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EAST GERMANY


  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    American Stasi spy tells his story

    One of East Germany's top spies was actually an American soldier. Jeff Carney defected to the Communist state in 1983 and fed the notorious Stasi with reams of valuable information. He has now written a book about his experiences.Berlin's Marienfelde district in the fall of 1983: The day Jeff Carney helped save the world was just four hours old. Carney, a 20-year-old surveillance specialist with the United States Air Force, was sitting in the early morning in front of the equipment he used to eavesdrop on the East. He was on the night shift, and there was nothing special to report.Then his supervisor told him about a secret operation that was set to take place just a few hours later. It was a war game of sorts, and it involved US fighter jets that would come within threatening range of Soviet airspace, triggering alarm signals on the Russians' radar screen and a general state of confusion. The planners expected that the other side would become so unnerved over the maneuver that emergency response procedures would be set in motion, revealing them to US reconnaissance.

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Why the Arab Spring is Likely to Disappoint Those Who Are Making it Happen

    In the spring of 2008 I attended a talk at the German Historical Institute given by Bärbel Bohley, one of the leaders of the democratic opposition in East Germany (DDR) in the late 1980s. Her talk was part of a series of reflections on the end of the Communist regime in the DDR in 1989 and the reunification of Germany that took place the following year. Many in the audience, me included, were surprised at Bohley’s bitterness over the results of Germany’s reunification after more than six decades of division.Instead of telling us why it had been a good thing that the fall of the old regime had led to reunification, Bohley argued that reunification had destroyed a nascent and in her view, authentically democratic political culture that was in the first stages of development in the DDR in the months that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. As one of the founders of the Neues Forum, the main opposition group in the DDR in 1989, Bohley played a key role both in bringing down the old regime and in trying to shepard that nascent political culture from an inchohate protest to a way of living and governing.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Germany recalls 1953 anti-Soviet revolt

    BERLIN — The German president recalls it as an electrifying moment. One of Berlin’s most resplendent avenues is named simply the “Street of June 17” in remembrance. But the heady, short-lived uprising by hundreds of thousands of East Germans 60 years ago on Monday has never lived in history as the more famous anti-Communist revolts that followed — in Hungary and Poland in 1956, in Prague in 1968 and in Poland again in 1980-81.Joachim Gauck, the first Easterner to be president of the reunited Germany, was 13 at the time, living in the Baltic port of Rostock, he told Parliament in a quietly emotional speech on Friday. “But I remember very clearly the sense of euphoria that the dockworkers were on strike,” Mr. Gauck said. “I was sure that something new was under way.”It took 36 more years before East Germans rose up en masse again, and the Berlin Wall fell. And now, almost 24 years after that, Mr. Gauck sits in Bellevue Palace, and Angela Merkel, another Easterner, in the Chancellery. So commemorations of the 60th anniversary were infused not just by Germans’ penchant for marking round dates but also by a sense of putting the 1953 uprising on more of a pedestal....

  • Originally published 06/12/2013

    Germans accuse U.S. of Stasi tactics

    (Reuters) - German outrage over a U.S. Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi.German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman has said she will raise the issue with Obama in talks next Wednesday, potentially casting a cloud over a visit that was designed to celebrate U.S.-German ties on the 50th anniversary John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.Government surveillance is an extremely sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of the dreaded Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many citizens....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Secret photos of Hitler's bunker

    Robert Conrad knew things could get uncomfortable. There were the guards, the explosions, the dark tunnels. He could easily stumble across a detonation in progress, run into a policeman or even land himself in jail.And yet, in the summer of 1987, Conrad donned a construction worker's coverall and a hardhat and hid his camera, a Praktica model with a 35-millimeter wide-angle lens, in a leather shoulder bag of the type carried by many workers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) at the time. To lend his disguise verisimilitude, Conrad made sure a Thermos jug could be seen poking out of his bag. He wanted to be absolutely sure to look just like any normal construction worker.Thus disguised, the photographer snuck up to the fence around the construction site on Berlin's Otto Grotewohl Strasse and climbed over the barrier. Once inside, he had to suppress the impulse to start running. "I walked very slowly across the site, as if on eggshells, so no one would notice me," he recalls. Conrad was uneasy. Where was the entrance into this underworld of dark concrete ruins that had been buried for decades under Berlin's streets? Would he be able to climb down into the infamous "Führer's bunker," where Adolf Hitler shot himself in April 1945?...

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    German anglers call Cold War truce

    They are known for nothing if not their patience – which may be one explanation as to why it has taken anglers from the former East and West Germany 23 years to call a cold war truce.What gymnasts, chess players, swimmers and footballers managed fairly soon after unification in 1990, Germany's anglers have finally achieved, but only after years of bitter recrimination, deep suspicion and copious amounts of cultural prejudice on both sides.From autumn, the West German Association of German Sport Fishers (VDSF) and the East German Anglers' Association (DAV) will come together to form the Deutsche Angelfischerverband (German Anglers' Association) or DAFV....

  • Originally published 03/03/2013

    Developer pledges to continue Berlin Wall removal

    A German property developer has rejected calls to halt work to remove one of the last remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, despite angry protests against the plan.Maik Uwe Hinkel says work to move a 22-meter (yard) section of the 1.3 kilometer (3/4 mile) section of the wall will resume next week...

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