Issue 116, Travel

East German Spycraft On Display in Leipzig

ARCHIVISTS in Berlin are busy stitching together some 50 million pieces of paper that were shredded or torn up in the final frenzied days of the East German government to hide evidence of communist spying on their fellow citizens. You can visit the scene of the crime. The Leipzig headquarters of the domestic communist espionage agency, the Stasi (Ministry for State Security), housed in a building known as the Runde Ecke (Round Corner), has long been turned into the Stasi Museum.

Former headquarters of the Stasi, East German communist secret police, September 13, 2004, in Leipzig, Germany. It is now museum exhibiting espionage implements, uniforms, jail facilities and documents. (Photo by Tim Boxer)
Stasi prison cell on display at the former East German secret police headquarters, September 13, 2004, in Leipzig, Germany. The building is now museum exhibiting espionage implements, uniforms, jail facilities and documents. (Photo by Tim Boxer)

I was amazed at the lengths the Stasi, established in 1950 in the German Democratic Republic, would go to maintain surveillance of the population over a period of 40 years. They employed 91,000 employees and 189,000 informers to spy on suspected citizens, colleagues, even family.

Among the undercover implements on exhibit are secret cameras embedded in a businessman’s briefcase, implements to listen in on conversations in the next room and to record talk at the dinner table. Plus many other examples of superspy gadgets that would delight the James Bond in you.

Stasi briefcase with concealed camera on display at the former East German secret police headquarters, September 13, 2004, in Leipzig, Germany. The building is now museum exhibiting espionage implements, uniforms, jail facilities and documents. (Photo by Tim Boxer)
Stasi uniform on display at the former East German secret police headquarters, September 13, 2004, in Leipzig, Germany. The building is now museum exhibiting espionage implements, uniforms, jail facilities and documents. (Photo by Tim Boxer)