The Grey Men: Pursuing the Stasi into the Present with author Ralph Hope (43)

In this episode of Radio GDR – the East Germany podcast, Steve Minegar chats with Ralph Hope, the author of The Grey Men: Pursuing the Stasi into the Present.

What do you do with a hundred thousand idle spies?

By 1990 the Berlin Wall had fallen and the East German state security service folded. For forty years, they had amassed more than a billion pages in manila files detailing the lives of their citizens. Almost a hundred thousand Stasi employees, many of them experienced officers with access to highly personal information, found themselves unemployed overnight.

This is the story of what they did next.

Former FBI agent Ralph Hope uses present-day sources and access to Stasi records to track and expose ex-officers working everywhere from the Russian energy sector to the police and even the government department tasked with prosecuting Stasi crimes. He examines why the key players have never been called to account and, in doing so, asks if we have really learned from the past at all. He highlights a man who continued to fight the Stasi for thirty years after the Wall fell, and reveals a truth that many today don’t want spoken.

The Grey Men comes as an urgent warning from the past at a time when governments the world over are building an unprecedented network of surveillance over their citizens. Ultimately, this is a book about the present.

Editorial Reviews

Review

‘A cracking read that will leave you as outraged by Hope’s findings as he so clearly was.’ — Peter Conradi, Sunday Times

‘A mesmerising account of the crimes of the Stasi officers through the eyes of their victims that goes far beyond The Lives of Others.’ — Michael Smith, author of The Anatomy of a Spy

About the Author

Ralph Hope was an FBI agent for more than twenty-five years. Much of that time was spent in America, investigating drug trafficking, violent crime and terrorism. After 2001, he served for nearly a decade as an FBI representative in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. He was deputy head of the FBI office in the Baltic States, and head of FBI operations in eleven West African countries. He was later selected as liaison representative for the US Department of Justice to United Nations Peacekeeping forces battling Islamic extremists in Mali.

By the book here or at your local bookstore.

5 comments on “The Grey Men: Pursuing the Stasi into the Present with author Ralph Hope (43)

  1. Some guy says:

    Finally a new podcast episode. A story of the Stasi after the wall of the wall sounds intriguing. But I did not like this episode. It rubbed me the wrong way a few times. We can all agree that the Stasi was a bad thing for those that had to deal with them. But some of the things said by the author in the interview seemed made up. Children as Stasi spies? Willing children could go to their teachers and be recruited? That sounds like bogus! And without proof he suggests that some disappeared government money could have landed with the PDS/Linke party? No facts, just a guess. He mentions the “Left” a few times. He sounded almost apologetic of the post-war treatment of Nazis compared to the Stasi. And then he warns about Antifa in the US, mentions China shortly after. This sounds like some right wing propaganda a la FoxNews, Daily Wire or other outlets on the right. I’m surprised there was no discussion of this episode in the Facebook group.

    1. some other guy says:

      The reviews of his book on Amazon are quite similar to what you have written. Hope is obviously a right winger, who is more interested in driving a political smear campaign against the political left rather than doing thorough research.

  2. feliks says:

    Unfortunately Hope lacks accuracy and the ability to differentiate. He seems to be driven by the idea that former Stasi members seriously impact public discourse or even politics in Germany. Some remarks to what he said:

    „When the wall fell of the 180.000 on the books active IMs, as you refer to, or informants, 10.000 of those were children.“ (at 12:16 )

    The number of IMs is debated among historians and vary between 110.000 to 189.000 (see 1) According to the German Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung it is not possible to detect the amount of underage IMs. (see 2)

    „During that whole time, for about a year after the wall came down, the Stasi was still destroying files.“ (at 25:30 )

    Not correct, here is the timeline: The wall fell on 9.11.89. The occupation of MFS buildings started on 4.12.1989 in Erfurt, further cities followed and eventually the MFS headquarter in Berlin was occupied on 15.1.1990. The breakup of the Stasi was decided on 23.2.1990 and MFS staff was dismissed by the end of March 1990. (see: 3) On October 3, 1990 Germany was reunited. That Stasi personell was still busy destroying files at that time is not possible. Only some former MFS personell was still employed after March 90 to help citizen groups and the newly (and freely) elected government to understand the archives and details of how the MFS worked.

    „A Stasi expert in the Netherlands mentioned that it has become cool to have ben a former Stasi officer. That was never something that would describe someone who had been a member of the Gestapo or the SS.“ (at 47:25)

    In which circles has it become hip to have been a Stasi member? In retirement homes? Seriously, I have never heard or read anything like that before. One has to condemn the actions and crimes of the Stasi but putting them on par with an organisation that ran extermination camps is inappropriate and historically wrong.

    The MFS was a government agency. Some people in there organized surveillance of innocent citizens, some did work to protect national security and collected intelligence in other countries (just like Hope as CIA officer). Others were filing papers, mopped the floors or repaired cars.

    If you had “MFS” on your CV you certainly did not have an advantage after reunion. Public institutions screened their staff thoroughly and did not employ former Stasi staff or IMs. Due to the dismantlement of East Germanys industry in the 90s they did not even had the chance to do what protesters demanded in late 1989 – “Stasi in die Produktion”. Even if there are a few examples of people who made it into higher positions I think it’s fair to say they were treated as pariahs. Only in recent years started a more differentiated discourse about the circumstances that made people become e.g. IMs.

    The last part of the interview is quite revevaling. Hope draws a line from the MFS to Antifa and to leftwing parties in Europe and implies they are interested in supressing the freedom of speech because that’s what the Stasi did too. I think that’s absurd and shows that Hope is not a trustworthy author.

    (1) https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/ims-und-ihre-verankerung-in-der-ddr.950.de.html?dram:article_id=240202
    (2) https://www.bpb.de/geschichte/deutsche-geschichte/stasi/219467/jugendliche-spitzel
    (3) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministerium_f%C3%BCr_Staatssicherheit#Aufl%C3%B6sung_des_MfS

  3. H.Euchler says:

    It seems a bit of dissent is not wanted on this blog and comments get deleted. Given the topic of the podcast this is rather sad.

    1. radiogdr says:

      We have not removed any comments intentionally. The site in on a hiatus until the start of season 3 so we are not managing it daily.

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