Another interesting East German artifact that has been my possession for almost a quarter century: an officer’s visor hat of the East German Ministry of Security, commonly known as the Stasi.
Remarkably, the comparatively tiny East German communist state, roughly the size of the state of Tennessee and with a population of only about 16 million, operated a security apparatus that far exceeded that of Nazi Germany, with a population of almost seventy million and a 1939 land mass only slightly smaller than Texas. But while the Nazi German security apparatus employed outright terror —torture, beatings, semi-starvation and guillotining — the East German Stasi employed farm more subtle, psychological weapons — denial of higher educational opportunities and career advancement, revocation of travel privileges, and expulsion from professional organizations.
As Harvard University Professor Charles Maier observes in Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany, while the Nazi German regime became more brutal over time, the East German regime “progressively routinized their methods of oppression.”
But this comparatively more humane security strategy, carefully contrived and refined over two generations, was not enough to compensate for the economic, social and cultural inconsistencies of the East German regime.