Thousands of secret police informants still unidentified | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 07.08.2011

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Thousands of secret police informants still unidentified

Half a century after the Berlin Wall went up, more information is coming to light about how East German espionage affected West Germany.

Stasi files

Stasi informants kept records on people living in West Germany, too

Fifty years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, thousands of West German spies for the former East German Stasi secret police have yet to be identified, an official was quoted as saying Saturday.

Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives Roland Jahn told the German daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that some 12,000 people in the former West Germany operated as informants for the Stasi spy agency between 1949 and 1989.

In the decade following German reunification, some 3,000 investigations were launched, but the probes resulted in sentences for only 360 spies.

Just a front

The Wall being built by a mason as a solider looks on

The Berlin Wall divided the city for 28 years

Information continues to surface about the Stasi's activities in West Germany. According to a report in the Sunday issue of the daily Tagesspiegel, the spy agency ran a hotel in West Berlin in the 1970s and 80s: a front for its espionage operations in the West.

The newspaper referred to Stasi documents, which referenced the Hotel Luftbrücke (Airlift Hotel) in West Berlin's Kreuzberg district as the base of operations for about a dozen informants.

The hotel, referred to in Stasi files as "Base Rhineland," was a center of command for surveillance and, in some cases, hit squads, the paper reported.

Digging up the past

Jahn said as Germany marked 50 years since the construction of the Berlin Wall, many former West Germans were anxious to know what files the Stasi had kept on them.

"Citizens want transparency and clarification," Jahn told the dpa news agency. "That' a good sign for our democracy."

In the past 20 years they made 340,000 applications to search the archives, compared with 2.7 million for the country as a whole.

Jahn also called on Germany's far-left Die Linke party, which has former East German communists in its membership, to shed light on the relations between the Stasi and the ruling communist party, the SED.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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