Tuesday, January 16, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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E. German Reveals Secret-Police Levels -- 1 In 80 Worked For Or Aided Stasi


EAST BERLIN - One of every 80 East Germans worked or informed for the secret police, and 3,200 employees did nothing but tap telephones and open mail, according to the official assigned to dismantle the agency.

Manfred Sauer said the huge state security apparatus cost 3.6 billion marks last year, the equivalent of $2 billion at the official rate of the time.

That was 1.3 percent of the national budget, Sauer told the seventh weekly negotiating session between the Communists and opposition yesterday. He spoke just hours before hundreds of thousands of East Germans took to the streets nationwide and in East Berlin ransacked the hated secret-police headquarters.

Premier Hans Modrow went to the headquarters and pleaded with the protesters to stop the plundering and destruction. East Berlin police chief Dirk Bachmann said opposition groups' calls for restraint had prevented injuries during the storming.

The building today remained under control of an opposition-led ``citizens' committee,'' regular police officers and government representatives.

Sauer said Erich Honecker, the hard-line leader ousted in October, expanded the secret police, known as Stasi, dramatically after gaining power in 1971.

By the end of the 1980s, there were 85,000 agents and 109,000 regular informants in a nation of 16.3 million people, Sauer said. He added that, besides the 3,200 agents assigned to telephones and mail, 5,000 were engaged in other forms of direct spying on citizens.

His disclosures were the most comprehensive yet about the workings of the secret police.

All information was stored in computers, he said, and the aim of the Honecker regime was ``total, comprehensive surveillance'' to frustrate dissent.

Honecker built a ``disproportionately large'' surveillance system and tried ``to solve political problems with methods of penal law,'' Sauer said.

Domestic spying has ceased and ``all directives against dissidents were stopped by the government . . . on Nov. 29,'' Sauer told the meeting. He said 30,000 agents had been fired, new jobs were being sought for 22,500 more and ``the rapid dismissal of another 20,000 within the shortest time possible'' was being arranged.

Those remaining would be needed to supervise the dissolution of the agency, Sauer said.

The Interior Ministry has set Jan. 25 as the deadline for retrieving all weapons from former secret police agents, including 124,000 pistols, 76,000 submachine guns, about 3,500 grenade-launchers and and 342 anti-aircraft guns.

East German officials say the country faces an increasing threat from neo-Nazis, which many in the opposition see as an attempt to justify keeping the secret police or replacing them with a similar organization.

Interior Minister Lothar Ahrendt read a report at yesterday's meeting that said ``neo-fascist, anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner'' dangers exist throughout the country.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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