East Germany’s Secret Intelligence Files: Pictures From The Secret Stasi Archives

East Germany

Simon Menner, a German artist, has put together a series of photographs featuring spies from former communist East Germany, in an exhibition named “Pictures from the Secret Stasi Archives.”

The 33-year-old German artist insists that although many of these photographs might appear absurd or funny, the intention behind them was supported by lies, secrets, and a system that caused terror among the citizens.

As the title of the photo-book says, the pictures were collected from the huge archives of the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police.

Known as the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security has been described as the most effective and repressive intelligence agency to have ever existed. It was founded on February 8, 1950 and it was located in East Berlin. The first Minister of State Security was Wilhelm Zaisser and Erich Mielke was his deputy. The Stasi were mainly responsible for spying on civilians and fighting the opposition. Most of the Stasi officials were prosecuted after 1990, for spying, bugging, interrogating, intimidating, killing and bulling the citizens of East Germany for 40 years.

Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who became a Nazi-hunter, said that the Stasi was “much, much worse than the Gestapo, if you consider only the oppression of its own people.”

When Germany reunited, all the secret files and reports became public so that people could inspect their personal files if they wanted to and well, numbers spoke louder. The Stasi had 91,000 official employees and 173,000 unofficial collaborators. However, East Germany’s population counted 17 milion people, which means that every 6.5 citizens had an informer; or, as writer John O. Koehler said, “It would not have been unreasonable to assume that at least one Stasi informer was present in any party of 10 or 12 dinner guests.”

The Stasi agents learned how to follow a target without being seen, how to shadow suspects, how to apply facial hair. Menner spent two years looking through the archives, searching through photographs and slides and negatives which numbered almost 1.4 million. The pictures reveal a terrifying history of arrests, interrogation and blackmail, they show a government which dominates and controls and manipulates.

According to Menner, the agents used Polaroids before and after searching through a room, to make sure they were leaving it as they found it, the Mother Jones reports.

In the book you can also found details regarding the agents’ secret hand signals and how they used to shadow suspects; how the houses were searched or bugged and all possessions cataloged.

The book is divided into chapters. Some of the titles read “Wigs and their Application,” “How to Apply Fake Facial Hair,” and “Disguising as Western Tourists.”

You can find the pictures and more information on the book on Simon Menner’s website http://simonmenner.com/pages/Stasi-Index.htm

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE