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August 2, 2006

German archives open communist file on Brandt

Filed under: Germany, Left — limewoody @ 6:09 pm

BERLIN – The official German archives released Wednesday a communist file that describes former West German leader Willy Brandt as an intelligence source, but experts said it was clear that Brandt was unaware he was being pumped for information.

Brandt was one of 45 members of the West German Bundestag parliament in the 1969-1972 period who is named in a directory of East Germany’s foreign espionage network. Historians say three Bonn parliamentarians were definitely communist spies at that time.

Files on 16 persons were released. Most of the rest, like Brandt, who was chancellor 1969-1974 and died in 1992, were unwitting sources of inside information.

Brandt had to resign when it was discovered that a key aide, Guenter Guillaume, was a communist spy.

The files were released by the archives in Berlin which conserves the records of the former Stasi espionage and secret-police agency. One of the files described an arch-anti-communist, Franz Josef Strauss, the late premier of Bavaria state, as a source.

Marianne Birthler, head of the archives and its team of historians, said 11 of the 16 persons named were now dead.

“It is clear from the documents that the 11 were not Stasi informers,” she said. The Stasi links of the other five were already public knowledge, she added. The archives are expected to release files on more ex-parliamentarians soon if their consent is obtained.

Birthler, who has been accused of holding back files, said Wednesday she should have been quicker in disclosing that the former politicians were innocent instead of allowing speculation to mount.

The Stasi had a network of “sources” in the West. Some betrayed secrets for money, some were blackmailed and most were just garrulous without realizing they were talking to communist agents such as Guillaume.

Although the Stasi destroyed many of its files, a key index, the Rosenholz File, reveals whether files once existed. 

Germans are allowed to read Stasi files kept on themselves, but publication is only allowed of the files of persons in public life.

The Rosenholz File comprises microfilm of 317,000 index cards about persons and 77,000 cards about operations. The master copy is held by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was declassified in Germany in 2003 but is still being analysed.



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