Cold War hangover: Berlin journalists former Stasi stooges

The Berliner Zeitung newspaper has served the city and state of Brandenburg for over 60 years, all but the last 20 as the mouthpiece of the former Communist regime. Small wonder, then, that the defunct East German secret police still has connections within the organization even to this day. The paper admitted that one of its editors and another “senior journalist” acted as informants for the Stasi until the collapse of the East German nation in 1989:

The dark past of two senior journalists at one of Berlin’s biggest newspapers has come to light after one of them was outed as a former Stasi collaborator and his colleague chose to come forward and talk about his past voluntarily.

One of the biggest newspapers in Berlin will carry out background checks on all its journalists after two senior staff admitted to having worked for the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, during the Cold War.

The Berliner Zeitung, a left-leaning daily, admitted on Monday that its assistant politics editor was a Stasi informant for a decade, from the age of 18 until the collapse of East Germany in 1989. The 50-year-old, who has not been named, told colleagues about his secret and apologized to them during an editorial conference, the paper’s editor Josef Depenbrock said.

He decided to reveal he cooperated with the Stasi after a colleague of his, Thomas Leinkauf, who is responsible for the paper’s magazine and third-page feature, had admitted his involvement with the former East German secret police.

Even 20 years later, former spies still come crawling out of the woodwork. In this case, however, the remarkable aspect comes from the placement of the Stasi operatives. The Zeitung wasn’t an independent newspaper during the East German regime; it existed as the official party organ of the Communist Party. The paranoia of the regime drove it to spy on itself to look for anyone politically unreliable. In fact, one of the two who revealed their history had been considered too “Trotskyite” to be reliable, at least at one point.

It also should demonstrate to Berliners the nature of the reporting at the Zeitung. These aren’t journalists who flirted with Communism or became party members. They actively worked for the oppressive puppet government run by Moscow, and reported with that agenda in mind. Given the way they’ve hidden their involvement for the last two decades, it’s not unfair to ask whether they continued with that agenda, and for how long it lasted.

The paper says it will have an outside investigating agency run background checks on all current staff to see whether they have any other former Stasi informants and agents on the masthead. That seems like a long-overdue step. Cleaning house after 20 years suggests that management didn’t much care if the problem existed at all until now.