From the Archives

East Germany Rises Again

(The Inside Story: World Report v1:2, August 1994)

Monday, November 23, 1992: A few minutes past midnight, in the German city of Mölln, firebombs are thrown into an apartment in which Turkish nationals live. A middle-aged woman, her ten-year-old granddaughter, and a 14-year-old girl die in the fire, while nine more people are injured.

A phone call declaring responsibility is made to the police, and ends with the salutation, “Heil Hitler.” German authorities decide to take this neo-Nazi terrorist attack seriously, considering it a national security matter, and within hours the office of the federal prosecutor takes control of the investigation. Federal police declare the murder to have been “planned, approved and carefully prepared.” According to the prosecutor’s office, these “premeditated acts” were carried out not just by hotheaded racists, but by organized criminals who are “endangering the internal security of the German Federal Republic and seeking to liquidate, invalidate or undermine the basis of our constitution.”1

German officials have good reason to worry. Some 270 neo-Nazi attacks had taken place during 1990, the year of German reunification; that number had exploded to 1,800 during 1992. Many of these violent acts have been directed at foreigners, including Turks brought in to offset a labor shortage.2

Since 1989, in fact, Germany has seen a general rise in terrorist activity. The Red Army Faction of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, for example, has taken responsibility for a wave of assassination of top German political officials — by shootings and spectacular bombings.3

This explosive wave of violence has taken most Germans by surprise. Such terrorism was always known to be a symptom of the Cold War, a form of “fifth column” warfare conducted by the Communist Bloc inside Western nations. The Baader-Meinhof Gang had functioned as an arm of the Stasi, the secret police agency of East Germany. However, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “collapse” of Communism had allegedly ended the Stasi’s very existence, as evidence by the public mobs that raided and destroyed Stasi headquarters in East Berlin. West German officials quickly followed up on information from the newly-opened Stasi files, rounding up the underground leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Germany declared victory over terrorism.

The sudden revival of the Red Army Faction (RAF), after it had supposedly been disbanded, caught Western intelligence services off guard. The simultaneous rise in neo-Nazi violence was equally confusing. But a major clue in solving the mystery emerged during the neo-Nazi riots instigated in the port city of Rostock, located in eastern Germany, in 1992. The rioters had attacked and torched a hostel containing foreigners who sought asylum. Four key agitators, who had painstakingly organized the violence, were arrested in September; the startled German police quickly discovered that all four were members of the Stasi — which presumably no longer existed.

The ensuing investigation led to a report by Rudolf Seiters, Interior Minister of Germany and therefore in charge of all counter-terrorism efforts. Although the report itself was not released, an official spokesman revealed its conclusion: the Stasi, acting through its underground agents, had “plotted the riots to bring down democracy.”4 In other words, the East German police organization was still functioning and was working to de-stabilize the new government of united Germany. This would also explain the resurgence of the RAF.

Informed members of German intelligence had no reason for surprise. They had long estimated that some 5,000 Stasi agents had already penetrated the West German government, but since the 1990 reunification only about 200 of those have surfaced. The “dismantling” of the Stasi was itself handled by the East Germans, who appointed Stasi agents to supervise the process. Many Stasi files have since disappeared while most of the rest are locked away, and all investigations of Stasi influence have been closed without major results.

But the 200 defectors have added even more unnerving facts to the story. The Stasi leadership apparently had advance warning of the German reunification as far back as 1986. At that time, thousands of additional agents were pre-positioned throughout East German institutions. Thus, when unification arrived in 1990, tens of thousands of Stasi agents were automatically incorporated into the government and political parties of united Germany. According to the defectors, these spies were told to act as “sleeper” agents until given orders at a later date. Other Stasi agents, meanwhile, hid vast stores of weapons for future use.

The defectors further revealed that the Soviet KGB had taken direct operational control over the invisible Stasi network, starting just a few months after the Stasi itself officially ended. These agents have since been controlled from the Soviet military bases still present in East Germany.5

And what has become of the investigations of the RAF and neo-Nazis? The German police unit GSG-9 finally managed, by 1992, to place an informant in the highest ranks of the Red Army. Their man was Klaus Steinmetz, a street leftist and petty criminal recruited after his arrest in the 1980s. In early 1992, agent Steinmetz established contact with RAF terrorist Birgit Hogefeld, long on Germany’s wanted list. From there, Steinmetz contacted other RAF leaders. By March of 1993, he discovered plans to bomb a prison, but German intelligence did not wish to break Steinmetz’s cover and therefore could not intervene. The explosion wiped out the prison, creating a $100 million repair bill.

Steinmetz again arranged to meet Hogefeld and another RAF member, Wolfgang Grams, at a train station in Bad Kleinen, a town in eastern Germany. This time the GSG-9 decided to make their arrests. Some 54 police officers descended on the train station during the June 27, 1993, meeting. A struggle and a furious gun battle followed, leaving Grams and one GSG-9 member dead.

Hostile political forces have since turned the event into a scandal. Steinmetz’s name was revealed publicly, depriving German intelligence of their first major RAF informant in decades. And two of the GSG-9 agents from the raid have been accused of deliberately killing Grams after he was defenseless. Regardless of whether the charges are true, Interior Minister Seiters and head federal prosecutor Alexander von Stahl were forced to resign.6 In effect, German investigations of Stasi-organized terrorism are being crippled, with police morale under attack.

The increasing economic, political, and military unification of Europe no longer seems to imply a new European powerhouse. The sophisticated Stasi underground, and its hidden role in orchestrating the rising neo-Nazi and RAF violence, can be added to the accelerating problem of terrorism by the Irish Republican Army in Ireland and Great Britain, the Basque ETA in Spain, and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party in Turkey. The bloody war between the Mafia and the Italian government does not help, nor do the strikes and labor violence in France. More ominously, the “former” Soviet Union and several nations of Eastern Europe are now in the process of joining the European Union and NATO in the full unification of Europe — a move that will soon bring Soviet troops directly into Western Europe.

The Soviets will soon be in a position to consolidate full Communist power in united Europe, particularly if they use the Stasi and other underground networks to launch an uncontrollable wave of terrorism. Given such anarchy, most Europeans would gladly welcome Soviet occupation forces to restore order.


1. “Federal prosecutor takes over probe of German firebombing,” San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 24, 1992, p. A8.

2. Ibid.

3. “We Are the Next Target: Terrorism and the Betrayal of Israel,” audiotape lecture transcript, Inside Story Communications, 1994 (see footnotes 12-13).

4. Der Bild, Sept. 2, 1992, reported in “4 former E. German police arrested for role in rightist riots,” Orange County Register, Sept. 3, 1992, pp. A16-A17.

5. Ellison, B.J., “Behind the Facade,” The New American, May 21, 1991, pp. 21-30.

6. Associated Press, “German official resigns after coverup charge,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 5, 1993, p. A8; Kinzer, S., New York Times, “Germany’s costly spy scandal,” San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 13, 1993, p. B6.