New Berlin media boss was Stasi informer 

New Berlin media boss was Stasi informer 

Germany’s Berliner Zeitung is to investigate its new owner after he confirmed his role as an informant for the Stasi, the East German secret police. 

IT mogul Holger Friedrich and his wife, Silke, 47, in September bought Berliner Verlag, the publisher of the Berliner Zeitung and the tabloid Berliner Kurier. It also owns Berlin.de, the city’s official website.

The broadsheet Berliner Zeitung has a circulation of 85,000, the second-highest in the capital. 

Welt am Sonntag published documents showing Friedrich had been an informant for the infamous communist-era East German Ministry for State Security.

Using “Peter Bernstein” as a code name, between 1987 and 1989 Friedrich reported on other conscripts during his national service for the National People’s Army. 

He denounced more than 20 comrades for offences like complaining about the state’s heavy pollution or hinting that they might flee to the west. 

Friedrich reported on an aircraft refuelling assistant who caused an explosion by mixing weedkiller and sugar.

Some were handed formal cautions or interrogated as a result, according to the Welt am Sonntag. The newspaper found the mostly handwritten documents in the Stasi’s archives.

The 53-year-old said he did not work for the Stasi “proactively” but was signed up under duress after he was detained on suspicion of planning to defect to the west.

Berliner Zeitung used to be a propaganda tool for the East German state. It has made efforts to end that association, including a probe into two of its staff who were unmasked as former Stasi informants in 2008. 

Almost 2 per cent of the East German population is thought to have collaborated with the Stasi, maintaining files on nearly 6 million of communist state’s 16-18 million citizens. Some estimates said the Stasi had one informer for every seven citizens.

The agency had at least 173,000 informers at the end of the 1980s. 

Friedrich said he was accused of planning to defect and was forced to choose between spending several years in a military prison or “making good” on his mistake.

“I chose the second option, to get myself out of this grave predicament,” the tech boss said. “I was supposed to meet a soldier who was obviously under surveillance so that I could deliver additional information. I came clean to the soldier and we made a secret agreement about which intelligence I would pass on.”

Friedrich was released from his Stasi duties in August 1989, three months before the Berlin Wall fell. “The documents should show that I was in an emergency situation, I agreed to ‘make good’ under duress,” he said. “I withdrew from this predicament at the first opportunity and cut off my cooperation with the Stasi.”

 

A Stasi prison. Picture credit: Flickr 

 

 

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