chapter  5
‘If only I had known’: breaking the bond
Pages 9

In the vast majority of cases where an informer’s file was shelved, the decision to end the contact was taken by the Stasi and not the informer. Such a move was usually made when the informer was considered no longer suitable for the task at hand or that the task itself had become superfluous. In 71 per cent of 2,431 cases where an informer’s file was shelved in the area of Rostock between January 1987 and October 1989, the main reasons given were: the contact had no potential; the informer was not suited to the job; he or she was too old or ill; he or she had been promoted to a fulltime unofficial employee (J-63, pp. 123-4). A further 8 per cent of cases came to an end because the informer was judged to be dishonest, and 3 per cent were released from their duties when they were found to have broken their oath of silence about working for the Stasi (ibid. p. 123). In only 16 per cent of cases did unofficial employees end the contact on their own initiative (ibid.). Similar figures are given for the area of Frankfurt/Oder for the period spanning 1981 to 1985 (ibid. p. 124). Several key factors contributed to the fact that so few informers made the break from the Stasi, despite the fact that many suffered, at least periodically, from scruples about their actions and were often no longer convinced that they served any justifiable purpose.