The DDR and The Stasi

Following the Second World War Germany’s borders were redrawn and the country was divided into administrative sectors.  What became the Federal Republic of Germany (or West Germany) was administered by the United States, The United Kingdom, and France. What was to become the German Democratic Republic (Or East Germany aka DDR) was administered by the USSR.  With those two spheres of influence in place the pattern for the rebuilding Germany was dictated by the political desires of the occupying nations. In the West that meant capitalism and a federalist form of representative democracy and in the east, a Stalinist state with a centrally planned economy.

 

The DDR replicated many of the official organs of the Soviet State.  What is of particular interest to us in this moment in time is the creation of the Ministry for State Security, more commonly known as the Stasi. The Stasi was essentially the secret police. They were responsible for espionage both international and domestic. It is their domestic spying which is ultimately the most chilling. The Stasi created an almost perfect example of a surveillance state. Every Industrial plant had a full time Stasi employee on staff.  Schools, Newsrooms, Hospitals, Universities, and Churches were all infiltrated. No aspect of life in the DDR went unobserved. Apartment buildings always had at least one resident who was charged with reporting the mundane details of the other tenants lives to the secret police. Phones were tapped and surveillance devices infiltrated all corners. The Stasi maintained an overwhelmingly large force to control of the German people.  The effect on German life was overwhelming. Dissent of any sort was near impossible and public discourse was smothered.

 

When Germany was reunified in 1991, the Stasi archives were opened. What the people found there was startling. When they went to calculate the size of the Stasi they found that ratio of regular Stasi Agent was one member of the secret police per 166 citizens. When the regular informers and part time informers (many of who were coerced) are factored in the ratio of Stasi informers per citizen worked out to 1 to 6.5. The level of documentation produced was staggering.  Privacy was non-existent. 

 

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