State of Secrecy

Stasi Informers and the Culture of Surveillance

Alison Lewis

A series of five interlaced, in-depth biographical studies from across the spectrum of writers-turned-spies recruited by the Stasi.
Publication date:
June 2022
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781640123793

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
Available in 3-4 weeks


• This is the first study to explore this secret surveillance society and the secret lives of literary informers, who agreed to monitor their peers
• Sheds historical light on the ways in which citizens can knowingly become complicit in surveillance regimes, and how punitive surveillance states managed to acquire broad support
• Draws on extensive original archive research conducted in the BStU (Stasi-Documents-Agency) as well as eye-witness testimony, literature, and film
• Attempts to demonstrate the breadth of work that Stasi informers from the spheres of literature undertook, and to explore their diverse motivations, and attendant emotions, in the broader social, historical and cultural context of life under communism

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 forms 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 and life writing, sociology, cultural studies, cultural and literary history to political science, surveillance, and intelligence studies. In teasing out the various kinds of entanglements of intellectuals with power during the Cold War, it presents a microhistory of the covert activities of those writers who colluded with the secret police.