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.
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.