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A State of Secrecy

Stasi Informers and the Culture of Surveillance

Alison Lewis

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Potomac Books
Published: 10/2021
Pages: 348
Subject: History
eBook ISBN: 9781640124844


Secret police agencies such as the East German Ministry for State Security kept enormous quantities of secrets about their own citizens, relying heavily on human modes of data collection in the form of informants. To date little is known about the complicated and conflicted lives of informers, who often lived in a perpetual state of secrecy. This is the first study of its kind to explore this secret surveillance society, its arcane rituals, and the secret lives it fostered. Through a series of interlocking, in-depth case studies of informers in literature and the arts, A State of Secrecy seeks answers to the question of how the collusion of the East German intelligentsia with the Stasi was possible and sustainable. It draws on extensive original archive research conducted in the BStU (Stasi Records Agency), as well as eyewitness testimony, literature, and film, and uses a broad array of methods from biography, sociology, cultural studies, and literary history to political science and surveillance and intelligence studies. In teasing out the various kinds of entanglements of intellectuals with power during the Cold War, Lewis presents a microhistory of the covert activities of those writers who colluded with the secret police.


Alison Lewis is a professor of German in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne. She is the author or editor of numerous books, including Secret Police Files from the Eastern Bloc: Between Surveillance and Life Writing and Cold War Spy Stories from Eastern Europe (Potomac Books, 2019). ?


"This is the validation of Alison Lewis's remarkable ability to extract meaning from East Germany's Stasi files and to convey the insights she's gained to her readers in an enthralling manner. For readers discovering her writing now, A State of Secrecy will be an eye-opener. . . . This book is indispensable reading for all Cold War buffs."?Corina L. Petrescu, associate professor of German at the University of Mississippi

"In telling the story of five informers, Alison Lewis reveals the culture of surveillance that the Stasi purposefully created and emphasizes the ways in which the Stasi used this particular group of informers as an instrument of the state's cultural diplomacy and as a weapon in the war against the subversive activities of the West, particularly West Germany. . . . Eloquent."?Mary Kathryn Barbier, author of Spies, Lies, and Citizenship: The Hunt for Nazi Criminals

"Alison Lewis exposes aspects of Stasi infiltration into cultural circles with revelatory nuance. Her genius lies not only in groundbreaking archival research but also in putting those discoveries to stunning and complex effect. Reads like a thriller. A dazzling achievement."?Susan Signe Morrison, professor of English at Texas State University