Stasi was short for "Staatssicherheit", meaning "State Security", the main security and intelligence organization of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry of State Security) was founded on February 8, 1950. Wilhelm Zaisser was its first leader, and Erich Mielke his deputy. Modelled on the Soviet KGB, who regarded it as an extremely loyal and effective partner among the intelligence services of the Warsaw Pact countries, the Stasi's influence over almost every aspect of life in the German Democratic Republic cannot be underestimated.
In 1955, Mielke became head of the Stasi, and Markus Wolf became head of the foreign intelligence department. Until the mid-1980s, the network of spies (IMs, inofficial members) grew within the GDR itself, and in West Germany as well. By 1989, it was estimated that the Stasi had 91,000 full time employees, and perhaps 100,000 informants. This means that about one in a hundred East Germans was a spy - possibly the highest penetration of a society ever reached.
The Stasi monitored politically "incorrect" behaviour among all the citizens of East Germany, comparably to the former Gestapo. During the 1989 peaceful revolution the Stasi offices were overrun by enraged citizens, not before a huge amount of compromising material could be destroyed by the Stasi officers. The remaining files and material are today available for all people who were spied upon, often revealing so-thought close friends or even family members as IMs.
After German unification it was revealed that the Stasi had also secretly aided left-wing terrorist groups such as the Red Army Faction. The loss of support from the Stasi was a major factor in the dissolution of all these terrorist groups including the RAF.
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