Book Cover: 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.

Here are excerpts from the book:

The Stasi’s function in East Germany was identical to that performed by
secret police organizations in other communist-controlled nations: It was the
primary instrument by which the ruling party—in this case, the Sozialistische
Einheitspartei (SED), or Socialist Unity Party—retained power. Mass arrests of
the leaders’ political opponents, including many veteran communists who
disagreed with current policies, had been reported. It was rumored that half a
dozen prisons were filled with tens of thousands of such political prisoners. East
Germany had become a police state; and when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961,
the entire population became the state’s prisoners.
Because of the communists’ penchant for extreme secrecy, and people’s fear
of the secret police, evidence of the extent of the oppression was as hard to come
by as were the details of intraparty struggles. However, the facts of East
Germany’s espionage operations began to surface more frequently in the West by
the mid-1950s, when the numbers of spies arrested increased as a result of
improved West German counterespionage methods. In addition, an occasional
defector from the Ministry for State Security (MfS) revealed operational secrets.
Nonetheless, the true extent of the terror exercised by the Stasi over the
German people, and the depth of its espionage apparatus, remained hidden until
the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. The communist regime
collapsed within weeks of that event, and the secret police organization quickly
disintegrated. Although Stasi officers tried at the last minute to destroy
incriminating documents, most of the organization’s archives were saved. As the
Stasi’s secrets gradually were unveiled, German citizens became increasingly
Twice in the previous half century, a cabal of ruthless ideologues had
claimed for itself the sole right to rule in the name of “social justice.” After
World War II, the western part of Germany had developed into a modern,
economically powerful democracy governed strictly by the rule of law while the
other Germany wallowed in a morass of government-sponsored crimes, its
hapless citizens having passed from one dictatorship to another.
This book chronicles the distasteful and ruthless activities of the Stasi under
the leadership of Erich Mielke—activities without which the dictatorship could
not have maintained its grip on power. To be sure, the East German regime also
could not have existed without the backing of the armed might of the Soviet
Union. In the same token, there would have been no West Germany without the
protective shield of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty (NATO)

(The book is available at