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Germany

Files Link PDS Leader Bisky to East German Stasi

Files newly opened to the public show Lothar Bisky, the head of Germany’s struggling Party of Democratic Socialism, had ties to the East German secret police. But Bisky denies he worked as an official Stasi informant.

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Bisky was elected to head the PDS in June.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was able to get it hands on hundreds of files belonging to the East German secret police known at the Stasi. Over the last three years, the so-called “Rosewood” files were copied onto 381 CD-ROMS and sent back to Germany.

Since the beginning of July, the documents have been available for public research. Bisky, listed as “unofficial collaborator” at the foreign section of the East Germany Ministry for Security, is the first high-profile person to be implicated by the Rosewood files.

The 61 year-old politician admitted on Tuesday he had contact to the secret police but denied he worked as a Stasi informant. He told German ARD television there was “nothing new” in the latest revelations and that he was only of interest to East German authorities because of his travel abroad.

“I wrote the usual travel reports about my trips to the West for my supervisors and passed them on,” Bisky said. He said he never signed any documents, which would be required to be a Stasi informant.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Bisky, who was re-elected in June to lead the beleaguered Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which rose from the ashes of the East German communist party after German reunification. Bisky headed the PDS 1993 to 2000, but was called back to duty as the party has floundered in recent months. Considered part of the party’s more pragmatic wing, being listed in the Rosewood files could hurt his effort to get the PDS back on track.

Codename “Bienitz”

According to the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Bisky, who emigrated from West Germany to the communist East in 1959, worked under the codename “Bienitz” for the Stasi from 1966 to 1979. He was then “reactivated” in 1986 after he became the director of the once-famous film school in Babelsberg near Berlin.

Günter Nooke, a conservative member of the German parliament, came to Bisky’s defense on Wednesday, saying as a member of a government investigative committee in the 1990s he had known for years about Bisky’s connections to the Stasi. Nooke told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper the latest details were “not spectacular enough” to endanger Bisky’s political career.

Although officials tending the Rosewood files have warned there will likely be few sensational revelations from the documents, they should fill in some crucial gaps in the extensive investigations of Stasi activities. Most files seized from East German authorities only refer to spies by their code names. For the first time the Rosewood files are expected to match real names to the codenames.

Officials believe that of the some 200,000 names included on the card index, about 12,000 could be those of West Germans who spied for the Stasi between 1950 and 1989 and 40,000 are East Germans who worked as informers and messengers in espionage operations against the West. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the East German secret police destroyed thousands of files detailing its huge network of spies and informers. But as some documents came to light after 1990, many Stasi informers were outted, leading to bitter recriminations among co-workers, neighbors and even family members. Millions of people are estimated to have been placed under the Stasi’s observation during the communist era. The secret police often used draconian methods to persuade or intimidating ordinary people to spy on their neighbors and friends.

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