Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stasi-baiting in the DDR

I've just heard a fascinating radio programme called the "The Brixmis Story" on Radio 4. At the end of the Second World War the British and Soviet armies did a deal allowing their respective militaries access to the other occupied zone, this rapidly meant that the western allies had a legal method of conducting surveillance inside East Germany and the Soviets, in West Germany. I was vaguely aware of the Brixmis story, I remember flicking through a book on it in a book shop some years ago having never heard about it before. Car chases with Stasi agents through East Germany all sounded like gripping boys-own stuff, but for some reason - probably because as a student I was skint - I never bought the book.

Anyway, the BBC has made a great little documentary on the subject. You can download it as an MP3 file from this website or probably find it on iTunes under "Radio 4 Choice". Because the missions involved NCOs and enlisted men, not just officers, the voices and accents you here range far more across British society than the public school/Oxbridge types you hear interviewed from the civilian intelligence agencies of that time. Normal blokes doing very extraordinary things such as discovering that Soviet troops weren't issued with toilet paper so they tended to use their signals pad, and therefore if you arrived quickly at a spot from where Ivan had recently departed you could find some amazing intelligence by putting "a clothes peg on your nose" and being willing to "get stuck in".

And how do you bait a Stasi officer? Well, the Brixmis teams were often tailed by up to five Stasi vehicles, the occupants of whom weren't keen on being identified as Stasi to the wider public. So on days where there isn't much else to do you stop your vehicle in the middle of a small village, hence blocking the road, jump out and point at your tails whilst yelling "Stasi! Stasi!" As one former Brixmis officer said, this was somewhat "infantile", yet his tone of voice suggests also lots of fun.

More on Wikipedia about Brixmis here.

1 comment:

Jonk said...

Argh! I accidentally clicked that mark blog link on the top of the page. Sorry about that (should _they_ come after you).

Jonk (Kotka, FI)