Cover image for Stasi : the untold story of the East German secret police
Stasi : the untold story of the East German secret police
Koehler, John O.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 460 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1290 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV8210.5.A2 K64 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

German slang for "state security," Stasi is a word solidly entrenched in odium. Koehler's compendium of its history demonstrates why. Koehler has trolled widely in the miles of files that fell out of Stasi offices after 1989. For most of its 40-year existence, the police were headed by Erich Mielke, a Bormann look-alike who in 1993 was convicted of murdering Berlin policemen in 1931. Justice hasn't arraigned most of the activities of Mielke's security apparatus, but Koehler describes how unrestrained the Stasi was. Originating as a branch office of Soviet security, the Stasi grew into the largest secret police force ever created in proportion to the populace it monitored. The ubiquity of its officers and informers infuses Koehler's narrative (this omnipresence is also disconcertingly described in The File by Timothy Garton Ash [1997]). However, Koehler writes mostly about the Stasi's foreign espionage and support of terrorists. Coexisting with Koehler's repugnance for the Stasi is a fascination with the spy game--which certainly extends to many library patrons.--Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

A former U.S. Army intelligence officer and an AP correspondent for 28 years (including a stint as Berlin bureau chief), Koehler does much to illuminate the workings of the Stasi, the much feared East German secret police. To illustrate the Stasi's formidable reach, he cites some astounding numbers provided by famed Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal: while Hitler's Gestapo policed 80 million Germans with a force of 40,000, the Stasi kept 17 million people in line with 102,000 officials, a number that doesn't even include the legion of casual informers that made the notion of privacy in East Germany something of a cruel joke. Following a swaggering yet hair-raising account of his own meeting with Stasi chief Erich Mielke in 1965, Koehler delves into many incidents that show how the Stasi frequently operated beyond the borders of East Germany and, with connections to the KGB, conducted espionage operations against the West and colluded with terrorist organizations. Reading in part like an insider's jargon-filled report, this thorough and engrossing work is replete with such heavy-handed Communist spy tactics as sexual blackmail, but it also contains fresh tidbits‘such as the case of the "Delicatessen Spy," who hid espionage paraphernalia beneath her dead son's ashes in a cremation urn. Photos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

An AP Berlin bureau chief and a U.S. Army Intelligence officer, Koehler offers a study spanning the history of the GDR, a time in which Stasi brutality sustained an illegitimate Communist regime. Interviews and documentary evidence reveal a violent war against internal "enemies," a "hugely successful" infiltration of most West German institutions, and collaboration with international terrorists. Koehler is at his best depicting such personalities as Stasi chief Erich Mielke, Col. Rainer Wiegand, and the infamous Gunter Guillaume, whose exposure brought down the government of Chancellor Willy Brandt. The Stasi's often uneasy relations with the Soviet KGB and the claim that the "most" Stasi recruits in West Germany were Social Democrats are surprising. While the absence of broader political and theoretical considerations linked to the regime may narrow the book's importance, it is the most complete work available in English. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.‘Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Photosp. ix
Acronymsp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
2 Erich Mielke Moscow's Leader Of The Red Gestapop. 33
3 Kgb and Stasi Two Shields, Two Swordsp. 73
4 The Sword Of Repressionp. 107
5 The Invisible Invasion Espionage Assault On West Germanyp. 149
6 The Stasi Against The United States And Natop. 203
7 The Stasi's Spy Catchersp. 265
8 Stasi Operations in the Third Worldp. 297
10 Playground for International Terroristsp. 359
11 Safe Haven for The Red Army Factionp. 387
12 Shattered Shield Broken Swordp. 403
Notesp. 413
Indexp. 439