The influence of the Stasi, communist party (SED) 
and government on environmentalists in Erfurt

Einflussnahme von MfS, SED und staatlichen Einrichtungen
auf eine (nicht kirchliche) Umweltgruppe in Erfurt

By Joachim Heinrich


 Environmentalists in Erfurt 
(Environmental protection/environmental improvement group)


The foundation

The Environmental protection/environmental improvement group was founded at January 25th, 1984 as part of the Society for Nature and Environment of The Culture Unity of the GDR. There was an invitation to people who were interested in environmental protection through the news paper. More than 100 people participated at the founding meeting in Erfurt. In the following months and years approximately 50 people aged mostly between 30 and 40 years were active members. As part of the official social life this foundation was not a secret or subversive one. The reasons of this foundation are uncertain, but we can speculate about. 

The primary motivation of the officials was (probably) to enlarge the basis for sharing ‘official’ communist environmental ativities, may be to shift and mislead environmental activities in the wishes direction and to have a better control about activists. The officials of The Culture Unity did not expect such strong positions of the members of the environmentalists and were totally overwhelmed: The oficially nominated head of the group gave it up after three weeks after the foundation of the group. The heads of the next two highre levels within organisation gave it up after12 respectivly 45 weeks due to a hard political pressure.There were panic reactions of the officials of the Cultural Unit: forbidden to meet, revoking invitations of presenters, the meting should be limited to pencilled in members of the group. The public should be excluded, all the discussants should wear badges in order to identify persons with crtical comments.

There was a varity of primary motivations of the people who attended the first meetings and who continued working extremely hard over several years. Of course there was a strong engagement for protection of environment as main motivation for the engagement in the environmentalists group. However at the beginning of the 80ies self-confident discussions on issues of common interests in the public arose in young people. There was a tendency to overcome the bilingual discussions in private rooms and in public. There was a self-concious demand on rights, which were assured by GDR laws and GDR constitution. They did not accept anymore to be treated as immature people and they started thinking about areas, where a change is needed. The area of environmental pollution was examplified as an crucial area for changes in political and social life.

The majority of the environmentalists had a Christian background, were highly educated and were already settled with there families.


Goals and organisation

 The main goals were:

  • Improving knowlegde on environments, pollutions and potential cleaning

  • Collection of data on environment, improving knowlegde on interpretation of thse data, watching the environment, reading GDR laws; counting violations of these laws and asking local authorities to punish when laws were violated

  • Discussion of environmental problems in the public

  • Dissemination of knowlegde The group was subdivided in working groups on ambient air pollution, water pollution, protection of urban biotops, press and media activities. Each of these working groups developped there own projects. The working group members met usually each second week or once a week on a regularly basis, ad hoc even more often. Each second week the public was invited to public prentations of common (environmental) interest or to present current activities and results. The members were interested in collaboration with governmental offices. The work was financed by the group itself. The Culture Unity only provided the meeting rooms, but some times refused.



 Over the years several more or less succesfull projects were developped:


  • Avoidance of straightening of a small river in the city
  • Cleaning of city rivers
  • Inventory of chimneys (60% of the homes were heated by surface coal)
  • Media campaign against burning of waste in the city and involuntary burning of waste containers by adding hot ashes to the waste
  • Exhibitions
  • Greening of city fassades
  • Bioindication by lichenes



  • Registration of violations of water protection laws
  • Biotope care
  • Natural reserves
  • World environmental day
  • Biological vermin control (forest)
  • Organic gardening and biologic control of vermin in private gardens
  • Planning of inner city traffic: Huttenplatz, Nördlicher Stadtparkkopf, Hirschgarten, Andreasstrasse



Why was the environmentalists group watched by the Stasi?

Church member’s ecology and peace groups in Erfurt and in Eisenach were watched by the Stasi and it was argued that members of these groups might infiltrate the environmentalists group. It was speculated that the church members could use the environmental group as a platform for a broader public. During the foundation phase there was an illegal poster in Erfurt shown with the heading’Wählt die Grünen!’ (‘Elect the greens!’). The Stasi became extremely hectic to identify the authors and underlying activities. They suspected people from the ecology group or the recent founded ‘official’ greens might as potential authors. They argued about political underground activities (PUT) and the formation of opposition groups, which discrediting of the state environmental politics and were political dissidents (politisch-ideologische Diversion PID).


What was the legal basis for the Stasi watching?

Actually there was no legal basis for the Stasi watching, since the environmentalist only face their rights of the GDR constitution and GDR laws. However, Stasi’s suspicians were so strong against all non-official activities.

The Erfurt Stasi General Josef Schwarz issued an specific working instruction ‘how one can identify dissidents and hostile-negative subjects such as ‘Andersdenkende’, ‘feindlich-negative Personen’, PUT-PID). These rather unspecific and inhuman guidance allow Stasi officers to decide who needs to be watched.


The Stasi tried to collect facts or create ‘facts’ which could be used to justify violations of the GDR criminal laws by peers of the environmmntalists group. Violations of the following GDR laws were suspected:

  • § 214  Beeinträchtigung staatlicher oder gesellschaftlicher Tätigkeiten

  • § 218  Zusammenschluss zur Verfolgung gesetzwidriger Ziele

  • § 219  Ungesetzliche Verbindungsaufnahme (mit Westdeutschen, Anm. d. Verf.)

  • § 220  Öffentliche Herabwürdigung (der DDR, Anm. d. Verf.)

  • § 245  Versammlungsverbot (OWVO v. 22.3.1984)


Watching and influence of the Stasi: aims


  • Who is who?
  • Learning the aims of the environmentalists; preventive avoidance of provocative expressions of opinions and actions
  • Learning potential ongoing collaborations with church and other environmental groups
  • Infiltrate the IM into the group of environmentalists
  • To discipline each single subjects of the group of environmentalists



  • Weakening of unity of the group causing mistrust by creating rumors about collaboration between Stasi and key persons of the group
  • Discrimination and liquidation (‘Zersetzung’) of the key persons
  • Threat of punishment; approvement of violations of criminal law
  • Avoidance of successful activities of the group
  • Liquidion of the group



Influencing measures of the Stasi

Shortly after the foundation of the environmentalist’s group in January 1984 Stasi had developped a general outline of measures against the group: ‘Konzeption zur politisch-operativen Bearbeitung von Erscheinungsformen eines Missbrauchs umweltpolitischer Masnahmen des Kulturbundes der Stadt Erfurt zur Formierung von politisch oppositionellen Personenkreisen’, BVfS, April 11, 1984. One of the goals of these measures was to discriminate key persons of the group as Stasi collaborators and in their private life, to strengthen the role of officials of the Culture unity and to realize the leading role of the communit party (SED) and the Government.

Few weeks after the foundation of the group several specific measure plans (OPK, OV) were opened against suspicted peer group persons with following files and code names:

OV Gewässer (water), OV Maske (mask), OV Kleeblatt (clover leaf), OPK Analyse (analysis), OPK ruzifix (crucifix), OPK Taube (pigeon).


Influence of the Stasi Stasi’s tools


  • Recruitment of IM (inofficial co-workers)
  • Over 20 IM reported about the group members
  • Foundation of a task force group of the Stasi (monthly meeting, coordinating of activities between several Stasi departments)
  • Recruitment of ‘reliable’ and ‘political correct’ persons of local authorities and responsiblilities from SED and government, who should be smuggled into the group



  • Psychic pressure on members of the group and attempts to recruit members of the group as IM for the Stasi
  • Stasi initiated job loose and job changes of the key persons of the group
  • Conscription to the army or to reserve training initiated by Stasi
  • Permanent new elections for the leading persons of the group
  • Discreditation of the key persons of the group as IM and in public, work place and in privacy



Discrimination, discreditation and liquidation of peer group people

From the beginning of Stasi watching there was a strong focus on the peer group persons. Stasi was interested in persons, but not in general situations or discussions. Stasi opened several measure plans against the several single peer group persons, but no single file of Stasi watching against the group as a whole was opened and is available in the current archives.

Stasi comprehensively watched and ‘influenced’ peer group people:


  • Peer group people were considered as state animies
  • Merging with entries in files of the Stasi, police, customs, and personal departments
  • Control of private bank accounts
  • Interview of neighbors
  • Control of mailings
  • Control of telephone (bugging)



  • Discrimination and liqidation of the personality by personal departments, by job superiors, representatives of government, communist party leaders, and the Culture Unity;
  • Thus, numerous people of the micro and macro environment of the peer group people and Stasi collaborators in numerous institutions needed to collaborate with Stasi.



The role of IM: general reporting versus denunciation

The Stasi files contain general reports of only 100 to 200 pages about the environmentalists group, but thousands of pages on liquidation methods and measures of the personality of the peers of the group. The crucial questions of Stasi was ‘Who is who?’. The collaboration between Stasi and IM followed exact rules which were fixed in detail. There is a report by the Stasi officer about each single meeting with IM, reporting on results and future specific orders. The IM reported against persons, but marginally about general situations and atmosphere in work place or private environments.


Why an IM became an IM?

The reasons for becoming an IM are certainly diverse and consequences from the available files of IM should be interpreted with caution. The IM files cannot provide an unbiased and representative picture on general agreements to collaborate with the Stasi. Those files were not written for people who refused to collaborate with Stasi or better to say those files could not been reviewed, because only files of IM who spioned the group and agreed with Stasi collaboration were vilable here and could be looked at. So our knowlegde on IM is limited and presumably biased. Presumably lot of people refused to collaborate with the Stasi although Stasi used sophisticated pressure methods.

From the IM files we got the impression that the requested persons agreed to collaborate with the Stasi without any hesitation. Again refusers were not archived as IM and our impression derived from the archived IM files might be also valid for the IM, but not for the general population. Some firstly hezitating people could be later convinced to collaborate by Stasi officers with the argument that they are probably also for peace and for a clean environment. Therefore, they should be engaged for peace and environment in collaboration with Stasi. Some IM candidates were also blackmailed by marginal reasons. Some requested people assumed, that collaboration with the Stasi is common in special professional positions. Some others were also believing in the political ideas, other were anxious, others expected advantages in respect to their carriere or in financial respect. Others got a higher self-estimation by the pact with the ‘power’; Stasi officers gave them the feeling to be important and that the Stasi is interested in their opinions and increased the illusionistic belief in changes by collaboration with the Stasi. Summarizing, a variety of reasons to collaborate with the Stasi different from IM to IM.


What did we know about Stasi watching while we were watched?

We were aware to be watched by Stasi, but did not care, otherwise we could not work. To disseminate mistrust among environmentalists was one of the goals of the Stasi. The Stasi itself disseminate the rumor by their IM that key persons of the group are IM. However, the peer group people knew each other very well for many years from private contacts or church-related meetings. So, the Stasi failed to have access to the inner circle of the group.

I remember at two people, who we explicitly suspected as Stasi IM. Mr. Hilmar Penndorf (FIM Erich Reeder) contacted us to know more about our motivation to be so strong engaged for environment, because he is writing a thesis about what young people are doing in their leisure time. Since Mr. Penndorf was known as a coworker of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, skepticism arose about his interest in our environmental activities. We disussed this point in the peer group and decided to involve him in our work. He was specifically asked to defend our projects in discussions with local governmental authorities. From the files it became clear today that the Stasi suspected a deconspiration of Mr. Penndorf and he was removed from the group and replaced by others. I remember a second Person (Mr. Donald Kind, IM Jörg Böttcher) who was very keen to invite the group members to our meetings. Therefore, he asked to have access to the file of adresses which was used for mailing the invitational letters. After an internal discussion we gave the adresses to him, because we knew already in that time that the Culture Unity was also strongly interested in adresses of group members and attendencies of our meetings and had transferred all our adresses to the Stasi. Jörg Böttcher wrote the invitational letters to our meetings for while.

With the exception of these two people the other IM were not known and not decovered. Also official Stasi officers were not identified on our meetings and it remains unclear whether they ever participated in one of our meetings. We assumed to be bugged and that private mailings were controlled. Our major coping strategy was brave supression or neglecting.


The bad guys were not exclusivly IM or Stasi officers….

Since not all the IM were maligne – conciously or unconciously. Some IM did even not participate our meetings after recruitment anymore or retracted himself or herself from the group in order to avoid to report to the Stasi about the environmental group. Not all representatives o personal departments and job superiors, of the communist party and from Culture Unity were benigne, because they were not an IM.


Closing the Stasi files

In 1987-88 most of the Stasi files on the environmentlists group were closed, but non-systematically watching was continued by IM. The files were closed and the ‘treated’ people were categorized as ‘Category 4.6’. This label is derived from the directive 67/1. This is the plan of communist party leaders at day X immediately conspiratively and preventive all dissidents, state animies to isolate and liquidate in isolation camps.



OV Gewässer  (water)

Files of inofficial coworker of the Stasi (IM)

OV Maske  (mask)

Interviews with IM and official Stasi coworkers

OV Kleeblatt  (clover leaf)

Files of The State’s Main Archive of Thuringia in Weimar

OPK Analyse  (analysis)

Municipal Archive of the City of Erfurt

OPK Kruzifix  (crucifix)


OPK Taube  (pigeon)




Dr. Joachim Heinrich, email: info(at)