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The History of the Stasi: East Germany's Secret Police, 1945-1990

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The History of the Stasi

East Germany's Secret Police, 1945-1990

Jens Gieseke
Translated from the German by David Burnett

268 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-254-6 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (January 2014)

ISBN  978-1-78533-024-7 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (September 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-255-3 eBook

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“Gieseke treats… many issues with careful and lucid analysis, confining himself to the known facts. He rejects the hyperbolic in favor of more mundane explanations. The truth is bad enough… Essential.” • Choice

“The book is an exceptional achievement in every respect: it offers a calm, detached, factual and well balanced socio-historical analysis of the MfS (Ministry for Security) that covers all aspects.” • Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“[This book] provides an excellent introduction to the chronology, structure, and activities of the MfS.” • Kritika. Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History

“This is an excellent book, full of careful, balanced judgements and a wealth of concisely-communicated knowledge. It is also well written. Indeed, it is the best book yet published on the MfS…More than any other written on the MfS, his is a work of real scholarship which attempts a comprehensive history of the Ministry and its operations and assesses their development and significance.” • German History

“Gieseke’s opus magnum belongs to one of the greatest scholarly achievements [in this field].” • Militägeschichtliche Zeitschrift

“Not only does Gieseke's book deserve the widest possible audience in Germany, but an English translation would fill a glaring need elsewhere in the world.” • H-German

“Gieseke has with this book produced an outstanding study of the phenomenon of state security of the GDR with all its important aspects. It is highly recommended to specialists as well as a wider readership.” • H-Soz-u-Kult


A well-balanced and detailed look at the East German Ministry for State Security, the secret police force more commonly known as the Stasi.

“This is an excellent book, full of careful, balanced judgements and a wealth of concisely-communicated knowledge. It is also well written. Indeed, it is the best book yet published on the MfS.”—German History

The Stasi stood for Stalinist oppression and all-encompassing surveillance. The “shield and sword of the party,” it secured the rule of the Communist Party for more than forty years, and by the 1980s it had become the largest secret-police apparatus in the world, per capita.

Jens Gieseke tells the story of the Stasi, a feared secret-police force and a highly professional intelligence service. He inquires into the mechanisms of dictatorship and the day-to-day effects of surveillance and suspicion. Masterful and thorough at once, he takes the reader through this dark chapter of German postwar history, supplying key information on perpetrators, informers, and victims. In an assessment of post-communist memory politics, he critically discusses the consequences of opening the files and the outcomes of the Stasi debate in reunified Germany.

A major guide for research on communist secret-police forces, this book is considered the standard reference work on the Stasi.

Jens Gieseke is head of the “Communism and Society” research department at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam, Germany. He previously worked for fifteen years in the research division of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records in Berlin. He co-edited Staatssicherheit und Gesellschaft (Göttingen, 2007); Handbuch der kommunistischen Geheimdienste in Osteuropa (Göttingen, 2008); and Die Geschichte der SED (Berlin, 2011).

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


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