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The Unofficial Collaborators (IM) of the MfS

The unofficial collaborators (IMs) were the "key weapon" of the Ministry of State Security (MfS). They were used primarily in the GDR. With their help the MfS spied on the population and tried to gather information on its moods and any attempts at "subversion".

In written or oral statements collaborators committed themselves to working under cover with the MfS. They reported on all areas of society, infiltrated opposition groups and supplied even the most intimate information about their colleagues, friends or fellow pupils. They also played an active role in the State Security's activities in the field of so-called "psychic demolition".

The collaborators had many different motives, ranging from political conviction, a sense of duty or bloated self-importance – to a fear of reprisals. Some hoped for professional or material advantages. In the case of young collaborators it was often a longing for recognition or a sense of security that made them susceptible to recruitment by the MfS.

By 1989 the State Security had about 189,000 unofficial collaborators – one for about every 90 GDR citizens.

Staff development of the Ministry for State Security 1950 to 1989.Staff development of the Ministry for State Security 1950 to 1989. Source: BStU

Definition

Since the publication of the IM guidelines by the BStU in 1992, the archival processing of the MfS records has unearthed additional fundamental documents on unofficial work.

Indeed, from the 1950's on, definitions are found in all pertinent guidelines that describe and characterize the nature and activity of the unofficial collaborator. But there is not one definition valid for the total MfS history. One reason for this is that the profile of the IM has changed several times.

Nevertheless, the guidelines contain certain universal challenges to be met: the necessity of conspiracy was always emphasized. It was considered to be the "basic principle" by the MfS. It was characterized by "the use of secret means and methods vis-à-vis the enemy and the public powers, the disguise of politically operative plans, purposes and measures". And also through "active and offensive operations for the surprise, deception, distraction, disinformation of the enemy". In the guidelines, the conspiracy is for the most part paraphrased as "private", "secret" or "unofficial".

The intelligence service "collaboration" is understood as a "specific form", which is based on political or material interests or that could also be accomplished through extortion. Behind the term "collaboration", the instrumentalization of the IM for the goals of the MfS was hidden. By commitment to unofficial work, the State Security Service wanted a written or oral declaration of intent of the newly acquired IM. The term "declaration of willingness" developed later on, which implied that the IM had decided on this activity completely without the assistance of the MfS.

The IM were the secret link between the State Security Service and society. They had to bear the "major burden in the conflict with the enemy" and were confronted with the enemy "most directly".

Publications

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