Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stasi agents and informants - NBIH

The podcast New Books in History is a great program to subscribe to by all means, but in case you are interested in content about the Cold War, the end of it and the rise and fall of the Soviet world. In this realm there is a great wealth of issues to be had. One of which came out just in this past weeks. (feed)

In this program Marshal Poe interviewed Gary Bruce about the inside story of the Stasi, the secret police of communist Germany (DDR). Did the DDR need a secret police? Poe and Bryce emphasize how paranoid the communist regimes were and how they expected traitors and saboteurs always and everywhere. Hence the extended network of agents and the even more extended network of informants. In the end I wonder how exaggerated it is the state that one half of the DDR citizens was spying on the other half.

Bruce's research as you get to know it from the interview, although it does reveal the pumped up paranoia of the soviet system, does teach rather something else. It shows how the Stasi was organized. Where did the agents come from, how were they trained and employed. And once there were agents, there was the recruiting and management of informants. Bruce's story about his research also reveals what happened to the Stasi and its files once the DDR fell apart and with it its secret police. This all went so swift, the Stasi disintegrated before it could destroy its archives. And this allows many historians such as Bruce to study the Stasi and by extension the reality of a surveillance state.

More NBIH:
War in Human Civilization,
Always recommended: New Books in History,
The best varied history podcast,
The Caucasus,
The genocide and the trial.