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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"He was known as the Master of Fear"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Ex-Stasi chief dies
Mielke
Mielke ran the Stasi for over 30 years
Erich Mielke, who headed the former East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, for three decades, has died in Berlin at the age of 92.

Berlin officials confirmed a report in Friday's Kurier newspaper that Mielke had died in a nursing home earlier in the week.

Mielke ran the feared Stasi from 1957 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

A lifelong communist who fled the Nazis in the 1930s, Mielke was jailed shortly after the collapse of East Germany and reunification in 1990.

Murder charges

Berlin Wall
Mielke held his post until the fall of the Berlin Wall
He was sentenced in Berlin to six years in prison in 1993 for the murder of two policemen in 1931. However he was freed after two years when he was diagnosed as senile.

But Mielke escaped prosecution for his leadership of the Stasi, including charges related to shooting deaths at the Berlin Wall, because of poor health and senility.

In 1997, another Berlin court refused to give him back DM380,000 ($180,000) blocked in a bank account since 1990.

The court ruled that he had misused his privilege and power to amass the money while running the Stasi.

At its height, the Stasi employed 85,000 agents and over 100,000 informers to oversee almost every aspect of life in communist East Germany.

Wanted

Born in Berlin in 1907, Mielke became a full member of the Communist Party in 1925 and worked as a reporter for the party's newspaper, Red Flag.

He became a member of the party's paramilitary force, leading to his participation in the August 1931 demonstration in Berlin during which the two policemen were shot and killed.

Wanted for the killings, Mielke escaped to Belgium. He went on to the Soviet Union where he attended the elite International Lenin School in Moscow in the mid-1930s.


Erich Honecker
Charges over Wall shootings were also brought - and dropped - against Erich Honecker
Mielke served in 1936 in the International Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War against General Franco, whose forces triumphed and set up a fascist dictatorship.

In 1940, Mielke returned to the Soviet Union and then to Soviet-occupied eastern Germany in 1945. He helped organise police in the Soviet-occupied zone and became deputy chief of state security when East Germany was founded in 1950.

He took over as minister in 1957, a post he held until the Stalinist regime collapsed with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

He went on trial for shootings at the Wall along with East Germany's last Communist leader, Erich Honecker, in 1992. But the case against Mielke was dropped because he was also on trial for the 1931 police killings, and was later declared too senile to follow the proceedings.

The case against Honecker was also dropped for health reasons, and he died in exile in Chile in 1994.

Mielke lived with his wife in eastern Berlin until March, when he was admitted to a home for the elderly.

The former Stasi chief's funeral is expected to take place on 10 June at Berlin's socialist cemetery.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Europe
Stasi files return to Germany
20 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Fearsome Stasi held nation in its grip
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