• Germany's news in English

Berlin paper struggles after Stasi staff outed

AFP · 9 Apr 2008, 07:52

Published: 09 Apr 2008 07:52 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, reporter Thomas Rogalla has covered every twist and turn in the painful legacy of the despised East German secret police, the Stasi.

But despite his experience, he never thought the story would hit as close to home as it did last month.

Two senior editors at the respected daily Berliner Zeitung, Thomas Leinkauf and Ingo Preissler, were forced to admit they had worked for the secret police after another daily scooped their paper with the story.

"I've been deeply involved with this topic and now, I've got the Stasi here in the building," Rogalla told AFP, laughing uncomfortably.

Leinkauf confessed he had served as an informant for two years, from 1975 to 1977 while Preissler served from 1979 to 1989, when a peaceful revolution toppled the East German regime.

Rogalla, who was chosen by the paper's editorial staff to act as their spokesman, told AFP he was stunned by the disclosures.

"If you can imagine, someone you've worked with on a basis of mutual trust was an informant and didn't reveal it," Rogalla said. "It's hard to believe."

Responses to the case have been mixed and reflect the different ways Germans interpret the country's difficult past; more than 600,000 East Germans at one time cooperated with the Stasi, according to a study published in March.

But Preissler's confession was particularly bitter for Rogalla. They had worked closely together and Preissler eventually succeeded Rogalla as political editor.

"We naturally worked on Stasi topics and he never tried to get in the way or influence anything," Rogalla said.

Rogalla, who also spent four years as a spokesman for the archive that holds the millions of files the Stasi kept on East and West Germans, says he has not yet spoken to Preissler about his shadowy past.

The Berliner Zeitung was founded by German communists immediately after World War II. Until 1989, the paper was considered one of the official mouthpieces of the East German communist regime.

After 1989, the newspaper was privatised and is now owned by the British firm Mecom Group, which owns regional publications throughout Europe. But despite the fresh start, it was still struggling with Cold War fallout.

In the mid-1990s, 12 journalists on the newspaper's staff were sacked after they were found to have Stasi ties. All reporters hired since 1997 are required to disclose any relationship they may have had with the Stasi. Rogalla said staff members from eastern Germany were often more critical than westerners about how clean some of their colleagues had come about their Stasi pasts.

"One colleague once told me, Ingo [Preissler] definitely has a [Stasi] file," Rogalla said. "I said, 'you're crazy.'"

In a meeting of the paper's staff, all but a handful present voted to open their Stasi files for internal review.

"There are people who don't want their files looked through because they say, 'I don't need to prove my innocence,'" said Rogalla, who originally hails from western Germany. "I can perfectly understand ... but I do need to prove my innocence."

Editor-in-chief Josef Depenbrock declined to speak to AFP but in a public statement he said an independent group of academics had been asked to review the paper's reporting for bias and accuracy. It was a story commissioned by Leinkauf that first raised questions about his past, said Rogalla.

Story continues below…

The article published in January focused on Hubertus Knabe, a historian in charge of a museum housed in a former Stasi prison in Berlin.

"The suspicion was that Leinkauf wasn't completely clean because he smeared Knabe," Rogalla said.

That inkling was confirmed when a reporter from the conservative daily Die Welt requested Leinkauf's Stasi file under an open records law.

"I hope [Leinkauf] does not remain in a leadership position," one reader wrote on the newspaper's blog. "His victims from Stasi times have always had to reckon with trouble. He must also have realised that, despite his youth."

Leinkauf and Preissler continue to go to work, Rogalla said, but they are not writing or editing. The pair's future at the paper is unclear.

"Now they're suddenly unwanted, criticised people," Rogalla said. "What should they do for work? They probably can't ever write again."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Eurowings braces as cabin crew union proclaims strike
Photo: DPA

A union representing cabin crew for Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings announced that strikes could take place at any time over the next two weeks, starting on Monday.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

First World War U-boat "attacked by sea monster” thought to be found off Scottish coast.

Supermarket Edeka warns of exploding apple juice bottles
Photo: DPA

"Risk of injury" from "Gut und Günstig" sparkling apple juice bottles has forced Germany's largest supermarket to recall the product.

By wheelchair from Syria to Germany: teen's story of hope
Nujeen Mustafa. Photo: HarperCollins-William Collins Publicity/Private

She tackled the gruelling 2,000-kilometre migrant trail in a wheelchair, translating along the way for other refugees using English she learned from a US soap opera. Now this teen is living in Germany and hoping to inspire others with a newly published memoir.

Berlin Zoo to have a pair of pandas by next summer
A recently born panda pair at Vienna Zoo. Photo: DPA

The giant bamboo-eating bears will move into a brand new 5,000 square-metre enclosure in the capital's Zoologischer Garten.

Two new spider species discovered in Munich
Zoropsis spinimana. Photo: rankingranqueen / Wikimedia Commons

It's news every arachnophobe in Munich is no doubt thrilled to hear: two types of spider new to the region have been discovered in the Bavarian capital - and one of them bites!

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

Two injured after army tank falls 50 metres in Alps
A Bundeswehr Puma tank. File photo: DPA

A Bundeswehr (German army) soldier has been severely injured after the tank he was riding in crashed 50 metres down an embankment after going off course in bad weather.

Teen girl stands trial for 'Isis' police stabbing in Hanover
Police guard the courthouse in Celle. Photo: DPA

A teenage girl stands trial from Thursday in Germany for stabbing a police officer, an assault allegedly "ordered" by Isis but which was not claimed by the jihadist group.

Merkel threatens Putin with more sanctions on Berlin visit
Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel created a united front with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Thursday to denounce Russia’s “war crimes” in Syria.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd