Die inoffiziellen Mitarbeiter

stasi talking to kids

In my first few days in Russia, a young woman approached me to have English lessons. Fine, said I, my landlady had said that was all right, that she’d expected that, so I arranged for the young lady to come and gave her the address.

She grinned and said she knew very well where it was.

I was at home when she rang the bell, the landlady went to the door, opened it and started shouting, I could see the young woman was insolent in return and then the middle-aged landlady did something astounding – she went for the young woman and pushed her out with all her might, slamming the door.

She then came to me, face of fury and laid it down, in language I didn’t understand yet, that that one was never to come, never.  She then calmed down and tried to explain. It took one of the English staff at the school to fill in the blanks.

This girl’s mother had been the Russian equivalent of die inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or informer. Not only that but there was a policy across the USSR of ‘denunciation’. So, if you didn’t like something someone had done or said, you went to a special little hut in one of the yards and made your report or else you went far away to an office somewhere on the other side of town.

The policy had been officially rescinded by the time I got there but still -the old ways died hard.

A year or so later, having learnt far more Russian, the son was explaining to me how he’d been in class, had made some remark about a Russian notable and by early afternoon, a special person had arrived, had taken him to a special room and had ‘re-educated him’ for some hours, thereafter filing the special report.

This morning [i.e. Aug 9, 2016], there was a post by me on fighting back, in reaction to two cases of ‘stasi-like’ behaviour by the police. I’m sorry but IMHO, most people in this land have not seen such things in operation and nor had I, but victims had spoken to me firsthand about how it all operated.

We are coming close to that now, sleepwalking into it.

Also this morning, I was talking to a Corbyn supporter. All he could see was Corbyn being the ‘only one’ to tackle the banks – no notion of UKIP in his mind, UKIP were fascists.  And what of the rest of it?  The surveillance state, the informers, the stagnation?

This is a reminder of the East German experience:

#  This story is one of spies and informers of the kind that were largely ignored by historians of the German Democratic Republic (DDR) until recently — because they were spies and informers that were not connected to the Stasi, as East Germany’s feared Ministry for State Security was popularly known. Instead, they were totally normal citizens of East Germany who betrayed others: neighbors reporting on neighbors, schoolchildren informing on classmates, university students passing along information on other students, managers spying on employees and Communist bosses denouncing party members.

#  Hedwig Richter, a professor at the University of Greifswald, speaks of a “stunning reporting machinery.” Wide swaths of society were a part of it, she says. “There were institutionalized structures outside of the Stasi that produced daily and weekly reports.” Whether in city hall, at the steel factory or inside the local farming collective: “Everyone who had a position with some measure of responsibility filed reports” for the state, Richter says.

“With whom am I speaking?”

“I would rather not say, of course. This is a small payback because he badly harassed me and talked very poorly of your country. This is a bit of revenge!”

#  Almost every apartment building in the DDR maintained a kind of superintendent (known as a “Hausbuchbeauftragter”) who kept notes on who visited whom and when. In total, this group included around 2.1 million people, and many of them were willing to share their information. The Volkspolizei also had around 173,000 “voluntary helpers.” In addition, school directors, heads of youth organizations belonging to the “Free German Youth” (FDJ), election helpers and factory heads were also part of the army of potential informants.

#  “The omnipresent opportunities for denunciation,” says Hedwig Richter, “fueled the most important disciplinary mechanism: self-censorship.” An important element thereof, she adds, was the fact that East Germans also informed on one another, even without being asked and without any legal obligation to do so. “By sharing such information, East Germans hoped to avoid potential problems and misunderstandings in the future,” Richter says. Plus, it was a way of demonstrating loyalty: “By exhibiting such individual initiative, people legitimized the government’s surveillance needs. Via their proactive obedience, these people contributed to their comprehensive observation and participated in the surveillance state.”

Wiki fills in other details:

# By 1995, some 174,000 inoffiziellen Mitarbeiter (IMs) Stasi informants had been identified, almost 2.5% of East Germany’s population between the ages of 18 and 60.[12] 10,000 IMs were under 18 years of age.[12] From the volume of material destroyed in the final days of the regime, the office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU) believes that there could have been as many as 500,000 informers.[12] A former Stasi colonel who served in the counterintelligence directorate estimated that the figure could be as high as 2 million if occasional informants were included.[12] There is significant debate about how many IMs were actually employed.

#  Full-time officers were posted to all major industrial plants (the extensiveness of any surveillance largely depended on how valuable a product was to the economy)[13] and one tenant in every apartment building was designated as a watchdog reporting to an area representative of the Volkspolizei (Vopo).[17] Spies reported every relative or friend who stayed the night at another’s apartment.[17] Tiny holes were drilled in apartment and hotel room walls through which Stasi agents filmed citizens with special video cameras.[17] Schools, universities, and hospitals were extensively infiltrated.[17]

# The Stasi perfected the technique of psychological harassment of perceived enemies known as Zersetzung – a term borrowed from chemistry which literally means “decomposition“.

…the Stasi often used a method which was really diabolic. It was called Zersetzung, and it’s described in another guideline. The word is difficult to translate because it means originally “biodegradation”. But actually, it’s a quite accurate description. The goal was to destroy secretly the self-confidence of people, for example by damaging their reputation, by organizing failures in their work, and by destroying their personal relationships. Considering this, East Germany was a very modern dictatorship. The Stasi didn’t try to arrest every dissident. It preferred to paralyze them, and it could do so because it had access to so much personal information and to so many institutions. —Hubertus Knabe, German historian [28]

The physical methods most know of, little point reiterating them. Further:


Lord T this morning mentioned the Stasi at OoL. Due to my Russian experiences, I can’t explain to him how the very thought of them gives me chills.

And 48% or thereabouts of our people wish to vote that in, ditto in the US with Hellary, a woman who’s already indicated she will contravene the 2nd. If that 48% were to read even this post, I wonder if it would change any minds.

4 comments for “Die inoffiziellen Mitarbeiter

  1. August 9, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    I have never experienced the Stasi, but something very similar when in port in Constanta, in Romania; and wrote about it on a blog post:-


    I can still see the grins on the faces of the machine-gun toting guards as they walked away from that broken body!

  2. AndrewWS
    August 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Please note that your headline and much else is ungrammatical.

    Der inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (male, singular)
    Die inoffizielle Mitarbeiterin (female, singular)
    Die inoffiziellen Mitarbeiter (plural)

    • August 10, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks for that. Shall change.

  3. Voice of Reason
    August 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    My mother grew up in East Prussia. She noted that the East Germans were great Nazis, and turned into great Communists. After all, they are different labels for the same oppressive structures.

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