GDR – 1949 to 1989

The rule of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED – Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) was based on a worldview informed by Marxist-Leninism and moulded by class warfare. The Socialist Unity Party had expectations from “its people,” which it laid down in the form of programmes, plans, directives and clear restrictions, which resulted, for example, in political criminal law.

The conceptual eradication of specific human individuality allowed the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) to categorize the “others,” whom it interrogated and spied on, in order to transform them into objects of its hatred. The abbreviation “Stasi” was the SED dictatorship’s designated secret apparatus of repression.

To be arrested was seen as proof that one was an enemy or part of a hostile, negative “element.” The Stasi understood its party program as an active and threatening involvement in the “lives of others,” in order to change them radically when they no longer corresponded to the party’s expectations.

The central detention centre of the Stasi was in Berlin Hohenschönhausen and young interrogators were trained at the Stasi College in Potsdam-Eiche. The term “Operative Procedure” (Operativer Vorgang, OV) was used by the Stasi to designate the highest level of monitoring of suspected individuals. (In THE LIVES OF OTHERS, the playwright Georg Dreyman is the subject of an “Operative Procedure.”)

One typical “offence against the system,” punishable by two years of imprisonment, was “illegal border crossing”. Even planning and trying to “flee the republic” was punishable. The fortification of the inner-German borders and the Berlin Wall gave rise to escape agents from the West and whoever contributed to taking someone “abroad” was threatened with a sentence of up to eight years.

In the GDR, a nation under surveillance, there were about 13,000 of the 91,000 employees of the Stasi regulating an army of about 170,000 Unofficial Employees (Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter, IM) in order to realize the SED’s delusional project of the total surveillance of an entire society.

– Manfred Wilke


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