It was on February 8th, 1950, that one of the most feared and extensive surveillance organizations was established in East Berlin. It was the State Security Service, (or Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD), which everyone called the Stasi. It spied on its own citizens on a massive scale, as well as engaging in foreign espionage. It was the counterpart of the Nazi Gestapo, although considerably more extensive. Like the Gestapo, it used citizens to spy on citizens.
The opening of its files after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism staggered the world with the scale of its operations. It was estimated to have had 500,000 informers, although a former Stasi colonel put the figure as high as 2 million if occasional informants were included.
Its purpose was to stamp out ruthlessly any dissent in the German Democratic Republic, described by Sir Alec Douglas-Home as “neither German, nor Democratic, nor indeed is it a republic.” It was in fact a totalitarian Communist dictatorship, like the other Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe. Its secret police infiltrated most aspects of East German life, such as schools, universities and recreational organizations such as sports and computer games clubs.
Its agents filmed people though holes drilled in hotel rooms or in their apartments. It intercepted people’s mail and telecommunications. It had a Division of Garbage Analysis that searched garbage for signs of Western foods or other suspicious items. It stored people’s scents so that sniffer dogs could track their movements. It trained, armed and sheltered Western terrorists such as the Baader-Meinhof gang. It ran prison camps for political dissenters. It funded neo-Nazi groups in West Germany to desecrate Jewish sites in a bid to discredit the West.
The activity of spying on, intimidating and imprisoning their own citizens is something that had been practised by all Communist governments, including the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies, Communist China, and Cuba—which received help from the Stasi in setting up its own secret police. More recently it has been done in Venezuela. This is not something that just happens to be done; it is part and parcel of Communist totalitarianism that it cannot tolerate dissent and has to seek out and expunge it, no matter what the cost is to the human rights of their citizens.
People who suppose it would be different today, and that current apologists for those brutal regimes would behave differently if they achieved power, are living in a fool’s paradise. This always happens. It is a necessary corollary of an evil system, and the Stasi is simply one of the most brutal examples.