The Lives of Other Christians

A while ago, Marc and I were discussing the great German film, The Lives of Others, about the tactics of the secret police, the Stasi, in East Germany. The film powerfully depicts the soul-destroying nature of life in a police state, in which one never knows who is an informant and when one’s career, or life, may come to an end based on an anonymous report. A new book from Eerdmans, God’s Spies: The Stasi’s Cold War Espionage Campaign inside the Church, by Elisabeth Braw, documents how the Stasi infiltrated the country’s Lutheran churches. Here’s the description of the book from the Eerdmans’ website:

The real-life cloak-and-dagger story of how East Germany’s notorious spy agency infiltrated churches here and abroad.

East Germany only existed for a short forty years, but in that time, the country’s secret police, the Stasi, developed a highly successful “church department” that—using persuasion rather than threats—managed to recruit an extraordinary stable of clergy spies. Pastors, professors, seminary students, and even bishops spied on colleagues, other Christians, and anyone else they could report about to their handlers in the Stasi.

Thanks to its pastor spies, the Church Department (official name: Department XX/4) knew exactly what was happening and being planned in the country’s predominantly Lutheran churches. Yet ultimately it failed in its mission: despite knowing virtually everything about East German Christians, the Stasi couldn’t prevent the church-led protests that erupted in 1989 and brought down the Berlin Wall.

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