In 1945, he returned to Germany's Soviet zone of occupation and organized the new political police in the service of the Communist party. In 1950, Mielke was named secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity party in charge of state security. In 1953, he moved to the ministry of the interior as deputy minister. Between 1955 and 1957, Mielke was appointed deputy minister of state security. He became minister of state security in 1957 and remained in that post until 1989. Mielke remained a member of the party's Central Committee and, in 1971, became a member of the Presidium of the party as a candidate (nonvoting) member. In 1976, he was promoted to full membership in that institution. In 1959, he was already colonel general and, in 1980, was promoted to General of the army. In 1991 he was arrested and was tried in a German court for crimes committed against the German people, especially for being responsible of shooting refugees at the East German-West German border. Originally, he was tried together with Erich Honecker (see Honecker Erich), but Honecker's case was dismissed because the aging former communist leader has terminal cancer.
Letgers Lyman H., ed. The German Democratic Republic: A Developed Socialist Society ( Boulder, CO, 1978).
Ministry of State Security. The major task of the ministry was the protection of the state from internal and external "subversion," using the term in the widest sense of its meaning. General of the Army Erich Mielke (see Mielke Erich) commanded the forces of the ministry throughout most of the existence of East Germany. The number of secret policemen was not known. The ministry also employed spies outside East Germany.
The Main Administration Reconnaissance, the body responsible for the direction of foreign intelligence, was especially interested in West Germany. Lieutenant General Markus Wolf headed this agency until the collapse of communism in East Germany. An extremely successful spymaster, Wolf succeeded in placing a spy even in Chancellor Willy Brandt's inner office. The unmasking of this spy led to the chancellor's resignation. But Wolf also had some spectacular failures. Defectors from the East German intelligence agencies often took reams of documents with them to the West, unmasking many operations directed by General Wolf. After the collapse of communism, Wolf sought--and received--asylum in Russia. He returned to Germany in 1992.
The security organs used large numbers of underground informers and were in constant and direct contact with the Soviet KGB. There were scores and scores of KGB agents in East Germany, and they operated as freely as if they were in their own country. In many cities during the 1989 demonstrations against communist rule, the demonstrators broke into the buildings of the security organs, ransacked their files, and took the files away. These files were freely distributed to the newspapers and the population.