Unloved, unlamented East Germany, which disappeared into West Germany last month, was a resounding success in the production of female Olympic athletes and world-class spies.
If East Germany's lady jocks were good, its spooks and moles were great, perhaps the best spy horde ever assembled.Of course, the communists had advantages. Untroubled by morality, they built their secret police network on the techniques and sometimes the personnel of the Nazis' dreaded Gestapo.
And since their main target was West Germany, they only had to send Germans westward as "refugees." Once there, these agents patiently wormed their way into sensitive posts and reported back to their legendary spymaster, Markus Wolf.
Since German unity on Oct. 3, Bonn's police have been pawing through the voluminous files of the Stasi, the hated East German Ministry for State Security. What they have learned has turned them pale:
- A deputy chief of West German military intelligence, Col. Joachim Krase, spied for the Stasi for 10 years before his death in 1988.
- Klaus Kuron's job as deputy head of West German counter-intelligence was to turn East German spies into double agents. He betrayed them to the Stasi for $2,500 a month.
- Gabriele Gast compiled a weekly top-secret intelligence report for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for six years. Kohl and the Stasi got Gast's summary at the same time.
East German spying could backfire. Its greatest feat (that we know about) was to place the spy Gunther Guillaume as Chancellor Willy Brandt's right-hand man. The subsequent scandal forced Brandt to resign in 1974.
A Stasi triumph? Hardly. Brandt was replaced by Helmut Schmidt, who was less dewy-eyed about Moscow. And Schmidt, in turn, was replaced by the conservative Kohl, who bought East Germany from a collapsing Russia for $12 billion or so. For five German states and 16 million people, it was a steal.
The Stasi and its big brother, the KGB, knew every West German secret, including industrial ones. And because America and NATO shared data with Bonn, the allies' politico-military plans were an open book for East Berlin and Moscow.
What did the communists gain from brilliant espionage? Apparently little. Last year East Germans began voting with their feet - leaving - and later with ballots, terminating a vaunted police state. Their former masters, the Soviets, seem to be following suit.
Suggestion: The United States, which spends $30 billion annually on often wasteful and redundant snooping, can save itself big money.
Epilogue: After unity, Bonn police went looking for their archenemy Wolf, the model for Karla, the communist spy in John le Carre novels. They found he was missing. What did they expect?