36 J. Church & St. 725 (1994)
Stasi and the Churches: Between Coercion and Compromise in East German Protestantism, 1949-89, The

handle is hein.journals/jchs36 and id is 731 raw text is: The Stasi and the Churches:
Between Coercion and
Compromise in East German
Protestantism, 1949-89
JOHN S. CONWAY
In the turbulent and dramatic days of late 1989, the Evangelical,
i.e. Protestant, churches of the former German Democratic Republic
were widely seen as having played an important role in the overthrow
of the communist-led government under Erich Honecker. The
churches' courageous stand against political corruption and the misuse
of power was hailed as a significant factor in undermining the credibil-
ity of the regime. So too was the readiness of church-led basis groups
to challenge the ubiquitous secret police, commonly known as the
Stasi. These were valiant demonstrations of the popular demand for
fundamental rights to freedom of expression, and for liberation from
the oppressive structures which had for so long characterized the
Marxist-dominated society. The image of a small indomitable band
which refused to bow the knee to Baal, but instead defied the might of
the all-powerful atheist state, received widespread acknowledgment
and approbation.' A large banner paraded through the streets of Leip-
zig said it all: Kirche, wir danken dir!
But this mood of praise was soon replaced by a much more critical
verdict, largely due to sensational revelations of the extent to which the
Ministry for State Security, i.e., the Stasi, had infiltrated the churches.
JOHN S. CONWAY (B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Cambridge University, United Kingdom) is pro-
fessor of history at University of British Columbia. He is author of The Nazi Persecution of
the Churches, 1933-1945 (also French, German, and Spanish translations). His articles have
appeared in Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, Journal of Ecclesiastical Histonj, Church Histonj,
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Journal of Church and State, among others. Special
interests include modem German church history, diplomacy of the Vatican, and Christian-
Jewish relations.
1. See Gerhard Rein, ed., Die Protestantische Revolution 1987-1990 (Berlin: Wichem,
1990); J.P. Burgess, Church-State Relations in East Germany: The Church as a 'Religious'
and 'Political' Force, Journal of Church and State 32 (Winter 1990): 17-35; J.P. Burgess,
Preparing for the Fall of 1989: Religion and Democratization in East Germany, Sound-
ings 74 (Summer 1991): 45-64; John A. Moses, The Church's Role in the Collapse of
Communism in East Germany 1989-1990, Colloquium 23 (1991): 120-30; J.S. Conway,
How to Serve God in a post-Marxist Land? East German Protestantism's Contribution to a
Peaceful Revolution, Journal of Religious Historj 16 (December 1990): 126-39.

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