Former German communist spies meet in exile

18th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

18 November 2007, Odense, Denmark (dpa) - More than 60 former Stasi officers defended one of the world's most infamous den of spies at a history conference on East German espionage that ended Sunday in Denmark. The Stasi spied on both its own East German people and the West till its communist masters fell from power in 1989. The foreign-espionage department, known by the German initials HV A, was tasked with subverting democratic institutions to advance Soviet interests during the Cold War. As astonished h

18 November 2007

Odense, Denmark (dpa) - More than 60 former Stasi officers defended one of the world's most infamous den of spies at a history conference on East German espionage that ended Sunday in Denmark.

The Stasi spied on both its own East German people and the West till its communist masters fell from power in 1989.

The foreign-espionage department, known by the German initials HV A, was tasked with subverting democratic institutions to advance Soviet interests during the Cold War.

As astonished historians listened in Odense, Denmark, the former spooks offered no apologies during an event which former Stasi captain Juergen Strahl joked was an "old boys reunion."

Strahl was not joking when he told an audience of 250 that a double agent killed in custody in 1981, Werner Teske, had deserved to be shot in the head: "You shoot traitors, or they shoot themselves."

Thomas Wegener Friis, a young Danish historian, invited the ex- spies to the University of Southern Denmark in Odense to give eyewitness accounts of their work "before it's too late."

Friis said he was satisfied, as he had expected the HV A retirees to defend the agency, even if that courted controversy back in Germany. "It went quite well," he said.

Academics were overshadowed at the conference by the assertive former spies during panel discussions.

The conference was to have been held in Berlin five months ago but was cancelled after a public outcry.

The 11 unrepentant ex-officers who read papers claimed the HV A had been inspired by "humanist" ideals.

"I'm proud of our work and its outstanding achievements," declared Ralf-Peter Devaux, 67, the last deputy head of the HV A. "I wouldn't do a thing differently today."

Devaux spent much of his career managing the agents who infiltrated the West German government in Bonn, including Guenter Guillaume, the spy who became a senior aide to late chancellor Willy Brandt. Guillaume's exposure brought Brandt's downfall.

A letter of welcome from Werner Grossmann, 78, head till 1989 of the HV A, was read to the conference.

Grossmann, who did not attend in person because of declining health, said the agents "fulfilled their mission to preserve peace."

"Unlike other secret services, we did not mount coups, murders and kidnaps," he claimed. The undercover agents who infiltrated the West German government and industry were "scouts for peace."

Despite the Cold War arms race, communist repression and the violent crushing of uprisings until the collapse of the Soviet system in 1989, communists always claimed their purpose was world peace.

Jens Gieseke, a historian at the Berlin federal archives which preserve the Stasi files and use them for research, was an observer at the conference.

He said the agents' bragging confirmed the rightness of his archives' decision not to be associated with the event.

During the ex-officers' speeches in German, long-forgotten communist-era bureaucratic jargon came alive as if nothing had been learned since the fall of communism.

It was too much for one panel chairman, who rebuked Horst Behnke, a former officer, for mouthing propaganda. Behnke claimed there had been decades of "anti-Stasi hysteria" and "people don't want to hear the truth."

DPA

Subject: German news

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