The Secret State Police of the GDR had me in their sights
From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr
The vernacular called the Ministry for State Security of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) summarily “Stasi” or “Peek and Listen.” It was not as harmless as it sounded on the surface. The Stasi, abbreviated for “Staatssicherheit”, was not a civilian secret service, but a military institution.
When this German Democratic Republic went down, I was 29 years old. Like most people, I didn’t dare in the communist dictatorship to be a real resistance fighter. I was rather one of those who often stood there with clenched fists in their pockets and often burned their mouths – sometimes close enough to expose themselves to the danger of the State Security Service. So, I was more of a dissenter, of which there were a few. Otherwise, the non-violent revolution that swept the country in the fall of 1989 and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall would not have been possible. There is no way to make a revolution with people who have adapted to a ruling system.
Anger pent up over the years about the government, which had not been freely elected, erupted into this revolution. It was about freedom rights and democracy, with freedom of travel at the top of the list. It was like a kettle that suddenly boiled over, setting off a chain of events that led to the fall of the Wall more by accident than design.
Of course, I knew at the time that the Stasi existed – but not how intensively they spied on people in their own country. I could not imagine having people in my immediate environment who cowardly and secretly passed on information about me to a communist power organ. Yet in the course of the last few years, I have read more and more books about the Stasi and its practices. Remembering my own experiences, especially in 1985, when I got into serious trouble because of political remarks, I became curious after so long about my own situation at that time – especially how close I came to being harmed. So, I would like to have certainty.
Now I have proof.
Unlike the secret documents in the other states of the former Warsaw Pact, the Stasi files were made accessible after German reunification. Anyone who wishes to do so can submit an application and try to find out whether he or she was classified by the GDR secret service as a “person potentially dangerous to the socialistic state”. I filed such an application a year ago and have now received the notification.
In the decisive passage of the letter from Berlin to me it says: “[Our] research has shown that you were recorded in the files of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic. The registration indicates that documents on your person may exist.” Due to the high number of application processing, it can take up to two years before I can receive more detailed information. If this information exists, of course I would like to know what the communists wrote down about me and who was set on me. Because even for the aliases of the spies, their clear names can be requested.
In the months following the fall of the Berlin Wall until German reunification on October 3, 1990, the Stasi had attempted to destroy as much evidence of its espionage activities as possible. In most cases, the documents were shredded, but to this day the Stasi Archive in Berlin is still trying to piece together these mountains of paper scraps with the help of computer technology.