Georg Herbstritt, Helmut Müller-Enbergs. Das Gesicht dem Westen zu ..: DDR-Spionage gegen die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2003. 458 S. 24.90 (broschiert), ISBN 978-3-86108-388-7.
Dieter Krüger, Armin Wagner. Konspiration als Beruf: Deutsche Geheimdienstchefs im Kalten Krieg. Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag, 2003. 280 S. EUR 19.90 (broschiert), ISBN 978-3-86153-287-3.
Reviewed by Jefferson Adams (Department of History, Sarah Lawrence College)
Published on H-German (December, 2007)
Toward a More Complete Picture of Cold War Espionage
The scholarly study on the state of intelligence history and organizations continues to struggle for a firm foothold in present-day Germany. While British, Canadian, and American academics may still complain about certain obstacles--and worry about the successor generation--the record of accomplishment during the past twenty years is an impressive one, ranging from university-level courses to solid monographs and well-respected periodicals. One might expect that Germany, with its unparalleled series of imperial, Nazi, communist, and democratic espionage organizations, would be a thriving center for such studies, but that is decidedly not the case.
Even though spy films and novels enjoy a large popular following, very little cross-fertilization is occurring between members of the country's foreign and domestic organs--the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) and the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV)--and the country's institutions of higher learning. Sources present a further problem, for not only are memoirs by former officials relatively rare but the BND, quite unlike the CIA, has yet to release any documents at all since its founding over fifty years ago. It should also be noted that the efflorescence of Stasi history took place outside a largely indifferent academy, spurred initially by the determination of East German dissidents to preserve their files after the 1989 revolution and carried forward by the in-house research team at the Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen der Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR (BStU).
In this context, the two volumes under review merit particular attention. The first--Konspiration als Beruf--has unusual appeal, especially for general readers anxious to gain a fuller understanding of the rival German intelligence services during the Cold War. The editors, Dieter Krüger and Klaus Wagner, both associated with the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt in Potsdam, have opted for a biographical format consisting of eleven sketches, alternating between East and West German officials and proceeding in a generally chronological fashion. The selection also allows for a sampling of the main intelligence organizations in each state with the exception of the Militärischer Abschirmdienst (MAD) of the West German Bundeswehr, for which sources proved inadequate. Moreover, to deepen the book's historical dimension, all the chosen figures--with one exception--were born between 1891 and 1913, thereby amplifying our awareness of the impact that both world wars as well as National Socialism and Stalinism made on the conduct of Cold War intelligence. The chapters are written in an accessible style, and the book achieves the overall coherence so often lacking in scholarly anthologies.
A number of the persons included will be immediately familiar, notably Reinhard Gehlen (written by Krüger), Erich Mielke (Jens Gieseke), and Markus Wolf (Karl Wilhelm Fricke). Although contributors were urged to keep a larger historical framework in mind and avoid the minutiae of an encyclopedic entry, many lesser-known biographical facts emerge, such as the strongly nationalist outlook of Wilhelm Zaisser (Helmut Müller-Enbergs) prior to his enthusiastic participation in World War I. Some of the figures--Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz (Susanne Meinl), Karl Linke (Wagner), and Otto John (Bernd Stöver)--evoked much puzzlement, if not controversy, during their lifetime, yet it is a credit to all of the contributors that their even-handed presentations permit a more judicious retrospective judgment.
Probably the least well-known intelligence director in the book is Fritz Tejessy (Wolfgang Buschfort), but his career is one of the most deserving of recognition. The son of a Jewish merchant who investigated right-wing extremists during the Weimar period, he spent the Nazi years in exile but returned to head the Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1949. Strictly adhering to the letter of the law in procuring information and maintaining high professional standards for his staff, Tejassy fought against the overcentralization of the BfV by championing greater autonomy for its regional offices (in this respect, the present-day German approach to monitoring subversive activity poses a sharp contrast to that of the FBI and MI5). Two veteran communists--Richard Stahlmann (Matthias Uhl) and Ernst Wollweber (Roger Engelmann)--along with Gehlen's immediate successor at the BND, Gerhard Wessel (Krüger), complete the roster.
The same admirable scrupulousness found in each of the individual portraits extends to the book as a whole. In addition to some well-chosen illustrations, the editors included a fine introductory essay that elaborates on the distinction between a Geheimpolizei (secret police) and a Nachrichtendienst (intelligence service) and then summarizes their interplay in the longer trajectory of German history, not just during the post-1945 era. The end of the book displays a chart listing all the German intelligence chiefs during the Cold War, followed by the footnotes and a very helpful annotated bibliography for each chapter. This volume, in short, is an outstanding contribution to the field of intelligence studies and can be read with profit by laypersons and experts alike.
Das Gesicht dem Westen zu, edited by Georg Herbstritt and Helmut Müller-Enbergs, both researchers at the BStU, is an anthology of a quite different sort. It derives from a conference held in Berlin in November 2001 under the auspices of the BStU. That representatives from the BND, BfV, MAD, the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the Federal Criminal Office, and the former East German Ministry of State Security (MfS) counted among the participants clearly made it a unique and fruitful interchange. While the editors refer to the open debate that ensued, the book itself contains only the papers, without any additional commentary or discussion, probably in the interest of space. Nevertheless, at times, some of the contributors' assertions sorely beg for further elucidation. For example, Joachim Zöller of the MAD contends that the political leadership of the Warsaw Pact had been "intentionally deceived" in its estimates of NATO's intentions and military strength (p. 212). Likewise, Ullrich Wössner of the BND ends with the cryptic remark that the MfS "failed" overall in its attacks against his organization (p. 403).
The twenty-one essays in the book divide roughly as follows: a review of the current state of research (Müller-Enbergs) prefaced by a historical sketch of Germany in the Cold War (Manfred Görtemaker); specific case studies to illustrate the historical development of East German espionage; and an extended exploration of the military and economic collection efforts of the GDR. Several of the more significant analyses revolve around SIRA (System der Informations-Recherche der Aufklärung) and "Rosenholz." Because the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) succeeded in destroying nearly all of its files in the 1989 revolution, reconstruction of its activities has had to rely on these tapes and microfilmed index cards. Whereas the SIRA data base recorded all HVA reports according to a registration number and code name, the Rosenholz material, obtained mysteriously by the CIA and eventually transferred on 381 CD-ROMs to Germany between 2000 and 2003, contains real names along with other crucial information that, absent the actual files, allows for a much fuller picture to be pieced together.
Thus, as Müller-Enbergs notes, of the 1,553 West German citizens spying for the HVA in the final period, 80 percent had been recruited in the GDR, 28 percent were women, 60 percent acted out of political conviction, and 7 percent were so-called walk-ins (Selbstanbieter). Blackmail, interestingly, played a negligible role. Most were between the ages of 40 and 49 and lived in North Rhine-Westphalia, West Berlin, or Bavaria. In a related essay, Stephan Konopatzki makes the claim--based on SIRA information (which also contains a numerical ranking for the quality of each submission)--that Günter Guillaume was no more than "mediocre source of information," especially during the period of his close relationship to Chancellor Willy Brandt (p. 125).
Equally important is fate of those West Germans apprehended after the Wende. As underscored by the contributions of Herbstritt and Joachim Lampe, the legal consequences were minimal and can hardly be regarded as an example of "victor's justice." While all former East German citizens had been exempted from prosecution by the unification treaty if no crime had been committed in the FRG, only 66 convictions emerged from the nearly 2,000 cases investigated by the BfV, and the vast majority of these sentences were relatively mild. Lampe concludes that the staggering dimensions of East German activity in the West simply overwhelmed the FRG's judicial system.
The MfS placed a high premium on economic espionage and managed to achieve some remarkable results. But did this stolen western technological information help resuscitate the GDR's sagging economy? As Kristie Macrakis, Reinhard Buthmann, and Jörg Roesler demonstrate in their contributions, despite the huge savings in research costs for the state, the inability to translate this information into actual production spelled ultimate failure. Most industries lagged behind international standards by at least two generations. East German espionage further stressed the acquisition of military information though the Verwaltung Aufklärung, which is the topic handled from different vantage points by Zöller, Bodo Wegmann, and Heinz Busch. Thomas Auerbach explores the chilling plans for a military occupation of the FRG by East Germany; roughly, some 3,500 MfS personnel had been trained for this purpose by the end of March 1985.
Other noteworthy essays include MfS penetration of the Green Party (Hubertus Knabe), the effective disinformation campaign waged against Theodor Oberländer (Philipp-Christian Wachs), and shifting priorities vis-à-vis the West during the 1950s (Roger Engelmann). Yet, one area--that of East German signals intelligence--remains surprisingly unrepresented, even though an earlier BStU publication devoted a substantial section to stressing its ever growing importance during the 1980s. Apart from an occasional error--one author refers to a world-famous GRU spy during World War II as Richard Rösner, presumably meaning Rudolf Rössler--this well-edited volume is certainly a valuable source for assessing the larger questions surrounding East-West German relations. One final note: the editors emphasized a third round of research about to commence in 2003. That project--dubbed Rosenholz II--has been completed in the meantime, and the final report by Müller-Enbergs can be accessed online.
. See especially the explanation and critique offered by Wolfgang Krieger, "German Intelligence History: A Field in Search of Scholars," Intelligence and National Security 19 (2004: 185-198.
.Andreas Schmidt, "'Aufklärung' des Funkverkehrs und der Telefongespräche in Westdeutschland--Die Hauptabeilung II," in Westarbeit des MfS, ed. Hubertus Knabe (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 1999), 205-244. One official boasted in a 1982 memorandum that his unit could obtain specific information about individuals in the West "better, faster, and more comprehensively" than traditional agent operations.
. To download the pdf file, go to the BStU homepage at: http://www.bstu.bund.de/cln043/nn715182/DE/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/Pressemitteilungen-2007/juni292007.htmlnnn=true (Accessed November 16, 2007).
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Jefferson Adams. Review of Herbstritt, Georg; Müller-Enbergs, Helmut, Das Gesicht dem Westen zu ..: DDR-Spionage gegen die Bundesrepublik Deutschland and
Krüger, Dieter; Wagner, Armin, Konspiration als Beruf: Deutsche Geheimdienstchefs im Kalten Krieg.
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