|“||But why did the Stasi collect all this information in its archives? The main purpose was to control the society. In nearly every speech, the Stasi minister gave the order to find out who is who, which meant who thinks what. He didn't want to wait until somebody tried to act against the regime. He wanted to know in advance what people were thinking and planning. The East Germans knew, of course, that they were surrounded by informers, in a totalitarian regime that created mistrust and a state of widespread fear, the most important tools to oppress people in any dictatorship.||„|
|~ Hubertus Knabe|
The Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) or more commonly known as the Stasi was the secret police of East Germany. The Stasi is widely considered to be one of the most brutal and murderous secret police agencies to have ever existed.
The Stasi was founded on 8 February 1950. Wilhelm Zaisser was the first Minister of State Security of the GDR, and Erich Mielke was his deputy. Zaisser tried to depose SED General Secretary Walter Ulbricht after the June 1953 uprising, but was instead removed by Ulbricht and replaced with Ernst Wollweber thereafter.
Following the June 1953 uprising, the Politbüro decided to downgrade the apparatus to a State Secretariat and incorporate it under the Ministry of Interior under the leadership of Willi Stoph. The Minister of State Security simultaneously became a State Secretary of State Security. The Stasi held this status until November 1955, when was restored to a ministry. Wollweber resigned in 1957 after clashes with Ulbricht and Erich Honecker, and was succeeded by his deputy, Erich Mielke.
In 1957, Markus Wolf became head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) (Main Reconnaissance Administration), the foreign intelligence section of the Stasi. As intelligence chief, Wolf achieved great success in penetrating the government, political and business circles of West Germany with spies. The most influential case was that of Günter Guillaume, which led to the downfall of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in May 1974. In 1986, Wolf retired and was succeeded by Werner Grossmann.
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.
Between 1950 and 1989, the Stasi employed a total of 274,000 people in an effort to root out the class enemy. In 1989, the Stasi employed 91,015 people full-time, including 2,000 fully employed unofficial collaborators, 13,073 soldiers and 2,232 officers of GDR army, along with 173,081 unofficial informants inside GDR and 1,553 informants in West Germany.
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, literally meaning decomposition). 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.
The Stasi infiltrated almost every aspect of GDR life. In the mid-1980s, a network of IMs began growing in both German states; by the time that East Germany collapsed in 1989, the Stasi employed 91,015 employees and 173,081 informants. About one out of every 63 East Germans collaborated with the Stasi. By at least one estimate, the Stasi maintained greater surveillance over its own people than any secret police force in history.
The Stasi employed one secret policeman for every 166 East Germans; by comparison, the Gestapo deployed one secret policeman per 2,000 people. As ubiquitous as this was, the ratios swelled when informers were factored in: counting part-time informers, the Stasi had one agent per 6.5 people. This comparison led Nazi Party hunter Simon Wiesenthal to call the Stasi even more oppressive than the Gestapo. Stasi agents infiltrated and undermined West Germany's government and spy agencies.
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.