by John O. Koehler ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1999
There has never been a secret police more fanatically intent on finding out what was going on than the Stasi, East Germany's secret police force. It's an irony of Koehler's authoritative book that ultimately the Stasi were unable to prevent--or even predict--the fall of East Germany. Not for want of trying. The KGB had 480,000 full-time agents to oversee 280 million people, or one for every 5,830 citizens; the Gestapo had one for every 2,000; and the Stasi had one for every 166. If one adds the number of regular informers, it came to one for every 66. Never in the history of espionage have so many spied on so few or recorded so much in such tedious detail. Koehler, Berlin bureau chief of the Associated Press during the height of the Cold War (as well as assistant to the president and director of communications under President Reagan), obtained copies of the Stasi's AP dossier, which weighed in at 14 pounds. Thousands of canning jars were found in the archives, filled with cloth impregnated with the body odors of suspected dissidents, so that they could be tracked by Stasi bloodhounds. But the Stasi also went to immense trouble to infiltrate its agents, particularly into West Germany. Thus, Gunter Guillaume was appointed one of the three assistants to Chancellor Willi Brandt, a rank equivalent to deputy assistant to the president of the US, and perhaps he was even closer, since he was reported to have acted as a pimp for Brandt. Unsurprisingly, extraordinary sums were spent on Stasi activities. Thus, in 1988 alone, nearly $450 million was spent on assistance to the Cubans, Nicaraguans, Africans, and other recipients. So the final irony may be that the East Germans ruined themselves in their efforts to gain more security. Sometimes a little breathless, but a detailed and comprehensive insight into one of the most chilling and the most thorough secret police forces in history.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999
Page Count: 448
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998
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