Stasi / Facebook / Big Data DAAD Day 16 – Notes from a former Department M surveillance operator (part2)

During the seven years Gerd Reinicke worked for Department M the scope of surveillance grew steadily. This is particularly evident in the 1980s, when as the government became more and more concerned of the “class struggle,” they dramatically increased the number of operators in Department M, more than doubling the size from 1980 to 1989.

Stasi Dept. M – Total employees (data from Abteilung M (MfS Handbuch). Hg. BStU. Berlin 2005.)

Reinicke and his coworkers in the “Evaluation and Information” unit constantly tried to increase the “Trefferquote” or “hit rate” of material worthy of confiscation by memorizing large numbers of postal codes, names, and handwriting. Their shift managers carefully sampled the work of individual employees, checking for missed letters, which could result in punishment and disciplinary measures.

Once a citizen or group had been classified as “operationally interesting” then all their mail was withheld for inspection. Citizens of the GDR who sent private messages critical of the government or its leaders through the mail first, had their mail confiscated, and second could be brought to court on charges of “anti-state agitation” according to Section 106 of the Criminal Code of the GDR. (Reinicke, 105)

  1. Reinicke, Gerd. “Mitlesen für den Klassenkampf: Postkontrolle der Stasi”. In: Heimliche Leser in der DDR: Kontrolle und Verbreitung unerlaubter Literatur (ed. Siegfried Lokatis). Berlin, 2008.