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By the 1970s, the Stasi had decided that the methods of overt persecution that had been employed up to that time, such as arrest and torture, were too crude and obvious. It was realised that psychological harassment was far less likely to be recognised for what it was, so its victims, and their supporters, were less likely to be provoked into active resistance, given that they would often not be aware of the source of their problems, or even its exact nature. Zersetzung was designed to side-track and "switch off" perceived enemies so that they would lose the will to continue any "inappropriate" activities.

Tactics employed under Zersetzung generally involved the disruption of the victim's private or family life. This often included psychological attacks, such as breaking into homes and subtly manipulating the contents, in a

By the 1970s, the Stasi had decided that the methods of overt persecution that had been employed up to that time, such as arrest and torture, were too crude and obvious. It was realised that psychological harassment was far less likely to be recognised for what it was, so its victims, and their supporters, were less likely to be provoked into active resistance, given that they would often not be aware of the source of their problems, or even its exact nature. Zersetzung was designed to side-track and "switch off" perceived enemies so that they would lose the will to continue any "inappropriate" activities.

Tactics employed under Zersetzung generally involved the disruption of the victim's private or family life. This often included psychological attacks, such as breaking into homes and subtly manipulating the contents, in a form of gaslighting – moving furniture, altering the timing of an alarm, removing pictures from walls or replacing one variety of tea with another. Other practices included property damage, sabotage of cars, purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim's family, denunciation, provocation, psychological warfare, psychological subversion, wiretapping, Tactics employed under Zersetzung generally involved the disruption of the victim's private or family life. This often included psychological attacks, such as breaking into homes and subtly manipulating the contents, in a form of gaslighting – moving furniture, altering the timing of an alarm, removing pictures from walls or replacing one variety of tea with another. Other practices included property damage, sabotage of cars, purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim's family, denunciation, provocation, psychological warfare, psychological subversion, wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls or unnecessary deliveries, even including sending a vibrator to a target's wife. Usually, victims had no idea that the Stasi were responsible. Many thought that they were losing their minds, and mental breakdowns and suicide could result.

One great advantage of the harassment perpetrated under Zersetzung was that its subtle nature meant that it was able to be plausibly denied. This was important given that the GDR was trying to improve its international standing during the 1970s and 80s, especially in conjunction with the Ostpolitik of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt massively improving relations between the two German states.

After German reunification, revelations of the Stasi's international activities were publicized, such as its military training of the West German Red Army Faction.[36]

Examples

  • Stasi experts helped train the secret police organization of Mengistu Haile Mariam in [69] Stasi had been tasked during this period with preventing the country's economic difficulties becoming a political problem, through suppression of the very worst problems the state faced, but it failed to do so.[19]

    Stasi officers reportedly had discussed re-branding East Germany as a democratic capitalist country to the West, which in actuality would have been taken over by Stasi officers. The plan specified 2,587 OibE officers (Offiziere im besonderen Einsatz, "officers on special assignment") who would have assumed power as detailed in the Top Secret Document 0008-6/86 of 17 March 1986.[70][71] According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, the chief intelligence officer in communist Romania, other communist intelligence services had similar plans.[71] On 12 March 1990, Der Spiegel reported that the Stasi was indeed attempting to implement 0008-6/86.[70] Pacepa has noted that what happened in Russia and how KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin took over Russia resembles these plans.[71] See Putinism.

    On 7 November 1989, in response to the rapidly changing political and social situation in the GDR in late 1989, Erich Mielke resigned. On 17 November 1989, the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat der DDR) renamed the Stasi the "Office for National Security" (Amt für Nationale Sicherheit – AfNS), which was headed by Generalleutnant Wolfgang Schwanitz. On 8 December 1989, GDR Prime Minister Hans Modrow directed the dissolution of the AfNS, which was confirmed by a decision of the Ministerrat on 14 December 1989.

    As part of this decision, the Ministerrat originally called for the evolution of the AfNS into two separate organizations: a new foreign intelligence service (Nachrichtendienst der DDR) and an "Office for the Protection of the Constitution of the GDR" (Verfassungsschutz der DDR), along the lines of the West German Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, however, the public reaction was extremely negative, and under pressure from the "Round Table" (Runder Tisch), the government dropped the creation of the Verfassungsschutz der DDR and directed the immediate dissolution of the AfNS on 13 January 1990. Certain functions of the AfNS reasonably related to law enforcement were handed over to the GDR Ministry of Internal Affairs. The same ministry also took guardianship of remaining AfNS facilities.

    When the parliament of Germany investigated public funds that disappeared after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, it found out that East Germany had transferred large amounts of money to Martin Schlaff through accounts in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, in return for goods "under Western embargo".

    Moreover, high-ranking Stasi officers continued their post-GDR careers in management positions in Schlaff's group of companies. For example, in 1990, Herbert Kohler, Stasi commander in Dresden, transferred 170 million marks to Schlaff for "harddisks" and months later went to work for him.[46][72] The investigations concluded that "Schlaff's empire of companies played a crucial role" in the Stasi attempts to secure the financial future of Stasi agents and keep the intelligence network alive.[46] The Stern magazine noted that KGB officer (and future Russian President) Vladimir Putin worked with his Stasi colleagues in Dresden in 1989.[72]

    Recovery of Stasi files

    During the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, Stasi offices and prisons throughout the country were occupied by citizens, but not before the Stasi destroyed a number of documents (approximately 5%)[73] consisting of, by one calculation, 1 billion sheets of paper.[74]

    Storming the Stasi headquarters

Façade of the Memorial Site, Lindenstrasse, Potsdam

The Soviet administration took over the prison in 1945, also using it as a prison for holding political prisoners on remand. The Stasi then used it as a remand prison, mainly for political prisoners from 1952 until 1989. Over 6,000 people were held in the prison by the Stasi during that time. On 27 October 1989, the prison freed all political prisoners due to a nationwide amnesty. On 5 December 1989, the Stasi Headquarters in Potsdam and the Lindenstrasse Prison were occupied by protesters. From January 1990 the building was used as offices for various citizens initiatives and new political groups, such as the Neue Forum. The building was opened to the public from 20 January 1990 and people were taken on tours of the site. It officially became a Memorial site in 1995.[97]

Rostock