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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 5.2 (2004) 321-348

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The Stasi

New Research on the East German Ministry of State Security

Dept. of History
Amherst College
Amherst, MA 01002 USA
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Tobias Hollitzer, ed., Wie weiter mit der Aufarbeitung? 10 Jahre Stasi-Unterlagen-Gesetz: Bilanz und Ausblick [How to Proceed with the Reappraisal? Ten Years of [End Page 321] the Stasi Document Law: Balance Sheet and Prospects]. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002. 158 pp. ISBN 3-374-02018-6. €12.80.
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One hundred seventy-eight kilometers of archival material. Personal files on six million individuals. Forty million index cards. One million pictures and negatives. Thousands of human scents stored in glass jars, 91,015 full-time employees, 174,000 "unofficial" informants. The highest surveillance rate (agents to population) in history. Husbands spying on wives. Colleagues snitching on co-workers. Informants posing as dissidents. State officials harboring Red Army Faction terrorists. "Romeo" agents preying on hapless secretaries. Commandos kidnapping alleged traitors from West Germany. Agent provocateurs infiltrating literary groups and church circles.

The East German Ministry of State Security (MfS), popularly known as the Stasi, has long had a reputation as one of the world's most ruthless, efficient, and omnipotent secret police. The MfS went to extraordinary lengths to protect the regime of the East German communist party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). It had virtually all of society under surveillance. It facilitated and sometimes even manipulated East German economic, political, and cultural developments. It had a destructive effect on the lives and careers of many East Germans and some [End Page 322] West Germans. Even after its dissolution in 1990, the Stasi continued to exert influence: the institutionalized insidiousness that it had fostered poisoned the...


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