Dealing with the Devil: East Germany, Detente, and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973

By M. E. Sarotte | Go to book overview

Note on Sources: The Bureaucracy of Evil

The essay below addresses the challenge of working with the paperwork produced by the bureaucracy of a dictatorship. It reveals the scholarly infrastructure of this book and is intended to help those considering future reading or perhaps future research. First, there is an overview of the primary sources and methodology. Technical details about these primary sources, such as archival locations and call numbers, may be found in the Bibliography listings. Next, the most relevant books and articles of secondary literature are summarized. These works, along with many others, are addressed in detail in the endnotes to the book, and full citations are given in the Bibliography as well.


Primary Sources

Eastern

The sources for this study came primarily from iles in the former SED party and GDR state archives (the party-state distinction is much clearer in the archives than it ever was in reality). 1 When I was conducting my research, these materials were located respectively in Berlin and Potsdam. The archives of the Ministry for State Security (usually abbreviated in oficial documents to MfS), or Stasi—located in Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig—provided signiicant evidence as well. 2 The party, state, and Stasi archives opened to researchers only after the fall of the Berlin Wall; often I found that I was the irst Western scholar to use a particular collection of documents. 3

The most important East German ile groups were the following: notes from Politburo meetings in East Berlin, the oficial GDR transcripts from the German-German negotiating rounds, matching secret transcripts from Stasi surveillance, and GDR preparatory papers for each negotiating round. These papers were scattered between the party, state and Stasi archive; usually each archive contained some but not all of a collection, making cross-checking between the three archives mandatory.

Equally important was the extensive correspondence between not only the SED and West Germany but also between the SED and the CPSU. Most of the latter is in a collection with the bland name of the “General Department.” The SED borrowed this name from the Soviets. Its blandness concealed the signiicance of the departme's work, namely, the coordination of relations between East Berlin and Moscow. 4 Hence the “General Department” records were among the most informative of all collections and were especially rich in Soviet documents.

Essentially the only East German documentary collection that was not available was the archive of the East German Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is now in possession of the West German Foreign Ministry. The latter ministry decided to impose a thirtyyear hold on documents. My request for an exception to this rule was denied. However, as eminent political scientist Wilhelm Bruns pointed out in his extensive survey of GDR foreign relations, foreign policy was not made in the ministry but rather in the party headquarters. 5 Hence the lack of these sources—many of which exist as copies in party iles—is not particularly worrisome.

Soviet sources were much more problematic. Files of the CPSU Politburo, Comintern, and International Department of the Central Committee were notionally “open” at the

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