasi's expansion under Honecker was in part a reaction to the potential repercussions of the ill-fated 1968 ‘Prague Spring’ reform movement in East Germany. The international diplomatic recognition of the GDR as a separate state five years later also spurred increasing Stasi activity. It was not just that Western diplomats in East Berlin needed to be kept under increased surveillance. The home population also had to be kept under closer watch, given the country's increasing contact with and influence from the West as a result of Ostpolitik. The Helsinki Accords in 1975 were viewed as a worrisome Trojan Horse in this respect.111 By 1977 the Stasi expanded to over 10,000 employees.112 It generated countless nervous reports about the changing domestic situation, especially regarding the churches' assertive political role both in GDR society and across the Eastern bloc.113 Files were kept on the East German signatories of the Czech human rights declaration, Charta 77, along with any dissident who had contact with the churches.114 The blossoming of new human rights groups in the GDR in the 1980s was duly noted by the Stasi.115 Indeed, the major spikes in Stasi activity were directly linked to destabilizing international events—the 1968 Prague Spring, 1975 Helsinki Accords, and the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981.116 There was also stepped up surveillance after Gorbachev's takeover in 1985 against the ever-elastic term of ‘subversives’, since Moscow was no longer seen as willing to exercise military intervention to quell disorder.117 The SED's hard-line repudiation of Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika only complicated things for the Stasi, as dissidents increasingly looked to Moscow to challenge GDR authority.118
The 1970s were thus the golden age of the Stasi. It was at this time that Mielke's empire developed its full spectrum of technological wizardry, including secret video equipment, recording devices, invisible ink, automated letter-opening machines, smell samples, and fluorescent ‘spy dust’. By the 1970s secret cameras were installed in all big city hotels. The Bellevue in Dresden, for example, supposedly had all of its telephones tapped and rooms bugged, with video observation set up in select suites. Stasi-paid prostitutes were hired as ‘honey traps’ to seduce unsuspecting Western politicians and businessmen into divulging secrets and intelligence.119 Specifically designated ‘safe houses’ were installed with ubiquitous cameras and audio equipment—even in the bathroom—to debrief defectors or monitor agent groups.120 Such activities were a far cry from the first two decades of the GDR, when the Stasi showed comparatively little interest in the private lives of its citizens. As late as 1957 the Stasi did not even possess its own telephone network.121 But all of this changed in the 1970s and 1980s, as the opening of the GDR to permeation from the West only intensified state surveillance. Mary Fulbrook captured the paradox thus: ‘As time went by, and the very existence of the GDR appeared less under threat, the paranoia became, in a sense, more institutionalized.’122 (p.40)
As the Stasi got bigger, it also changed in outlook. By the 1970s the agency relied less on violence and imprisonment, using instead more sophisticated ‘subversion’ and ‘distraction’ methods. The new approach went by the name of Zersetzen, roughly translated as ‘decomposition’.123 According to a confidential State Security document, the goal of this decomposition was ‘splitting up, paralyzing, disorganizing and isolating hostile-negative forces in order, by means of preventive action, to foil, considerably reduce or entirely stop hostile-negative actions and their consequences, or, where possible to win them back both politically and ideologically’.124 Such a strategy saw the application of 1960s ‘operative psychology’ and its preventative ‘milieu theory’ of deviance, one that necessitated a more robust regime of close observation and record keeping.125 The new approach was in part due to the growing perception that terrorist methods were counterproductive, and that a more brutal style of extracting information would undermine the legitimacy of the regime, especially after the signature of the Helsinki Accords in 1975. Indeed, the international reputation of the regime was always very important to the government, and the SED learned to couch its activities in terms palatable to an international audience. The 1969 Stasi statute, for example, spun its task as above all ‘to investigate criminal offenses, especially those against the sovereignty of the GDR, peace, humanity and human rights’.126
A 1976 Stasi directive spelt out what this ‘decomposition’ strategy meant more concretely. Its aim was the
[s]ystematic discrediting of public reputations, appearance and prestige on the basis of combining true, verifiable discrediting facts with false, but believable and unverifiable discrediting claims; systematic orchestration of career and social failures in order to undermine the self-confidence of individual persons…the instigation of mistrust and mutual suspicion within groups of personal circles and organizations; instigation, exploitation and intensification of rivalries within personal circles, groups and organizations through the use of personal weaknesses among individual members; occupying groups, circles and organizations with their own internal problems while limiting their negative-hostile actions.127
Particular target groups included those who applied to leave the country, activists and artists, ‘reactionary’ clerics, dissident Christians, and ‘negative’ groups of youth.128 Women were typically targeted more frequently than men.129 Such psychological repression aimed to undermine the suspect's self-worth and confidence by inducing fear, panic, and confusion. Methods not only included telephone tapping, mail control, and routine house searches,130 but also breaking down suspects, sowing disagreement among opposition groups, and restricting movement, such as the withdrawal of driver licences.131 Often this took the form of Stasi collaborators entering the suspect's place of residence and doing small things to puzzle the resident. Pictures would be rearranged slightly, spice jars would be displaced, and favourite teas would be replaced with other brands.132 Agents often sent compromising photographs and anonymous letters with false (p.41) allegations to friends and neighbours to undermine citizens, as chronicled in writer Reiner Kunze's 1990 exposé of his own Stasi file, Deckname ‘Lyrik’.133 No private issue was off limits. Measures even included trying to sow discord between married partners by sending doctored photographs of insinuated trysts and extramarital activities. A classic case was that of the dissidents Gerd and Ulrike Poppe. Upon reading through his 12,000 page file after 1989, Gerd Poppe learnt that the Stasi had hired a young male agent provocateur to try to seduce his wife as a means of undermining their marriage.134 In so doing the Stasi had expanded into new territory. Such repressive psychological methods meant that there was ‘no inaccessible spheres for these decomposition strategies’, as ‘incursions into intimate life’ shattered any sense of a ‘protected private sphere’.135
The Stasi was moving into other areas well beyond its former sphere of political security. Over time its 90,000 paid operatives did much more than simply open mail and monitor telephone calls. By the mid-1980s the Stasi had accumulated twenty-seven separate divisions entrusted with matters ranging from party loyalty to economic surveillance, whose annual budget actually exceeded that of the Interior Ministry. The Stasi became more and more involved in safeguarding the economy in myriad ways. This included protecting the vital sectors of microelectronics, energy, the chemical industry, and foreign trade; uncovering graft, corruption, and sabotage; and/or investigating fires and accidents much like an insurance agency. It even fell to the Stasi to keep the GDR's infamous sports doping programme running.136 It is no exaggeration to say that the Stasi was the only real growth industry in Honecker's Germany, baldly reflecting the priorities of the state. Another statistic puts Honecker's understanding of socialist welfare in perspective: whereas there was one doctor per 400 GDR residents in 1988, one in 165 citizens worked for the Stasi.137
By the 1970s the Stasi tended to wield its power with inducements. It made sure that those who were loyal to the Party got good or important jobs, and those who were disloyal did not. The Stasi could—and did—influence who did or did not go on to study at university, as well as who was appointed university lecturer or professor. Indeed, some 80 per cent of professors were SED members, and many of them saw it as their duty to report to the Stasi if asked. Doctors too were recruited as informers. In part this explains the febrile production of six million citizen files, to the extent that the Stasi ‘was as much a massive system of vetting as it was an apparatus of simple persecution’.138 But it was also a dispenser of precious privileges. Here it pays to recall the Stasi's long-forgotten world of rare GDR status and luxury, one that diverged markedly from the bland uniformity of most people's lives. Stasi agents were relatively well-paid, had privileged access to special shops with Western goods, and could travel abroad more freely than others. They often lived in the best apartments and villas, and enjoyed a vast network of vacation spas, exclusive hospitals, and sports complexes. To be sure, this rarified world of socialist indulgence was the preserve of only a lucky few, and access to such luxuries greatly depended on internal rank, length of (p.42) service, and function within The Firm. Lower-ranking Stasi agents, for example, often griped about the poor quality of their housing, showing that they were hardly immune from the problems affecting the rest of society.139
But such a world—the extent of which was only made fully known after 1989—did draw attention to a ticklish theme of GDR life: status and class differences. Class privilege was rife across the Eastern bloc and Soviet Union, and East Germany was no exception.140 Given the bottlenecks of production and chronic shortages of desired consumer items, GDR society featured a flourishing—if officially non-existent—black market of goods and services. Access to them often depended on luck (such as family members in the West), extended social networks, or a good relation with the authorities. One's ability to get scarce goods was popularly known as ‘Vitamin B’ for Beziehungen, or connections.141 It was well known that Party cadres, government officials, and top athletes got better housing, consumer goods, telephones, and travel rights than others, while white-collar workers generally enjoyed better housing than manual labourers. In fact, the Party often used decent housing to lure new recruits as SED functionaries, or to bribe valuable scientific experts to stay in the country. When luxury boutiques Intershop and Delikat were opened in the 1970s to attract Western currency and allay pent-up East German consumer frustration, the ‘unsocialist’ inequality of income and access to highly coveted Western commodities became apparent to all, and was widely criticized by the public.142 So strong was this resentment that in the political demonstrations of 1989, placards against the injustice of consumer goods distribution took their place alongside others demanding political change and free elections.143
The Stasi played a pivotal role in this regard, as people often turned to the secret police for personal concerns and favours. Some wrote letters to the Stasi about poor work conditions and widespread corruption, and fully expected that the secret police would act on their behalf.144 Stasi agents were thus perceived as social workers as much as secret policemen. The point is that these citizens believed that the Stasi could and should set things right. What the Stasi administered, however, was less social justice than private privilege. In this socialist world of scarce resources and rationed privileges, the Stasi ruled the roost. It sat atop an East German clientele system in which favours, privileges, and status were bargained privately in exchange for information and cooperation. Privilege became a standard and effective way of controlling the distribution of what people wanted most and, just as importantly, keeping its rewards arbitrary.145
This brings us to perhaps the most notorious aspect of Stasi activity, the remarkable network of so-called ‘unofficial collaborators’. The explosion of informants in the 1970s and 1980s can well be understood in relation to this (p.43) rationed world of privileges in East Germany, as people were tempted by the Stasi's material enticements. Denunciations were of course crucial to the success of the Stasi, in that they served as secret link between the Stasi and society. Informers became the agency's eyes and ears, and were highly sought after for their effectiveness. So much so that agents actually competed with one another over the number of recruited collaborators—those who did not bring in twenty-five new informers a year were frequently criticized.146 In the Stasi imagination, the world was characterized by a kind of friend/foe mentality. There was a constant fear of ‘fifth-columnism’, as all nonconformity was seen as the work of ‘class enemies’ and ‘hostile-negative forces’. Of utmost concern was the need to encourage what was called ‘antifascist alertness’ among the citizenry. Article 6 of the GDR 1949 Constitution, which railed against the danger of Boykotthetze, provided cover for turning unfavourable opinions against the state into treasonous ‘hostile negative’ activities.147 Marxist-Leninist principles underlay the Code of Criminal Procedure, which stated that citizens should play a key role in developing ‘the socialist state and legal consciousness’ by helping the police solve crimes and keep socialist society socialist.148 Identifying ‘asocials’ and other suspicious characters was then interpreted as an act of patriotism, justice, and social welfare. Informants were hired to help identify and root out deviance, which covered anything from ‘petty bourgeois egotism’, careerism, criminal behaviour, excessive grumbling, as well as sundry anti-social(ist) attitudes.
Denunciations are notoriously difficult to define, but at the very least they constituted accusations of wrongdoing by other citizens or officials, usually—though not always—delivered privately to the authorities. Denunciations as a social practice enjoy a long tradition, stretching from the Inquisition to Calvin's Geneva through to the Venetian Republics and the French Revolution. The Napoleonic Penal Code of 1810 imposed severe penalties for not denouncing infractions against the security of the state, while Russian tsars had long used the ‘duty to denounce’ as an effective means to expose corruption and cultivate subject loyalty. The Bolsheviks may have at first despised these traditions, but they soon recognized that denunciations were useful and even affirmative. Similar trends could be found elsewhere. In Vichy France, for example, French citizens wrote three to five million letters of denunciations during the Nazi Occupation, and the US Congress's House of Un-American Activities Committee incited its own ‘culture of denunciation’ as part of a McCarthyite witch hunt for internal enemies of the state at the height of the cold war.149 Even so, the Allies condemned such destructive social practices as characteristic of tyrannical states and an affront to civilization itself, and discouraging them was seen as a necessary condition to building a model civil society in post-fascist Germany. In fact, Article 2 of the Allied Control Council Law 10 of December 1945 even made denunciation a human rights violation.150
While denunciations were practised across all twentieth-century regimes, they were most common in authoritarian regimes. Two stand out in the flagrant use (p.44) of denunciations as a means of consolidating government power over their citizens. The first was the Soviet Union. As Sheila Fitzpatrick put it, the Bolsheviks viewed denunciations with a particularly sectarian zeal—there can be ‘no secrets in the community of saints’. The ideal was the self-policing collective, based on vigilance and mutual surveillance. No coincidence that the explosion of denunciations was linked to periods of social upheaval and new ideals of social mobility. It was during the period after the abolition of peasant serfdom in 1861 and then again after the 1917 Revolution that denunciations reached their height, as many of them were fuelled by envy and moral injuries resulting from perceived inequality. That the distribution of dachas to the Party elite was to be kept strictly forbidden belied this sentiment about keeping social inequalities within the communist regime hidden.151 Issues of ‘class morality’ became even more important under Stalin. Children were encouraged to inform on their parents, as the playground became a ‘breeding ground of informers’.152 In this sense, denunciations played an analogous role to Stalin's ‘second economy’ of black marketeering.153
The other regime was of course Nazi Germany. Recent scholarship has revised the long-dominant popular image of leather-clad Gestapo standing on every corner, fastidiously keeping tabs on a subjugated German society. In fact, the Gestapo was a relatively small organization, perhaps 7,000 officials in a country of sixty-six million inhabitants. Given its relatively small size, the Gestapo needed a great deal of help from citizens. Even before taking power in 1933, the Nazi Party had developed a certain ‘culture of denunciation’ in its press, most notably in Julius Streicher's notorious Nazi rag, Der Stürmer, which routinely featured zealous denunciatory letters from readers about Jews, racial defilement, current affairs, and local scandals.154 After 1933 the Gestapo's mission to combat ‘political criminality’ was given broad scope, as dissent and criticism were criminalized. People denounced their neighbours for various personal ends, often invoking the elastic term Volksgemeinschaft (racial community) for their own self-interest.155 But there were pre-1933 roots of such activities. Building networks of informants and citizen surveillance was a hallmark of modern policing, and took on new importance after the First World War. Given the unstable political situation after 1918, criminal police forces in the Weimar Republic encouraged and relied upon an extensive world of ‘mutual surveillance’ to carry out their work. Even communist cells in interwar Berlin enforced discipline in their ranks by soliciting reporting on fellow Party members. The point is that German citizens had grown accustomed to serving as the eyes and ears of the police long before 1933.156
This intensified in new ways after the Nazi seizure of power. Local cases involving the identification of those listening to foreign radio broadcasts or the enforced isolation of Jews relied to a large extent on voluntary denunciations. Private motives (a better apartment, a neighbourhood grudge, or marital conflict) were usually at the root of these denunciations.157 Many, for example, were advanced by women who sought protection from physical abuse and sexual (p.45) violence.158 The Gestapo became an instrument for resolving sundry private disputes from the very beginning, helping to shore up Party legitimacy at the local level by serving as ‘the petty power of the Volksgenossen’.159 Since denunciations and petitioning were a ‘zero-sum game’, in that one's welfare came at the expense of another's, the Gestapo therefore emerged as a key instrument of popular justice.160
However, there were fundamental differences between the Gestapo and the Stasi in their attitude towards collaborators. Nazi leaders were actually quite uncomfortable about fostering too much denouncing, to the point of publishing verdicts in the press when suppliers of false information were exposed in court. By 1934 the Reich Minister of the Interior actually demanded that steps be taken to reduce the number of denunciations filed with the police.161 But even if the Gestapo voiced concern about the ‘objectivity’ of voluntary informers, it depended heavily on volunteers to help identify potential ‘enemies of the state’ and keep order at the local level. Conversely, the Stasi was more suspicious of voluntary informers. In part this was because they were seen as possible enemy agents and ‘imperialist spies’, or that their aggressive zeal might prove useless in supplying reliable information. The 1953 Uprising proved crucial in this respect, in that the new Stasi interpreted this intelligence failure as a consequence of relying too heavily on volunteers. After 1953 the emphasis shifted towards formalizing a network of reliable informers. The Stasi much preferred to select its own candidates and to initiate them into the values and practices of The Firm. The Stasi had effectively ‘professionalized’ its network of informants, and voluntary, extra-Stasi denunciations played virtually no role in intelligence-gathering and criminal prosecution.162
As for figures, the scholarly consensus is that some 500,000 citizens worked as ‘unofficial collaborators’ for the Stasi. If part-time informants are included, there were reportedly as many as one informer for every 6.5 citizens. According to statistics, 80–90 per cent of informants were men, aged between 25 and 40.163 (In Nazi Germany, by comparison, roughly three-quarters were male.164) Recruitment started early. While numbers were comparatively small by 1950, estimated at well below 10,000,165 by 1952 the Stasi had won over some 30,000 citizens as ‘secret informers’.166 This increased twenty-fold over the decades. To maintain control and to assure the good running of the system, around 10 per cent of ‘informal collaborators’ were ‘retired’ every year, making way for a new crop of recruits to take their place.
Typically potential informants were approached at home or work by Stasi agents with quite innocent requests.167 They were then given more intense assignments once their trust and competence had been demonstrated. New recruits often met Stasi officers in so-called ‘conspiratorial apartments’ to disclose their findings. Before they were accepted, background information was gathered from other informants, close relatives, work colleagues, neighbours, and friends about the candidate's political views, habits, organizational membership, sexual (p.46) behaviour, and contacts with the West. Once he or she had passed, the new recruit was given a cover name, and a file opened. A pact of cooperation, loyalty, and secrecy was then signed. Tellingly, the labels used to describe such covert actions changed over time. Until 1968 collaborators were known as Geheime Informatoren, or secret informers. But this designation was changed to ‘IM’—inoffizielle Mitarbeiter, or ‘unofficial collaborator’—on the grounds that the new moniker appeared less invasive, conspiratorial, or morally reprehensible. (The Stasi was also keen to avoid the word snoop (Spitzel), for fear of its Gestapo association.) The informer's private life was considered an important part of the relationship, and Stasi agents routinely offered moral advice to them about maintaining proper standards of behaviour at home. According to Stasi protocols, the informer was to be treated with ‘utmost respect’, and agents were encouraged to cultivate ‘genuine human bonds’ with them. Trust and reliability were the favorite watchwords used, and it seems to have succeeded with many. A number of former informants interviewed in the 1990s asserted that the Stasi ‘gave me roots’ and ‘comfort’ in the world.168 Others referred to their personal Stasi contact as ‘my Stasi’, adding that ‘no one else came as close to me as my Stasi officer’.169
The Stasi even exploited children as spies and collaborators. In fact, around 20,000 informers were under the age of 18.170 While their influence was exploited over the decades, young informants became especially valued in the 1970s and 1980s. Secret opinion poll data at the time revealed that GDR youth were more and more disaffected, and thus needed to be watched more carefully.171 The Stasi used young informants to penetrate circles of ‘decadent youth’ (punks, Goths, skinheads) otherwise resistant to standard surveillance tactics. Children were also cajoled into spying on dissident adults or ‘hostile negative youth’ who resisted the heavily regimented world of school, socialist youth groups, and military training. Many teenage informants were babysitters, who reported on family discussions. Children from broken homes were easy recruits, as the Stasi provided them with structure, protection, and badly needed esteem. Enticements were dangled before them as well—guaranteed university places, coveted jobs, or a better apartment were standard carrots of inducement.172 For criminal youth, their sentences were commuted if they cooperated. The children of Stasi agents were particularly favoured recruits for restocking the ranks of informers, since they were seen as being already inured to the cardinal virtues of trust and secrecy.
Motivations for collaborating with the Stasi varied. Often it came about from political conviction—be it Marxist-Leninism, humanism, patriotism, religious views, and/or anti-capitalism. Others wanted to make good on their compromised pasts. Many SED members were former Nazis or had incriminating political pasts, and were desperate to make amends in demonstrations of loyalty and service. Still others were motivated by career ambition, petty revenge, and/or the desire for social privileges.173 One 1967 internal Stasi report listed citizen (p.47) motives for cooperation as ranging from ‘recognition of societal demands’, ‘ethical obligation’, ‘personal advantages’, and various desires, such as love of secret adventures.174 However, the idealism that motivated earlier denunciations tended to drop off in the 1970s and 1980s both in East Germany and across the Eastern bloc; rather, material considerations—and in particular the allure of privileges—mattered most with time.175 Such material benefits included visas to the West, better apartments, higher publishing runs, rare consumer goods, and financial bonuses.176 There are many files on Christian informants who spied on fellow Christians in exchange for various favours (improved housing and guaranteed university places) from the state.177 East Germans were thus bought off, blackmailed, or intimidated into serving the Stasi in one way or another. For them, collaboration was thus a mixture of pressure and temptation, idealism and materialism.
The Stasi–informant relationship was not just transactional. In fact, the personalization of contact was considered quite important for many informants. The informer's altruism and idealism was often encouraged by the Stasi officer, and personal needs and interests were exploited to cultivate loyalty. Gifts and benefits, while not the sole motivational factor behind collaboration, did have a decisive bonding effect.178 Through the 1970s and 1980s the Stasi also became more savvy about deploying psychotherapeutic language to nurture their charges, effectively blending care and control. For many the relationship became a form of communication and communion in a world in which these things were scarce commodities. As one informant recalled in the 1990s, the ‘chat’ with the Stasi officer made up for the absence any democratic public sphere: ‘This type of discussion was for me the last modest remnant of a public discussion that society was capable of.’ The emphasis on a genuine interpersonal connection was the soft face of this ‘operative psychology’ discussed above, in that this was designed to ‘decompose’ the informant into loyal service to the Stasi. As another informant confessed: ‘I had the impression that my officer wanted to help me in my private life.’179
A good insight into the making of an informant can be found in writer Reiner Kunze's bestseller, Deckname ‘Lyrik’. This was one of the first books published about the Stasi after 1989. In it Kunze used his own Stasi file as a historical document to expose the reach and strategies of the secret police. In one entry from 1972 the Stasi agent recounted his success in getting Kunze's neighbours on board:
For surveillance of Kunze in his residential area one can make use of: Comrade R, who lives next to the doorway of Kunze's flat, and can look into his apartment while opening his window. Comrade H…68 years old, retired, lives diagonal from Kunze and has condemned (verurteilt) him…in my presence. H is often at home and evenings can observe Kunze's doorway at any time…The comrade couple F…approximately 65–70 years old, live just across from Kunze…
(p.48) Another Stasi interview in 1976 with a husband and wife team asked to spy on Kunze was even more revealing. According to the Stasi records, the main objective of the meeting was to test the loyalty of the wife as a possible informant against Kunze. Comrade B (the husband) agreed that certain listening devices could be used, and, given his proximity to Kunze, he could easily bore a hole in the suspect's wall to listen in on his ‘intimate sphere’. However, the comrade's wife expressed initial reservations, saying that it
was somewhat awkward for her to spy on someone whom she highly respected, and that afterwards she could no longer look him in the eye. With the support of her husband it was made clear to her that what we do in defense against attacks against our humanist social order is nothing compared to measures taken against us by the capitalists. K[unze] is involved in antisocialist activities against our socialist society and thus does deserve to be so highly respected by his wife. Her husband added: ‘We should not share in the guilt of what Kunze does. He is not a member of society, and with such people we should not have any scruples.’ I could see that the informant's wife was in agreement.…Both gave their support and permission to avail their apartment of necessary measures. They were told in no uncertain terms that this discussion must be kept strictly confidential.180
The effects of Stasi complicity and the world of mutual surveillance were widely commented on after 1989. Most tended to see its destructive legacy in the breakdown of solidarity. Even the most resistant alternative subcultures—the Church, artists, dissidents, and punks—were riddled with Stasi informers. One historian registered this widespread shock by saying that ‘the most appalling aspect of the system of IM was the breakdown of the bonds of trust between officers and men, lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, teachers and students, pastors and their communities, friends and neighbors, family members and even lovers’.181 Upon reading her Stasi file dissident Vera Wollenberger lamented how Stasi agents (in her case, her husband) had ruined ‘her joy in life, her health and private sphere’, and with it had destroyed the ‘moral foundation’ of ‘human social life’. Writer Günter Kunert, after reading his own Stasi file, asserted that the Stasi had killed off any sense of communal life by corrupting basic interpersonal relations: ‘In the defeated system we lived in deformed interpersonal relationships and conditions. We did not act freely in casual encounters with others—like with the neighbors. We automatically blocked our reactions, we turned away as soon as a look seemed too curious to us, a question too probing, an interest in us not sufficiently justified. We lived in many respects like oysters.’182
In conclusion, pulling away the curtain of Stasi activities is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it exposes the limitations of crude models based on the idea that the state acts and citizens simply react. Publicist Klaus Hardung may have overstated the case when he wrote that the Stasi ‘was not only the largest civil war army that has ever arose on German soil; it was also a part of East German everyday life, a society within a society’.183 But he is right in taking issue (p.49) with this self-serving image of the Stasi as an ominous ‘state within a state’ with little connection to people's lives. The elaborate network of informants makes plain that citizens actively participated in this state security system, often voluntarily. Or put differently, the state's repressive powers were dependent on the actions of individual citizens. This was not so much a Panopticon as a world based on private bargains in exchange for cooperation and complicity. Over time GDR citizens learnt to ‘speak Bolshevik’ in the GDR, both internalizing and mastering the language (and practices) of power offered to them by the regime.184 Denunciations were therefore a kind of citizen activity in their own right, one of the few powerful forms of agency available to them.
Secondly, the Stasi undermined socialist cohesion even despite itself. While the Stasi sought to build a sense of community by defining it against dangerous ‘asocials’, the effect of its activities was to pit citizens against citizens. Much is known on how modern states classify and control its citizenry, how governments ‘see like a state’ in an effort to transform people into a legible body politic based on the concept of ‘a uniform, homogeneous citizenship’.185 But the Stasi story shows something different, namely how citizens were trained to view each other suspiciously in a world of mutual surveillance. This was the dark side of the social contract between GDR state and its citizenry, but it is one that went far beyond the classic bargain of exchanging freedom for security. In this case it was a strictly private agreement between the state and its citizens, based on material rewards for snitching and snooping. What the Stasi story reveals in this regard is how the SED personalized ‘conflict-management’ in the name of paternalism and stability. Simply put, the Stasi was both a repressive organ and a mediator of private conflict.186 And yet the expansion and transformation of the Stasi into a sprawling welfare organization of sticks and carrots did not make ruling any easier. In fact, it created more problems, not least because it bred rising expectations of what the state could and should do for its citizens.187 This eventually opened up the real problem of governability for the GDR's ‘welfare dictatorship’. The result was that the regime ultimately undermined its own touted virtues of solidarity through its own social politics of divide and rule.
Thirdly, the Stasi story points up the limits of Hannah Arendt's ‘atomization thesis’ about social breakdown under authoritarianism. In fact, social cohesion became polarized. It may have eroded in the wider ‘public’ sense, but it was reinforced in smaller, more private networks. The Stasi's concerted efforts to break down the family through surveillance and denunciation actually tended to strengthen—not undermine—family solidarity. The well-publicized revelations in the 1990s about Stasi betrayal by family members were in fact quite rare. Generally, the Stasi was most successful in secondary circles—that is, among one's work colleagues, housing residents, dacha neighbors, sports team members—rather than within families.188 Despite the Stasi's best efforts, there was a low rate of success in getting children to spy on their own family members.189 In this way, the family still functioned as a kind of protective refuge for most people. (p.50)
Fourthly, people became more skilled at protecting aspects of their private lives by means of dissimulation and outward conformity. Denunciation may have been a way of making the private public, but it also steeled resolve to protect what little privacy existed even more so. Put differently, the Stasi's secret power was met by citizens' own developed sense of secrecy and masked identities. As one Leipzig diarist put it: ‘The [state's] incursions in the world of leisure and private life led to stronger private bonds among people.’190 It is perhaps no accident that it was precisely former prisoners, deportees, and POWs—many of whom were victims of denunciations—who were most concerned with keeping clear lines between public and private life.191 This possesses far-reaching implications for our understanding of the private sphere under communism. Whereas most observers have interpreted such wily dissimulation as a shield to protect the citizen's pre-existing private sphere from state interference, one can go further in saying that the socialist private sphere actually came into being under these very authoritarian conditions.192
Finally, the Stasi story also requires us to revise our traditional ideas of public and private. Certainly it is true that it effectively eliminated any real social enclaves that might have allowed people to gather, discuss, and organize resistance. This jibes with more traditional understandings of the private sphere as a defence against state incursion, something that had been undermined in the East German case. In his highly influential Seeing Like a State, James Scott has argued that the ‘idea of a private realm has served to limit the ambitions of many high modernists, through either their own political values or their healthy respect for the political storm that such incursions would provoke’.193 But this doesn't go very far in understanding socialist societies like the GDR, where notions of public and private were distorted and remade by citizens living within authoritarian conditions.
The next chapter takes this story into the broader field of social conflict, focusing on how the Stasi's secret society clashed with its great rival secret society, the Church.
(4.) Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, tr. A. Sheridan (New York, 1979), 214.
(5.) This language came from the verdict in a 1978 court case in Karl-Marx-Stadt, involving a theology student who has been given Orwell's novel by a West German acquaintance. He was sentenced to prison to twenty-eight months for ‘incitement hostile to the state’. Mike Dennis, The Stasi: Myth and Reality (London, 2003), 62.
(11.) Rosenberg, Haunted Land, 290–1.
(13.) This phrase was first coined by American sociologist Richard Sennett in the conclusion to his well-known 1974 book, The Fall of Public Man, though he refers to ‘intimacies of tyranny’ in the plural. Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York, 1974), 337.
(14.) Jens Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern: Die Geschichte der Stasi, 1945–1990 (Stuttgart, 2001), 92.
(15.) David Childs, ‘The Shadow of the Stasi’, in Patricia J. Smith (ed.), After the Wall: Eastern Germany After 1989 (Boulder, Colo., 1998), 93.
(16.) On this theme, see Jens Gieseke (ed.), Staatssicherheit und Gesellschaft: Studien zum Herrschaftsalltag in der DDR (Göttingen, 2007) and Jan Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation: Heimat and the Politics of Everyday Life in the GDR, 1945–1990 (Cambridge, 2009), esp. ch. 8.
(17.) Dennis, Stasi, 15.
(20.) Mary Fulbrook, Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949–1989 (Oxford, 1995), 48.
(21.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 70.
(p.245) (24.) Alf Lüdtke (ed.), Sicherheit und Wohlfahrt: Polizei, Gesellschaft und Herrschaft im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt, 1992).
(26.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 33–46.
(28.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 43.
(29.) Herbert Reinke, ‘Policing Politics in Germany from Weimar to the Stasi’ in Mazower, Policing, 91–101, and Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 49.
(30.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 77.
(32.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 75.
(33.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 77.
(34.) Cited in Dennis, Stasi, 61.
(35.) Quoted in Fulbrook, Anatomy, 47.
(37.) Thomas Lindenberger, ‘Creating State Socialist Governance: The Case of the Deutsche Volkspolizei’, in Konrad Jarausch (ed.), Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR (New York and Oxford, 1999), 125–43.
(39.) ‘ “Geh'n Sie doch rüber, sträuben Sie sich nicht länger!” Sechs aus der DDR ausgebürgerte Sozialisten berichten’, Berliner Hefte: Zeitschrift für Kultur und Politik, 6 (1978), 110–11.
(40.) The quotations derive from Orlando Figes, Whisperers, 2, 4.
(41.) See e.g. ‘Spionage des “Sozialen Helferrings” ’, Berliner Zeitung, 26 Jan. 1950; ‘Die Spionage- und Terrorzentralen in Westberlin’, Tägliche Rundschau, 22 May 1952, and ‘Amerikanisches Spionzentrum in der DDR zerschlagen’, Neues Deutschland, 23 Sept. 1953.
(42.) ‘Hausbuch für die Deutsche Demokratische Republik’, Der Tag, 20 Dec. 1952.
(43.) Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann, ‘Der “Blockwart”: Die unteren Parteifunktionäre im nationalsozialistischen Terror- und Überwachungsapparat’, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 48/4 (2000), 575–602.
(44.) Michael Kater, The Nazi Party: A Social Profile of Members and Leaders, 1919–1945 (Oxford, 1983), 192ff.
(45.) Murphy et al., Battleground Berlin, 6.
(47.) ‘Büro des Präsidiums des Nationalrats der Nationalen Front des demokratischen Deutschland’, Berlin, 15 May 1953, Bundesarchiv Berlin (BAB) DY6/0189.
(48.) According to one 1953 report, members of one Berlin Hausgemeinschaft helped ‘motivate’ the local residents by means of music and chanting the following refrain: ‘Alles aus den Betten raus, wir kommen jetzt in Euer Haus! / Auf jeden von Euch (p.246) kommt es an, den Besten als Vertrauensmann!’ ‘Informationsbericht, Berlin, 30.3.53’, DY 6/4626, BAB.
(49.) ‘Vertrauliches Schreiben!’, memo from the Ausschuss der Nationalen Front des demokratischen Deutschlands der Hauptstadt Berlin zur 1. Sekretäre der Stadtbezirke des demokratischen Sektors', 19 June 1953, DY6 /4626, BAB.
(50.) ‘Protokoll der Tagung der Berliner Ausschusses der Nationalen Front am Montag, den 24. Juli 1961’, 3–4, DY 6/2529, BAB.
(51.) ‘Direktiv für die Tätigkeit einer Brigade des Nationalrats in Karl-Marx-Stadt Berlin’, Büro des Präsidium, 2 Dec. 1961, DY 6/0189, BAB.
(52.) Untitled and unsigned typed letter, C Rep 104/476, Landesarchiv Berlin (LAB).
(53.) Karl-Heinz B, Eisenach, questionnaire, 15 May 2007.
(54.) Dorothee Wierling, ‘Youth as Internal Enemy: Conflicts in the Education Dictatorship of the 1960s’, in Katherine Pence and Paul Betts (eds.), Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Culture and Politics (Ann Arbor, 2008), 157–82.
(55.) ‘Abschrift: Übersicht über die Meinung der einzelnen Kreise über die Tätigkeit der Kirchen unter der Jugend, 20.1.1948’, MfS Allg. S 1030/ 67, Stasi-Archiv Berlin (SAB).
(56.) Abschlussbericht zum Operativ-Vorgang ‘Burg’, 14 Mar. 1978, MfS HA XX/4/2545, SAB.
(57.) MfS HA XX/4 2764, SAB.
(58.) MfS BV Berlin XX 3236, SAB.
(59.) ‘Mein Name ist Günter C: Tonbandprotokoll eines politischen Häftlings aus der DDR’, Deutsche Zeitung (West), 12 Feb. 1978, 21 and ‘Carsten Lober: Schicksal eines Christen im “anderen Deutschland” ’, Deutsche Evangelische Zeitung, 15 Sept. 1979, 55.2/56, Landeskirchenarchiv Berlin (LKAB).
(60.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 109.
(62.) J. Ellinger, E. Lange, S. Petzold, and O. Schaefer, Eingabenarbeit heute (East Berlin, 1967), 81.
(63.) Thomas Lindenberger, ‘Das Fremde im Eigenen des Staatssozialismus: Klassendiskurs und Exclusion am Beispiel der Konstruktion des “asozialen Verhaltens”,’ in Jan C. Behrends, Thomas Lindenberger, and Patrice Poutrus (eds.), Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR (Berlin, 2003), 179–91.
(65.) Ermittlungsbericht, BV für Staatssicherheit, Abt. VIII, Leipzig 31 Jan. 1988, MfS HA XX/4/3692, SAB.
(66.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 146.
(67.) Thomas Lindenberger, Volkspolizei: Herrschaftspraxis und öffentliche Ordnung im SED-Staat, 1952–1968 (Cologne, 2003), 104–33, and Michel Christian, ‘Ausschliessen und disziplinieren: Kontrollpraxis in den kommunistischen Partei der DDR und der Tschechoslowakei’, in Sandrine Kott and Emmanuel Droit, Die ostdeutsche Gesellschaft: Eine transatlantische Perspektive (Berlin, 2006), 64–5.
(70.) Fulbrook, Anatomy, 69.
(71.) Quoted in Travis Wolfe, Policing, 72.
(73.) Cited in Dennis, Stasi, 80.
(74.) Alison Lewis, ‘En-Gendering Remembrance: Memory, Gender and Informers for the Stasi’, New German Critique, 86 (Spring Summer 2002), 113–15. See too Belinda Cooper, ‘Patriarchy within a Patriarchy: Women and the Stasi’, German Politics and Society, 16/2 (1998), 1–31.
(76.) MfS HA XX/4/426, SAB.
(77.) Dennis, Stasi, 86–87.
(78.) Dagmar Herzog, ‘East Germany' Sexual Evolution’, in Pence and Betts, Socialist Modern, 79.
(79.) Andrew I. Port, ‘Love, Lust and Lies under Communism: Family Values and Adulterous Liaisons in the German Democratic Republic’, Central European History, forthcoming.
(84.) Hans M., Berlin, questionnaire, 29 June 2005.
(85.) Jens Reich, ‘Sicherheit oder Feigheit—der Kaefer im Brennglas’, in Walter Süss and Siegfried Suckut (eds.), Staatspartei und Staatssicherheit: Zum Verhältnis von SED und MfS (Berlin, 1997), 25–37.
(86.) Jürgen Fuchs, ‘Ich du er sie wir ihr sie: Eine “Kontaktierungs” Revue’, Kursbuch (Mar. 1994), 41–58.
(87.) Freya Klier, Abreiss-Kalender: Versuch eines Tagebuchs (Munich, 1988), 262–72.
(88.) Robert Havemann Nachlass, RH 071, Matthias-Domaschk-Archiv in der Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft e.V, Berlin (MDA).
(92.) Miller, Narratives, 101.
(94.) Dietmar Riemann, ‘Tagebuch einer Ausreise, 1986–1996’, Nr 999, Deutsches Tagebuch-Archiv, Emmindingen (DTA).
(p.248) (95.) Alison Owings, Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich (New Brunswick, NJ, 1993), 373–4.
(96.) Gertraud T., questionnaire, Berlin, 19 July 2005.
(97.) Paul Franzel, ‘Mein Leben mit SED und Stasi im Nacken’, 1995, 10/2, DTA.
(98.) Herbert Walter Rettig, ‘Tagebücher, 1945–1960’, Nr. 832/1–13, DTA; Anneliese Knappe, ‘Jahre der Hoffnung, 1939–1955’, Nr. 1194, DTA; as well as Riemann, unpaginated.
(99.) Marianne Wenzel, ‘Aus dem Leben eines heimlichen Trinkers, Erfurt’, Leipzig 1966, Nr. 718/1, and Wenzel, ‘Gepeinigte Frauen, 1969’, with additions by Marina Fiedler, Nr. 718/2, DTA.
(100.) Eva Schaefer, ‘Tagebücher, 1958–1989’, Nr. 93, DTA.
(102.) See too Peter Fritzsche, Life and Death in the Third Reich (Cambridge, Mass., 2008).
(103.) Alexandra Garbarini, Numbered Days: Diaries and the Holocaust (New Haven, Conn., 2006) and Lawrence Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven, Conn., 1991).
(104.) Gustav Just, Zeuge in Eigener Sache (Berlin, 1990), 16–17.
(105.) Riemann, unpaginated.
(107.) Zwischenbericht: Eine Brigade, ihr Tagebuch und der Zirkel schreibender Arbeiter (Leipzig, 1969), 5.
(108.) Dennis Tate, Shifting Perspectives: East German Autobiographical Narratives Before and After the End of the GDR (Rochester, NY, 2007).
(109.) Christiane M., Berlin, interview, 20 Apr. 2007; Ruth P., Berlin, interview, 30 Mar. 2007; and Renate S., Berlin, interview, 7 Mar. 2007.
(110.) Miller, Narratives, 95–6.
(111.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 175.
(112.) Koehler, Stasi, 142.
(113.) ‘Erste politisch-operative Auswertung der Schlussakte der Konferenz über Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa’, Berlin, 6 Aug. 1975, and ‘Auswertung der Schlussakte der KSZE und erste politisch-operative Schlussfolgerungen’, Berlin, 4 Sept. 1975, MfS HA XX/4/2343, SAB.
(114.) MfS HA XX/4/426, SAB.
(115.) ‘Information: Veranstaltungen des Menschenrechtsprogramms der Kirchen zur Verwirklichung der Schlussakte von Helsinki vom 21. 11 bis 29.11.1984 in Eisenach, Bezirk Erfurt, 30.11.1984’, MfS HA XX/4/1255, SAB.
(116.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 70.
(117.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 176.
(118.) Gareth Dale, Popular Protest in East Germany (London, 2005), 122.
(119.) Uta Falck, VEB Bordell (Berlin, 1998).
(120.) Macrakis, Seduced by Secrets, 142–317.
(121.) Dennis, Stasi, 29.
(122.) Fulbrook, Anatomy, 27.
(p.249) (124.) Stichwort ‘Zersetzung, operative’, in Siegfried Suckut, Das Wörterbuch der Staatssicherheit (Berlin, 1996), 422.
(125.) Eghigian, ‘Homo Munitus’, 51–4.
(126.) Agnes Bensussan, ‘Einige Characteristika der Repressionspolitik gegenüber politisch abweichendem Verhalten in der DDR in den 70er und 80er Jahren’, in Kott and Droit, Die ostdeutsche Gesellschaft, 74.
(128.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 186.
(130.) Instructions on how to conduct a thorough house search can be found in the internal People's Police booklet, Die Durchsuchung und die Beschlagnahme (Berlin, 1978). I thank Eli Rubin for this reference.
(131.) Dennis, Stasi, 113.
(132.) Pingel-Schliemann, Zersetzen, 196.
(134.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 110.
(135.) Pingel-Schliemann, Zersetzen, 362, 227.
(136.) Dennis, Stasi, 120, 137.
(137.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 82.
(139.) Dennis, Stasi, 218.
(140.) Milovan Djilas, ‘The New Class’, excerpted in Gale Stokes (ed.), From Stalinism to Pluralism: A Documentary History of Eastern Europe since 1945 (Oxford, 1991), 103.
(143.) Annette Kaminsky, ‘Ungleichheit in der SBZ/DDR am Beispiel des Konsums: Versandhandel, Intershop and Delikat’, in Lothar Mertens (ed.), Soziale Ungleichheit in der DDR: Zu einem tabusierten Strukturmerkmal der SED-Diktatur (Berlin, 2002), 57.
(144.) Dennis, Stasi, 217.
(145.) Maier, Dissolution, 40.
(146.) Travis Wolfe, Policing, 79.
(147.) Olaf Stieglitz, ‘Sprachen der Wachsamkeit: Loyalitätskontrolle und Denunziation in der DDR und in den USA bis Mitte der 1950er Jahre’, Historical Social Research, 26/2–3 (2001), 132.
(148.) Gellately, ‘Denunciations’, 959.
(149.) Excellent is the special issue on ‘Practices of Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789–1989’, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick and Robert Gellately, in Journal of Modern History 68/4 (Dec. 1996) as well as Günter Jerouschek, Inge Marssolek, and Hedwig Röcklein (eds.), Denunziation: Historische, juristische und psychologische Aspekte (Tübingen, 1997).
(p.250) (150.) Horst Luther, ‘Denunziation als soziales und strafrechtliches Problem in Deutschland in den Jahren 1945–1990’, in Jerouschek et al., Denunziation, 259.
(151.) Irina Scherbakowa, ‘Die Denunziation im Gedächtnis und in den Archiv-dokumenten’, in Jerouschek et al., Denunziation, 168–72.
(152.) Figes, Whisperers, 38.
(153.) Fitzpatrick, ‘Signals from Below: Soviet Letters of Denunciation in the 1930s’, Journal of Modern History, 68/4 (1996), 117.
(154.) Fred Hahn, Lieber Stürmer: Lesebriefe an das NS-Kampfblatt 1924 bis 1945 (Stuttgart, 1978).
(155.) Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Gerhard Paul, ‘Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent? Gestapo, Society and Resistance’, in David Crew (ed.), Nazism and German Society (New York, 1994), 166–96.
(158.) Katrin Dördelmann, ‘Denunziation im Nationalsozialismus: Geschlechtsspezifische Aspekte’, in Jerouschek et al., Denunziation, 161.
(159.) Gisela Diewald-Kerkmann, Politische Denunziation im NS-Regime, oder die kleine Macht der ‘Volksgenossen’ (Bonn, 1995).
(161.) Elder, ‘Murder’, 413.
(162.) Klaus Behnke and Jürgen Wolf, ‘Die Auserwählten,’ in Behnke and Fuchs, Zersetzung der Seele, 329.
(163.) Cited in Gellately, ‘Denunciations’, 961.
(164.) Diewald-Kerkmann, Politische Denunziation, 131.
(166.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 56.
(167.) Brigitte Reimann, Ich bedauere nichts: Tagebücher, 1955–1963 (Berlin, 2001), 85–6, 103.
(168.) Helmut Müller-Enbergs, ‘Warum wird einer IM? Zur Motivation bei der inoffiziellen Zusammenarbeit mit dem Staatssicherheitsdienst’, in Behnke and Fuchs, Zersetzung der Seele, 111–12.
(169.) Miller, Narratives, 55–64.
(171.) Niemann, Meinungsforschung, 56.
(172.) Dennis, Stasi, 97–101.
(173.) Müller-Enbergs, ‘Warum’, 104–5.
(174.) Cited in Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 125–6.
(175.) Scherbakowa, ‘Die Denunziation’, 180, and Müller-Enbergs, ‘Warum’, 105.
(176.) Miller, Narratives, 45. (p.251)
(177.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 109.
(178.) Miller, Narratives, 68–9.
(179.) Annette Maennel, Auf sie was Verlass: Frauen und Stasi (Berlin, 1995), 67 and 114.
(181.) Childs and Popplewell, Stasi, 111.
(183.) Klaus Hartung, ‘Infamie und Vergangenheit: Schnur, Rühe und die Selbstbestimmung’, Die Tagezeitung, 15 Mar. 1990.
(186.) Jürgen Habermas, ‘Bemerkungen zu einer verworren Diskussion’, Die Zeit, 10 Apr. 1992, 17–19.
(187.) Lindenberger, ‘Creating’, 126.
(188.) Gieseke, Mielke-Konzern, 122, 157.
(189.) Klaus Behnke, ‘Die Ohnmacht der Kinder’, in Behnke and Wolf, Stasi auf dem Schulhof, 177.
(190.) Hans Fuchs, ‘Erlebtes, Erinnerungen, Gedanken’, 1996, p. 18, Nr. 64, DTA.
(191.) Alexander von Plato, ‘Denunziation im Systemwechsel: Verhaftete, Deportierte, Lagerhäflinge in der SBZ um 1945’, Historical Social Research, 26/2–3 (2001), 201.
(192.) Kharkhordin, Collective, 270.
(193.) Scott, Seeing like a State, 101.