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Group.png Stasi  
(Intelligence agency, Secret police)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Formation8 February 1950
Extinction13 January 1990
Parent organizationEast Germany
HeadquartersEast Berlin
The East German intelligence agency

The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS), or State Security Service (German: Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD), commonly known as the Stasi, was the official state security service of East Germany. It has been described, with some hyperbole, as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies ever to have existed.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


The Stasi was headquartered in East Berlin, with an extensive complex in Berlin-Lichtenberg and several smaller facilities throughout the city. The Stasi motto was Schild und Schwert der Partei (Shield and Sword of the Party), referring to the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED) and also echoing a theme of the KGB, the Soviet counterpart and close partner, with respect to its own ruling party, the CPSU. Erich Mielke was the Stasi's longest-serving chief, in power for thirty-two of the GDR's forty years of existence. In 1989 the number of informants for the agency in society was estimated to be 189,000.[7]


One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung). Its Main Directorate for Reconnaissance (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung) was responsible for both espionage and for conducting covert operations in foreign countries. Under its long-time head Markus Wolf, this directorate gained a reputation as one of the most effective intelligence agencies of the Cold War. The Stasi also maintained contacts, and occasionally cooperated, with Western terrorists (ie RAF, but also right-wing groups and neo-Nazis).[8][9]


Zersetzung, literally meaning decomposition or disintegration, was a main method of "covertly combating persons and groups of persons considered "hostile-negative" by the MfS. According to the 1976 Guideline for the Processing of Operational Procedures the goal of Zersetzung was to fragment, paralyze, and disorganize opposing forces and to isolate them from each other and from the environment. In this way, "hostile" actions were to be prevented, restricted or stopped":[10]

The targets of Zersetzung were mostly peace, ecology and human rights groups that were independent of the state, applicants for departure [those who wanted to move to the West], active Christians, as well as persons and organizations in the area of operation that the MfS suspected of political underground activity against the GDR.

According to Directive 1/76, measures of Zersetzung directed against individuals included "systematic discrediting of public reputation, standing and prestige on the basis of interconnected true, verifiable discrediting as well as untrue, credible, non-rebuttable and thus likewise discrediting statements" or "systematic organization of professional and social failures to undermine self-confidence."

In groups, the MfS attempted to create distrust, envy, rivalries and mutual suspicion and, in cooperation with other state organs, to paralyze them through job restrictions, occupational bans, conscription to military service or forced expatriations. Zersetzung often unfolded its effectiveness through the combined use of various measures in a prolonged campaign.

According to the directive, Zersetzung, described by Jürgen Fuchs as "quiet terror," was considered a "relatively independent way of concluding operational procedures" and thus served as a substitute for law enforcement measures, which in the Honecker era were often no longer politically expedient, especially in combating opposition figures for reasons of international reputation.


After 1990, the most sensitive archives were taken over by Western intelligence agencies,[11] neatly hiding parts that would be embarrassing for them, while opening up vast potential for blackmail; but also with respect to live operations that are of use. The description and disclosures from Stasi after 1990 mostly come from experts with connections to these Western agencies, which might have their own agendas - treat with a grain of salt. Numerous Stasi officials were prosecuted for their crimes after 1990. After German reunification, the surveillance files that the Stasi had maintained on millions of East Germans were laid open, so that any citizen could inspect their personal file on request; these files are now maintained by the "Stasi Records Agency".[12] Some of it's files were shredded and later torn, since the devices failed. These files were later reconstructed via software.[13]

Stasi 2.0

It stands to reason that functioning networks have infiltrated the remaining unified German state.

Continued employment

Employees of the MfS have continued to work in government agencies,[14][15] some used the legal system of Germany to continue their employment.[16][17] The number was estimated to be around 17,000 in 2010.[18][19] A number was also employed in the "Stasi Records Agency" from the start.[20] Current rulings decided that an employee can hide his/her past with the STASI from the employer.[21][22] A particularly known example is Anetta Kahane, leader of the Amadeu-Antonio Foundation, tasked by the present government with controlling the Internet, nominally under combating hate speech. She was an "inofficial collaborator" (i.e. snitch) of "medium importance" for the MfS.[23]

In popular culture

The movie The Lives of Others depicted how the STASI worked and what kind of influence it had on society.[24]

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Related Quotations

Bärbel Bohley“The constant denunciation will come back. The constant lying will come back.

All these investigations, the in-depth research into the Stasi structures, the methods with which they worked and still work, all this will fall into the wrong hands. These structures will be studied in detail - and then they will be taken over.

They will be adapted a little in the Federal Republic so that they fit in with a free Western society. They won't necessarily arrest the troublemakers either. There are more subtle ways of rendering someone useless. But the secret bans, the surveillance, the suspicion, the fear, the isolation and exclusion, the branding and muzzling of those who do not conform - that will come back, believe me.

Institutions will be created that will work much more effectively, much more finely than the Stasi. The constant lying will also come back, the disinformation, the fog in which everything loses its contour.”
Bärbel Bohley
Germany/VIPaedophile“And children from the GDR. From political prisoners. This was the year 1977. Again and again survivors with similar experiences like Angela Lenz tell that the borders of the GDR were open for these children. The GDR borders were only open when the STASI knew about it.”Ulla Fröhling
Ulla Jelpke“While anti-communists of all stripes are foaming at their mouths on the further demonization of East Germany and in particular of the Stasi, extensive sober scientific studies and documentation of its Foreign Intelligence Directorate (HVA) have emerged in recent years. One does not have to share each of HVA's assessments. But it must be recognized that hardly any other secret service has been so comprehensively dealt with historically by its own former employees and spies as the GDR's foreign intelligence. Many of you were sentenced to imprisonment for your courageous work for peace after the end of East Germany. The spies of the BND - an aggressive imperialist service built up by old Nazis -, on the other hand, went unpunished for their operations against socialism. This unequal treatment is an outrageous injustice to this day, which also throws a significant understanding of the so-called "democratic constitutional state", which the informers from the BND and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution allegedly defend.”Ulla Jelpke2010
Mass surveillance“Extreme forms of monitoring, whether by the KGB in the Soviet Union, the Stasi in East Germany, or Big Brother in 1984, are essential elements of all tyrannies, and technology is making both monitoring and the consolidation of surveillance data easier than ever.”Robert Epstein18 February 2016
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  1. "No remorse from Stasi as Berlin marks fall of Wall"
  2. "Angela Merkel 'turned down' job from Stasi"
  4. Calio, Jim, "The Stasi Prison Ghosts", The Huffington Post, 18 November 2009.
  5. Rosenberg, Steve, "Computers to solve Stasi puzzle", BBC, 25 May 2007.
  6. "New Study Finds More Stasi Spooks", Der Spiegel, 11 March 2008.
  9. The United Nations and Terrorism: Germany, Multilateralism, and Antiterrorism Efforts in the 1970s. - Bernhard Blumenau, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ISBN 978-1-137-39196-4, pages 29–32
  12. "Stasi accused of Swiss disaster