The District Leadership Cadre of the Stasi

Who Were These Men and Why Did They Not Crush Mass Protest in 1989?

in German Politics and Society
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More than twenty-five years after the revolution that toppled the German Democratic Republic, we still know little about the personnel of the organization that should have prevented it: the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi). This article reports on an individual-level investigation of the entire Stasi leadership cadre of the Karl-Marx-Stadt district with information on socioeconomic status, careers, institutional constraints and organizational culture. Although a generational cleavage was evident, we argue that Stasi leadership was so deeply convinced of socialism’s superiority and so thoroughly habituated to the bureaucratic routine of the normal “party soldier” that it was caught utterly by surprise with no plan to annihilate massive opposition from within.