MINISTRY OF STATE SECURITY
THE MfS SETS ITS SIGHTS ON RETURNEES AND MIGRANTS
The Ministry of State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or MfS, also known as the Stasi) closely monitors returnees and migrants from West Germany. A secret intelligence service, the MfS sees itself as the “sword and shield of the Party” and regards newcomers from capitalist West Germany with suspicion. Above all, the Stasi fears that Western spies will smuggle themselves into the GDR as migrants, but they also want to prevent political opponents and “asocial and criminal elements” from entering the country. As early as the 1950s, the MfS presses for tougher monitoring of new arrivals. Stasi employees and the Peoples’ Police (Volkspolizei) interrogate detainees in the reception centres. The goal is to determine peoples’ reasons for immigrating and to uncover any inconsistencies in their stories in order to differentiate between desirable and undesirable migrants. However, it is not only the police who are involved in these interrogations and the monitoring of migrant attitudes in the reception centres. Civilian centre employees, recruited fellow inmates, and Unofficial Collaborators (Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter, or IMs) disguised as migrants are also spying on the detainees and collecting information.
Otherwise the principle remains that anyone who has turned his back on us should stay where he is. (...) If he has no value for us. Because there are tons of rotten bastards who want to come back.
The MfS is responsible for final decisions regarding the admittance or “return-smuggling” of prospective migrants. However, even after their admittance to the GDR, many migrants and returnees continue to be monitored in both their professional and private lives.
THE BENEFITS OF WEST-EAST MIGRATION FOR THE STASI
The MfS attempts to obtain intelligence from the migrants both regarding West Germany and in order to discover gaps in GDR border security. Specialised questionnaires form the basis for the interrogations. The focus is on former Bundeswehr members and those who have previously left the GDR illegally.
In this way, the Stasi is able to collect information on escape routes from the GDR, as well as on West German military objects, airfields and research programs. The MfS hopes to acquire information on Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND) operational methods from returnees who have gone through the admissions process in West Germany and have therefore come into contact with the BND.
A few migrants are recruited as Unofficial Collaborators. Some act out of conviction, while others have financial reasons or are blackmailed by the MfS. Several are chosen by the Stasi to make public statements about their life in the West and the alleged or genuine state of emergency there. The objectives are to discourage GDR citizens hoping to migrate west and to improve the GDR’s reputation.