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German Fifth Column By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 14, 2003


They are "traitors to the Fatherland."

That was former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's angry response to the recent, sensational revelations concerning West German citizens who spied during the Cold War for the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police. Kohl was West Germany's conservative leader during the crucial 1980s, who, along with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, helped win the Cold War for the West.

The exposure of these leftist turncoats has come about thanks to the United States, Kohl's anti-Communist ally. After the Berlin Wall fell, many Stasi archives were destroyed, but a complete copy of the files of its Foreign Department fell into American hands. Over the past three years, American officials have handed them back to Germany in the form of 381 CD-ROMs containing 381,000 file cards that collectively have been named 'Rosenholz' (Rosewood).

The Rosenholz materials show definitively that at least 12,000 West Germans worked for the Stasi from 1950 until 1989 -- with 3,500 still active the year the German Democratic Republic broke up. These West German traitors often occupied important positions in industry, government, unions and the media. In addition, approximately 10,000 East Germans citizens acted as their couriers and instructors.

The first important Stasi agent exposed by Rosenholz was Lothar Bisky (code-name 'Bienert'), a founder and current leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism, the Communist Party established after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Bisky grew up in West Germany, but went over to the Communist East when he was 18, providing information about West German military installations soon after his arrival. For reliability, the Stasi classified him as an 'A'-level worker, the highest category, the classifications running from 'A' to 'D.' In his defense, Bisky and his supporters are blaming the messenger, claiming the Rosenholz data can't be trusted, since the CIA once possessed them.

But the most spectacular exposure so far occurred last month and concerns Guenther Wallraff, one of West Germany's most prominent leftists. Wallraff enjoyed an "unassailable reputation" in his country for his high moral stance concerning such causes dear to the left-wing heart as the military regimes in Greece, Argentina and Chile, and Germany's foreign workers. He has authored dozens of books, some of which are used in German schools, one having sold three million copies. Graduate students in East Germany have also written Ph.D. theses on his works, their country once even making a film about him. Wallraff's most recent "moral" act was the writing of a letter to George Bush earlier this year to protest the Iraq war.

However, like with many other Western leftists, Wallraff's "morality" was a sham. While enjoying the highest moral respectability, Wallraff, under the Stasi code-name 'Wagner' and registration number XV/485/68, was actually betraying his country by passing industrial and military information to Communist East Germany, some of which was sent on to Moscow.

But it only gets worse. According to Rosenholz, the Wallraff's chief value to the Stasi was in his spreading misinformation in his society. One report states: "Through his initiative he contributed substantially in giving direction and content - above all to the student youth - in the fight against biological and chemical weapons in West Germany.

Spreading such disinformation in West Germany was always a major Stasi activity. It used the Federal Republic's open society to plant stories, sometimes fabricated, to its benefit. One such story concerned former German President Eugen Gerstenmair. Gerstenmair had been sentenced to seven years in prison for the attempt on Hitler's life in 1944, but that didn't stop a journalist from using Stasi-supplied material against him in a story. Another former German president, Heinrich Lubke, was also tarnished with Stasi information as a builder of concentration camps.

German historian and Stasi expert Hubertus Knabe states that tying West Germany to the Nazis and implying that the Federal Republic was simply a continuation of the Nazi regime was a major Stasi preoccupation. Both the Soviet and East German secret police supplied material about real and suspected former Nazis to its West German "relay stations" (leftist journalists like Wallraff), for this purpose. These "relay stations" were also used to attack West German journalists critical of East Germany as well as for the publication of information the Stasi obtained from tapping the telephones of West German politicians.

Knabe also says that Section X of the Stasi Foreign Department, the section responsible for disinformation, had 367 West German collaborators working for it in 1989. Only 20 have ever been uncovered. These include a lead editor of Radio Germany, the chairman of the West Berlin Press Conference and the head of the journalism school in Cologne who handed over to the Stasi the names of 30 students he regarded as potential recruits.

Naturally, Wallraff denies everything. He says he was simply naive when dealing with East German authorities during his trips to use the archives there. (Unsurprisingly, his research concerned possible former Nazis in positions of power in West Germany.) Stasi officers, he says, made up the Rosenholz information. Moreover, he claims he is the victim of a right-wing press conspiracy and is now suing two conservative German newspapers.

But one of these newspapers revealed last week that West German authorities had once considered charging Wallraff for handing documents over to a Stasi agent in a Copenhagen cafe in 1971 and giving refuge to a member of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang. Also, although the Rosenholz information only documents Wallraff's collaboration from 1968 to 1971, in 1988 he was still a registered Stasi agent who was to be mobilized in case of war or increased tensions with the West. To top it off, even Wallraff's good friend, the famous East German singer Wolf Biermann, who was expelled from East Germany and stripped of his citizenship for his criticism of the Communist regime, doesn't believe in Wallraff's innocence. To quote Biermann's eloquent words to his friend, "you f-cked with the devil."

Unfortunately, Wallraff, and other West Germans like him, will not have to face any legal consequences for their treacherous behavior. The statute of limitations for Stasi collaboration ran out last year. Only cases of high treason are now criminally prosecuted.

Nevertheless, the head of the Rosenholz project, Marianna Birthler, says the Stasi information can still be used to check the backgrounds of West Germans in public positions, a move the ruling German Socialist Party is resisting. She calls it "a question of honor." This would also satisfy the East German complaint that West German Stasi collaborators have always received easier treatment than their eastern counterparts, and that West Germany should now undergo 'destasification,' as East Germany did after 1990. The Rosenholz data, they say, clearly show that Stasi collaboration was a problem in all of Germany, not just in the East and should now be viewed as such.

As a former East German human rights activist herself, Birthler would also like to know why so many West Germans, like Wallraff, denounced human rights violations everywhere in the world but were positively indifferent to them in East Germany?

Due to having lived so long behind the Iron Curtain, what Birthler probably doesn't realize is that the principle aim of Western leftists, such as Wallraff, was never to expose problems in their democratic, law-based societies in order to correct them; rather, their intention was to weaken their social orders through constant attacks for the benefit of a totalitarian socialist monolith.

Because of Rosenholz, some people in West Germany are now calling for a reconsideration of the old German Federal Republic's history. They believe parts of it may have been strongly influenced by the Stasi's West German collaborators. The massive demonstrations against the deployment of the Pershing missiles in the early 1980s serve as one example mentioned.

There is also a call in Germany for publication of all the Rosenholz names, a move that would be very opportune. The former East Germany is currently enjoying a wave of 'Eastalgia,' a dishonest, rose-tinted look at life in the old German Democratic Republic that diminishes the sufferings of people under the socialist dictatorship. Former world figure skating champion Katrina Witt, a Stasi agent herself, hosts one such 'Eastalgia' television show, wearing the blue shirt of the Communist East German pioneer organization. Publication would serve as a strong reminder why the Wall fell.

For his part, former Chancellor Kohl is angrier with West German Stasi collaborators than with East Germans like Katrina Witt. The old Bundeskanzler believes people like Witt often may not have had a choice and were easier to pressure in a totalitarian state. Kohl therefore goes even further than Birthler and calls for the elites in all areas of the former West German society to be checked for Stasi collaborators. Upon their unmasking, he wants them to immediately pull back from public life, saying, unlike the East Germans, "they didn't have to do it. I want to know who these people were, who, in a difficult situation for our country, were active as traitors."


Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.


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