Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police

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9780813337449: Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police

In this gripping narrative, John Koehler details the widespread activities of East Germany's Ministry for State Security, or Stasi.” The Stasi, which infiltrated every walk of East German life, suppressed political opposition, and caused the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of citizens, proved to be one of the most powerful secret police and espionage services in the world. Koehler methodically reviews the Stasi's activities within East Germany and overseas, including its programs for internal repression, international espionage, terrorism and terrorist training, art theft, and special operations in Latin America and Africa.Koehler was both Berlin bureau chief of the Associated Press during the height of the Cold War and a U.S. Army Intelligence officer. His insider's account is based on primary sources, such as U.S. intelligence files, Stasi documents made available only to the author, and extensive interviews with victims of political oppression, former Stasi officers, and West German government officials. Drawing from these sources, Koehler recounts tales that rival the most outlandish Hollywood spy thriller and, at the same time, offers the definitive contribution to our understanding of this still largely unwritten aspect of the history of the Cold War and modern Germany.

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Review:

As human rights activist Rainer Hildebrandt observed in 1948, communist East Germany resembled nothing so much as a vast "concentration camp in which only the warders and those who hand out the food can still live well." Those warders were known collectively as the Ministerium für Statessicherheit, or Stasi. As John Koehler suggests in the impressively detailed Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police, their history is the history of totalitarian East Germany. Including informants, the Stasi at one point would number one operative for every 66 East German citizens; so ruthless and efficient were they in their efforts to squelch dissent that even the KGB found itself occasionally appalled by the Stasi's methods.

Right up to its 1990 demise, the Stasi cast a huge net of spies and agents around Europe and the rest of the world, enlisting as many as 30,000 West Germans as secret operatives, and involving more than a few American intelligence personnel in traitorous dalliances that would badly damage NATO defense capabilities during the Cold War. Koehler, a longtime foreign correspondent with Associated Press and onetime aide to president Ronald Reagan, based much of his research on the vast archive of secret Stasi documents discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent unification of Germany. Although this book is only the tip of the iceberg, he has provided a fascinating look into the inner workings of one of the most dangerous, but least known, organizations of the 20th century. --Tjames Madison

(After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and unification of Germany, journalist Timothy Garton Ash gained access to his Stasi file and began interviewing the people who contributed to it. The results of his investigation are found in the compelling The File.)

About the Author:

John O. Koehler served as foreign correspondent for the Associated Press for 28 years, including stints as chief for both the Berlin and Bonn Bureaus. He also served as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications under Ronald Reagan.

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