Part of illustration by Karin Sunvisson

Peer-reviewed articles The “Rosenholz-Archives” Myth and Reality

The authors here argues that the total picture of the Scandinavian can only be established when the “Rosenholz”-files are generally available. The Rosenholz files consist of three different kinds of records, originally created by the HVA. The major part of the files is 293,000 filing cards of the person index of the HVA. The part of Rosenholz which today is kept in the Stasi files lists 133,000 West Germans, 24,000 West Berliners, 112,000 East Germans, and 121 citizens of other states.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 1 2012, pages 25-29
Published on on January 7, 2012

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Who were the East German spies in West Germany and the rest of the Western world? This is the question that has puzzled scholars for several decades now — particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the East German (GDR) security apparatus, Stasi, during the winter of the peaceful revolution of 1989/1990. Only shortly after angry citizens had stormed Stasi central headquarters in Berlin in January 1990 did the first reports of East German spies appear. However, at this early stage the question only interested a few experts. Not even the local media paid much attention to it. The number of competing historic events was simply overwhelming. Nonetheless, an important agent, Alfred Spuhler, alias “Peter”, was arrested in November 1989, and the agent of the century, Gabriele Gast, alias “Gisela”, in October 1990. Both had been employed by the West German foreign intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

The interest of the wider public increased in 1992 because of two events in particular. First, the Stasi files were opened. And second, NATO was desperately seeking the mole known by the mystic cover name “Topas”. His value to the Eastern Bloc was even greater than that of “Peter” and “Gisela”. “Topas” had been placed at the heart of NATO’s planning for several years and had smuggled at least 1,047 secret documents to East Berlin, of which 282 were deemed “very valuable” — the highest ranking of raw intelligence — and immediately shared with the KGB.1

With the opening of the files, it became generally known that East Germany’s primary intelligence service, the Hauptverwaltung A (HVA, often written as “HV A” in German) of the Stasi, equivalent to the First Directorate of the KGB, had succeeded in destroying almost all its files, computers, and even filing card system. Or at least so the final report of the HVA from June 1990 promised its political supervisors, when Germany was on the brink of reunification.2 The lack of material nourished the legend of East German intelligence, which had already been built by memoirs, pieces of evidence, and even fiction. However, an important route to more secure knowledge and deconstruction of the legends was opened when, in April 1998, the German news magazine Focus was able to publish an article with a new source of information named “Rosenholz”. The journalist reported that a microfilm copy of the central filing card system of the HVA had not been destroyed, but had miraculously survived in Langley, West Virginia, the headquarters of the CIA. In April 1993, the German counterintelligence agency, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), had been allowed to take notes from this unique resource.3 This archive operated under the name “Rosenholz”, which today is widely accepted as synonymous with the information of the filing card system. Rosenholz sheds new information on the HVA networks and working methods.

The HVA started the destruction of its files in November 1989. Altogether a hundred truckloads of shredded paper were taken from the intelligence central headquarters on Normannenstrasse in East Berlin to destruction facilities. The work was made substantially more difficult on the 15th of January when representatives of the civil rights movement took control of the Stasi headquarters. However, a small group of HVA officers was allowed to continue their work feeding the shredders day and night. Their main priority was documents concerning the agent networks and general directives that would yield knowledge of HVA methods and target institutions in the West. Only very few of these documents are therefore available in the Stasi files today. However, it was not possible to destroy everything. Important search aids like the Rosenholz files were spared, as well as electronic databases, a large number of final intelligence reports for the party leadership, and even some 13,000 of the service’s 63,000 operations. However, they were generally the operations of least importance.4

What is “Rosenholz”?

In the past it was normal to keep track of books or files using filing cards. The filing cards were a search aid containing a name or a signature. They were small promises of what the file contained. And they were indispensible to the work of intelligence services, giving an overview and perhaps a summary of their work.

The Rosenholz files consist of three different kinds of records, originally created by the HVA. The major part of the files is 293,000 filing cards of the person index of the HVA. The part of Rosenholz which today is kept in the Stasi files lists 133,000 West Germans, 24,000 West Berliners, 112,000 East Germans, and 121 citizens of other states. Within the organization, it was called “Formblatt 16” (standard card 16) or just “F 16”. It contained the names and personal data of people whom the HVA for various reasons found interesting. Often the HVA filed several persons under one registration number. Therefore it is not possible to use the F 16 card to identify individual agents. However, popular belief is still that such identification is possible, and in Germany, in the summer of 2011, it led to a misguided debate on whether the former lawyer of the terrorist group RAF, Horst Mahler, had also been a Stasi spy. The general expression “agent cards” as a synonym for “Rosenholz” is still common. Terms like this nurture the Rosenholz legend.5

The second part of Rosenholz is the operation cards, called “Formblatt 22” or “F 22” by the HVA. Rosenholz documents 57,000 of the original 63,000 operations. The operation cards do not reveal any names or personal data, but give information on the type of operation and its registration number. Using the unique registration numbers, it is possible to correlate the F 16 and the F 22 cards. The operation cards, F 22, give a clear idea whether the person with a given registration number could be an agent or whether he or she was a part of an “Objektvorgang” (enemy object file).6

The third part of the Rosenholz files is the 2,000 Statistikbögen (basic agent statistics). The agent statistics contain a number of different items of information about an agent or a contact person (Kontaktperson, KP). They do not reveal the name, but rather the cover name and personal data, and they give information such as the motives for the recruitment and the recruitment year.7 Like the F 16 and F 22 cards, the agent statistics also use the registration number, which permits the correlation of information from the cards. They are a valuable aid in the identification of possible agents. Nonetheless, they offer no final proof for scholars, journalists, or lawyers.8 Furthermore, the basic statistics are primarily on West German citizens; only a few hundred cards refer to citizens of other Western states.9

The Rosenholz files are, in other words, an archival search aid, they are not documents or operation files, as wideley believed. After the CIA decided to give Germany a copy of the files on all German citizens in Rosenholz, this part of the file collection in the Stasi archive in Berlin has been made available to both scholars and journalists.

How did the CIA acquire the Rosenholz files?

The exact journey of the microfilms across the Atlantic is still unknown. However, there is speculation, and a few facts.

The fate of the original filing cards is well established. The last East German communist government under Hans Modrow decided on the 14th of December, 1989, to dissolve the Ministry of State Security (MfS) and establish an independent foreign intelligence service and a domestic counterintelligence agency. The filing card system, which until then had been unified, had to be physically separated. Removing HVA’s F 16 and F 22 cards from the Ministry’s archive (Department XII of the MfS) was a demanding task and took several weeks. All filing cards needed to be checked for references to the HVA. Throughout the history of MfS there had been minor initiatives in which old cards were removed from the system, but nothing of this magnitude.10

An HVA task force led by the head of Sub-Department 7 of the HVA brought the filing cards, sorted alphabetically, to the central archives to manually remove all the cards from the ministry’s system. F 16 cards which had relevance only to the HVA were removed. Cards which also had relevance to other main departments of the MfS were replaced by new handwritten ones which only bore the information of the counterintelligence department, thus erasing any trace of the HVA from the central archive. Later, these hand-written cards provided the Stasi archives with the only extant link between certain persons and the HVA.11

In some cases the HVA cards were not removed. Such exceptions were made when, for instance, a case had already previously been transferred to the central archive in the “open materials”. These cases had usually been subject to changes, new registration, and substitutions of personal data to such an extent that it was no longer possible to establish an overview. Another reason not to remove the cards was human error. Names were often written phonetically, and in some cases the officers were unable to find and remove the right persons.

The procedures for the removal of the F 22 cards were the same as for the F 16 cards, with the exception that the officers were able to use computerized lists. The removed card was taken to a neighboring room and fed into a shredder, but the reference aids that the HVA officers used were taken back to the service with them. This removal process was briefly brought to a stop on the 15th of January, the day the central headquarters was stormed. Shortly afterwards, the process began again, authorized by and under the auspices of the semi-democratic transition institution the Round Table, which had a subcommittee on security issues. The removal and rewriting of cards continued until the 9th of April. On this day, the minutes of the civil rights movement note the sorting of the “remaining cards”.12

In the period from December 1989 to spring 1990 the perspective of the former officers of the MfS changed. By the time of the free elections in March, no one was talking about a reorganized foreign intelligence service. Only the dissolution of the HVA was on the agenda. At this point, someone remembered that the F 16 and the F 22 cards had been put on microfilm. If they survived, the entire work of the winter would have been utterly meaningless. Therefore, on the 28th of March, the East German government’s special commissioner Werner Fischer, in agreement with the civil rights movement, ordered an immediate destruction of the films.13

The first microfilming of the F 16 cards was performed in 1973. On the microfilms, each card was reduced to four millimeters and put on jackets, and the microfilm contained all cards within the MfS. A second filming of the total filing card system was done in 1974, and a third in the early 1980s.14 For financial reasons, Department XII of the MfS changed its procedure in the 1980s: instead of a total filming of the filing cards, they performed only a daily or weekly microfilming of new cards. Even though the microfilms were strictly regulated, all four microfilms were used in daily business until the dissolution of the MfS.15

Safety, or backup microfilms were also made. In a report of the HVA from December 5, 1988, a safety film of F 16 and F 22 was explicitly mentioned.16 These microfilms were made on 16 mm rolls. The production of these films was an ongoing process. For protection, they were placed in containers which could easily be transported in case of a threat of war. For this purpose, the HVA had 160 steel containers ready, and 30 new ones had been planned for 1989.17 According to current calculations, all 350,000 cards — including those on all non-German citizens — on F 16 could be contained on 63 microfilm rolls. This was a very handy size.

All of the above can be reconstructed based on the documents at the Stasi archives. What follows comes from the news magazine Der Spiegel. The journalists were able to find out that the steel containers were still kept in the cellar under the HVA headquarters in East Berlin in November 1989.18 This seems plausible, but only one of two safety microfilms of the HVA cards were available. Also, Department XII (the central archive) of the Ministry kept a backup microfilm. A protocol of the central archive of December 28, 1989, states that Department XII handed a film over to the head of an HVA department. In this protocol, the content of every film is listed in detail. This is the latest archive trace and hard evidence about the microfilm that we today know as Rosenholz.

But what happened to the films? One would think that they were destroyed. For from the 6th to the 8th of April, 1990, all microfilms of the filing cards of the MfS were indeed destroyed. This is documented in detail by the destruction protocol.19 All of the microfilms of the F 16 from 1986, and the running microfilms from the 22nd of January to the 6th of December, 1989, were destroyed. The F 22 microfilms from 1960 to 1985 and supplementary microfilm until 1988 had the same fate. The microfilms were cut to pieces and transported to the MfS buildings in Biesenthal, just a short drive from Berlin, where the pieces were burned on the 11th of April, 1990.20 The protocol tells nothing about earlier version of the safety films, so it is unknown what happened to the MfS microfilm of the F 16 cards from the 1970s. About Rosenholz, the protocol contained an intriguing but somewhat vague detail: “At the same time, all materials bound for liquidation were destroyed as ordered by the government commissioner on 1990-03-28 (concerns: previously destroyed film materials of the HVA and other film duplicates) about materials”.21

Which HVA films were actually destroyed remains unclear. One thing, however, is certain: the protocol contained details on only MfS safety films, not on the HVA Rosenholz cards. The last detailed description of these is in the document from December 28, 1989, and states that Department XII handed a film over to the head of an HVA department. These documents are not specifically mentioned in the destruction protocol. This means that the safety microfilms which are in Langley today — Rosenholz — were not destroyed in April 1990. The destruction protocol might suggest that they were, but it does not rule out alternative explanations. The phrase “previously destroyed film materials” could mean that it was not necessary to cut it to pieces and burn it. These phrases bear the scent of a covert action. The unanswered question is thus: Was it the intention to create the impression among the public that the Rosenholz files had already been destroyed?

Two stories exist about how the CIA got hold of the microfilmed F 16 and F 22 cards. One explanation claims the CIA bought them from a KGB officer. The other version states that high-ranking officers or an employee of the HVA secretly sold services to the Americans. Neither version is fully convincing.

In the KGB version, Lieutenant Colonel Rainer Hemman of the HVA plays an important role. In December 1989, he was ordered to bring metal boxes to the KGB headquarters in the Karlshorst district of Berlin and give them to Sascha Prinzipalov. “In December 1989, my superior officer ordered me to store the materials of Sub-Department 7 in Karlshorst”, Hemman explained.22 It seems very plausible that Hemman received such an order. The staff of Sub-Department 7 of the HVA had a registration unit which handled the microfilms. The metal boxes were placed in a black briefcase which was handed over to the KGB in a villa near Karlshorst: “I handed Sascha the briefcase, which looked like a pilot’s flight case.”23 Whatever this briefcase held, it could not have been the Rosenholz files — because the HVA did not receive the safety film until the 28th of December.

The KGB explanation usually connects Prinzipalov and Colonel Alexander Siubenko to the CIA. Siubenko allegedly made contact with CIA Lieutenant Colonel James Atwood, in Berlin, who was operating undercover as a military historian. Atwood supposedly received the materials from the two KGB officers in Moscow in 1992. However, the KGB story presents the serious difficulty that it cannot be verified, because the only hard fact linking the three persons mentioned is that they are all dead.24 In 2003, people connected to the CIA spread the story that the Rosenholz files had been purchased in Warsaw for the price of $65,000.25 Earlier, the price had been estimated at around one million dollars. In German counterintelligence circles, the KGB version is regarded as disinformation being spread to cover the real history of the purchase.26

A version encountered less often is that the microfilms were sold by either high-ranking officers or an employee of the HVA. High-ranking officer Klaus Eichner of HVA Department IX/c suggests this: “Apparently our bureaucracy, the staff scribblers, ignored the basic rules of secrecy. Such a serious compilation of information was a huge breach of the special protection of sources”.27 Furthermore, the security during the dissolution process was inadequate, so it was possible to acquire the sensitive materials and earn a few “pieces of silver”.28 Or maybe the Judas is to be found within the ranks of those who were suppose to guard the materials? Markus Wolf leans towards the belief that people from “his service” went to the CIA.29 In July 2011, Peter-Ferdinand Koch, who had personal experience dealing with the HVA, supported this version of the events. He drew an image of the threatening situation during the dissolution for the leading troika — General Werner Grossmann, Colonel Bernd Fischer and Ralf-Peter Devaux — each of whom should have possessed a copy of the Rosenholz files. Is this yet another cover story or a relevant lead? Koch almost suggests a deal: the crown jewel Rosenholz, traded for immunity for officers and agents of the HVA.30

Whether any of these explanations is true is still unknown. No matter what the truth is, the whole operation has a certain reputation with the CIA. The Washington Post cited an officer who took part in the operation: “When the complete history of the closing days of the Cold War is written, this will be one of the CIA’s greatest triumphs”.31 This is also the evaluation in the memoirs of former GDR intelligence officers: “The acquisition by the CIA […] of HVA documents from which our networks could be reconstructed, is one of our largest defeats.”32 President George Bush was also immediately informed of the purchase.33 He was president until January 20, 1993.

This raises the question of when the CIA got hold of the files. The window of opportunity can be narrowed down to sometime between the December 28, 1989, and the January 20, 1993. The time frame of 1989 to 1990 is often mentioned, sometimes also 1992. There is no official statement from the CIA on this matter. However, the end of 1992 or early 1993 is more likely. The case of “Topas” (NATO agent Rainer Rupp) demonstrates this. Even though the police knew the name “Topas” quite early, the NATO mole was only found with the help of Rosenholz, despite a large prior investigation.34  But on the 31st of July 1993, he was arrested, thanks primarily to the microfilmed version of the F 16 cards.

Lost opportunities

The first German federal commissioner for the Stasi documents, Joachim Gauck, demanded as early as August 1993 that the Rosenholz files be handed over to his archives. This was refused repeatedly with the argument that it would be a threat to Germany’s security.35 Another argument was that the files allegedly were not Stasi documents.36 At the same time, from 1993 onwards, the German counterintelligence agency BfV was able to travel  to the US and make handwritten copies of the files. In this way, the BfV produced 1,929 copies of filing cards.37 The analysis of these copies came to an end in January 1995.38 The copies were then sent to the federal commissioner and were classified in the archives.

This situation did not change until the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens under Gerhard Schröder came to power in Germany in 1998. The remains of the civil rights movement, which was close to the Green Party, collected signatures to petition the government on the Rosenholz issue.39 Then, in October 1999, the big breakthrough took place, and from 2000 to 2003 Germany received 381 CD-ROMs with Rosenholz information. However, it was still classified as “secret”. And the CD-ROMs only contained information on German citizens. Starting in 2004, the documents were declassified and opened for research. This much is generally known. What is less known is that the chancellor’s office also took other initiatives to obtain further Rosenholz information.

A central person in the negotiations to get back the Rosenholz files was Ernst Uhrlau. He had been head of Department IV in chancellor’s office since 1998. This department is responsible for the coordination of Germany’s intelligence services and for handling information between the German government and BND (foreign intelligence), BfV (counterintelligence) and Militärischer Abschirmdienst (military counter intelligence). On the 14th of February, 2000, Ernst Uhrlau contacted the ambassadors of Germany’s Nordic partners. This is documented by a protocol from the Finnish embassy dated February 16.40

At a meeting in Berlin with the ambassadors from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, Uhrlau asked about the Nordic governments’ position on the Rosenholz question. He informed the countries about the agreement with the US, which paved the way for the transfer of Rosenholz material to Germany and to the office of the federal commissioner for Stasi records. He informed the Nordic representatives that this material went up to 1988 and that it contained “the names of foreign agents”. The transfer was to be finished by the end of the year.41 However, the condition of the US government was that the documents be handled according to US laws. Ernst Uhrlau wanted to know from the Nordic governments whether they would oppose a transfer of information to the federal commissioner’s office as well.42 A similar request was made to the governments of Switzerland, Great Britain, and France. Belgium was also under consideration.43 If the Rosenholz material was transferred, the federal commissioner for the Stasi records would answer future questions from the countries through the Ministry of the Interior (which was synonymous with the BfV).44

The following day, the ambassadors of the Nordic countries discussed the matter together. However, it bothered the Swedish ambassador that the question was unofficial. He would have expected an official verbal request. The Norwegian and Danish ambassadors had thought that this sort of information was already in German possession, since it was a German matter.45

It took several months to get a final answer from all the Nordic countries. In Finland, Hannu Moilanen and Seppo Nevala, senior officer and director, respectively, of the counterintelligence agency Supo, gave the Foreign Ministry their opinion. They concluded: “In the eyes of the Security Police, there are no fundamental obstacles that hinder Finland from transferring the Rosenholz information”.46 However, this would be on the condition that Finland would have full and unlimited access to the information concerning Finland. The transfer to Germany would also be on the condition that it could only be used “for serious research purposes”.47 Given these conditions, Finland had actually given its consent to the transfer of Rosenholz information.

The Finnish foreign ministry then informed the government of their analysis of the question. Vice-secretary Jukka Valtasaari wrote on the 4th of April, 2000: “Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are ready to transfer the materials to Germany. Norway and Sweden have already given their consent.”48 Finland also agreed in principle, given that Germany would grant future access and would limit access to “serious research”. Furthermore, he also raised the question how Finnish citizens could control their own personal information.49

The Nordic initiative ended up going nowhere. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to hold the Nordic governments to their word, and appeal to the governments to transfer Nordic Rosenholz files to the archives of the federal commissioner’s office in Berlin for future research purposes.

On the Nordic Stage

In all Nordic countries, East German espionage during the Cold War has been a part of the public agenda and general Cold War agenda. Information from the Rosenholz files surfaced in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden around the turn of the century. The political and media context was different in each of the countries. However, all four countries had one thing in common: the authorities choose to make one prominent case public. In Denmark, it was the agent “Lenz” (1999/2000), in Sweden, “Koenig” (2000), in Norway, “Lanze” (2001), and in Finland, the difficult case of “Pekka” (2002).

Only two of the countries have made information from the Rosenholz files available to research. Denmark was pioneering in this respect, with Rosenholz documents declassified for the use of the government White Book and later for independent research.50 Not until 2007 was it made public that the Swedish service had received at least 500 names from the CIA.51 In 2010, Birgitta Almgren, a researcher from Södertörn University, was able to get access to the Swedish Rosenholz material with the help of Sweden’s high court.52

The Danish “Lenz” case became breaking news during the Christmas holiday of 1999. Shortly before the holidays, a Danish civil servant working for the European Commission was arrested in his mother’s apartment in Copenhagen. He was suspected of being identical with the agent “Lenz” (XV 6991/75), and his mother of being agent “Nelly” (XV 2738/79). Unconvincingly, he denied everything through the approximately one hundred days he spent in prison while the state authorities considered whether he should be put on trial. In the end, he was released and went back to the Commission where he became the EU representative in Bulgaria during the admission talks.53 Both the Rosenholz material and German memoirs confirmed the suspicions.54

The “Lenz” case was finally taken up after years of debate in the leading Danish tabloid newspaper, Ekstra Bladet. This debate questioned the will of the governing coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals to investigate political crimes from the Cold War55, and suggested that the government parties themselves had a political motivation to avoid this.56 This put the government under Prime Minister Poul Nyrop Rasmussen under considerable pressure.57

The “Lenz” case did not end the discussion, especially since journalists from Ekstra Bladet were able to cite confidential papers linking the foreign policy spokesman of the Social-Democratic Party, Erik Boel, to agent “Lenz”.58 The discussion did not ease off until the government buried the Stasi discussion in two state commissions.59

After the opening of the Rosenholz documents in 2005, it became possible to establish the thesis that the background of the Stasi campaign of Ekstra Bladet might have been a covert action either by the CIA or more likely by the Danish counterintelligence service, PET. The files showed that the journalist had been able to publish information from the Rosenholz files about a year after the information had become known to the Danish counterintelligence.60 The Danish Rosenholz document identified only about twenty agents from various parts of society, but with a cluster within universities and among leftist groups.61 The government commission on the activities of the PET during the Cold War also mentioned the Danish Rosenholz document. Regrettably, the report disregarded the international research on the area.62 Nevertheless, the commission’s analysis of HVA and KGB activities delivered useful arguments for people who wanted to question the existence of a Soviet Bloc agent network.63

In Finland, the debate about Rosenholz soon became highly political, as the suspicions of the Security Police (SUPO) against Ambassador Alpo Rusi, former adviser to Martti Ahtisaari, were made public. Rusi defended himself effectively both in public and in court against the unjust accusations.64 Finnish authorities had misread the Rosenholz information on the agent “Pekka” (XV 11/69), which was probably Alpo’s older brother Jussi Rusi. Instead of using expert assistance to access the Rosenholz sources, SUPO choose to accuse Ambassador Rusi publicly. The result was a long public struggle, ending with the acquittal of Rusi, who won a slander case against the Finnish state and €20,000 in compensation. To a large extent, the political struggle around Rusi and the potential moral judgment of the “Finlandization policy” took the focus away from the overall question of East German espionage in Finland.65 Any ideas about openness among the Finns were dispelled by the Rusi case66, and in 2009 the Finnish high court decided to keep their Rosenholz files classified.67

In Norway, the Rosenholz information created a debate that was largely focused on the Stavanger Aftenblad journalist Stein Viksveen, who was suspected of being the agent “Lanze”, probably the most successful agent in the Nordic countries, at least according to Stasi data. “Lanze” delivered at least 513 pieces of information to the HVA, two in the categories of science and technology, two about counterintelligence, and the rest about politics and security. Viksveen issued the obligatory denial, and even wrote a book about why he was innocent.68 However, in this case the Rosenholz connection was also backed by memoirs.69 The Norwegian discussion about East German activities never reached the public in the form of a general debate on the files, nor did it inspire Norwegian scholars. One reason for this could be that Norway already had had a long public debate on different aspects of intelligence and counterintelligence at the beginning of the 1990s.

This debate had resulted in a government report on the records of the security service, POT,70  as well as a large work by the historians Trond Bergh and Knut Einar Eriksen.71 These works also dealt with East German intelligence, but only — at most — as a secondary matter. In this early Norwegian research, Bergh and Eriksen had access to information about what were most likely Norwegian Rosenholz materials. They were able to quote a report from the head of Norwegian counterintelligence from 1997 in which it was concluded that POT had received information from “partner services” about seven Norwegian citizens who were registered Stasi agents by the time of the fall of the Wall.72 In December 1996, it became known that POT had been collecting information on East German cases in the “early 1990s”, most notably on the member of parliament for the socialist left party Berge Furre, who in the 1990s was a member of the Lund Commission which was investigating the POT’s registration of Norwegian citizens during the Cold War. The attorney general accessed the information relating to Furre, and concluded that there was no “reasonable cause” to conduct a formal investigation.73 Whereas some of the conclusions and reactions to the material from the “partner service” have been accessible, the actual documents were still classified and not available to Norwegian historians.74 However, there did not seem to be a great interest in the Rosenholz material among Norwegian scholars, since the main scoop was Norwegian intelligence.

The Swedish debate had, like the Norwegian, been dominated by the issue of surveillance of the country’s own citizens during the Cold War. The Swedish authorities produced, just like their Norwegian counterparts, a large report on different aspects of surveillance, counterextremism and counterintelligence. This report about the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) inevitably touched upon questions relating to East Germany.75 Nonetheless, this dimension remained marginal to the Commission, and the report contained only one reference to information that might have derived from the Rosenholz files. In the volume about the peace movement, there is reference to the discussion in the Swedish press in 2000 about GDR agents, and without any mention of its source, the report denounces the media information on “Kiesling” (a code name).76 Even though there is no reference for the claims, the information must derive from the Swedish counterintelligence sources and therefore probably from Rosenholz files, since the report’s overall conclusion explicitly mentions that the archive of the German Federal Commissioner Preserving the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic brought out no “new, noteworthy insights”.77 Both Swedish and German scholars have since analyzed different aspects of GDR foreign policy towards Sweden, but the HVA has only played a very small part in these academic works.78

The first work that explicitly mentioned Swedish Rosenholz material was the book by the investigative journalist Björn Cederberg. Though without any supporting references, he wrote that 900 Swedes were registered by the HVA, and that perhaps some 50 worked as agents.79 However, Cederberg’s book did not ignite a large public debate, in contrast to the work of the linguistics professor Birgitta Almgren, who in 2009 published a book on Sweden’s relations with the GDR in general.80 Even though the title of her book was Inte bara Stasi . . . [Not just Stasi . . .], a large part of the reaction to her book centered on the chapters concerning the East German intelligence efforts aimed at Sweden. The discussion and very positive reviews of Almgren’s research paved the way for the opening of the Swedish counterintelligence service SÄPO’s GDR investigations. These became the topic of Almgren’s next book, Inte bara spioner . . .  [Not just spies . . .], about 53 selected GDR cases in Sweden. The book is to a large extent based on a combination of SÄPO and German Stasi records, including the Swedish Rosenholz  material. Almgren’s work shows that Sweden apparently got only the F 16 cards from the CIA, with material on only about ten presumed agents.81 In other words, Sweden apparently got a very meager piece of the CIA pie.

Concluding remarks

The Rosenholz files reveal merely whom the HVA found interesting — and even within limits, because the names from “La” to “Li” are not included in the microfilms. Persons registered after January 1989 are home free, since the microfilm ends in December 1988. It is generally possible to establish who was an agent using the three different parts of the Rosenholz material as well as other databases of the HVA. In West Germany the total number of agents in the history of the HVA is 6,000, of whom 1,500 were active at the end of the 1980s. Those are all known to the federal commissioner’s office; the remaining 4,000 West German agents are hidden in the ocean of the 293,000 filing cards. Using the Rosenholz material of other countries, it will be possible to give an almost complete picture of the HVA networks throughout the Western World.

The total picture of what the Scandinavian countries really received and what it meant can only be established when the Rosenholz files are generally available. Fundamental questions however still remain, such as: Who did the HVA register and on what grounds? How were the HVA networks constituted over time? And how did they develop? How did they communicate? And how did the secret logistics function? The answers to these questions would certainly reveal new insights into the operations of foreign intelligence in a not-so-distant past. Furthermore, it must be of interest to the Nordic states to see how well their own counterintelligence understood their opponent. Did the Nordic services have a clue what went on, or did the Eastern German activities develop unnoticed? Evaluating this should be imperative to intelligence services and governments in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. ≈


  1. Klaus Eichner & Gotthold Schramm (eds.), Top-Spione im Westen, Berlin 2008; Klaus Marxen & Petra Schäfter (eds.), Strafjustiz und DDR-Unrecht. Teil 4.2: Spionage, Berlin 2004, pp. 932—975; “Der Mann, der die NATO verriet: Topspion Topas”. Film von Jörg Hafkemeyer (MDR 2001).
  2. See “Abschlußbericht über die Auflösung der ehemaligen HVA vom 1990-06-25”; Michael Richter, Die Staatssicherheit im letzten Jahr der DDR, Weimar 1996, pp. 200—212.
  3. Heiner Emde and Paul Limbach, “Geheime Operation ‘Tote Hose’”, in Focus 37:1993, pp. 66—70; Heinz Vielain, “US-Geheimdienst CIA hält Akten über deutsche Stasi-Spione zurück”, in Welt am Sonntag 1993-08-15.
  4. Helmut Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz: Eine Quellenkritik, Berlin 2007, pp. 67—70.
  5. Annett Meiritz, Sven Röbel, und Peter Wensierski, “Zweifel an Mahlers angeblichem Spitzel-Job”, in Spiegel-Online 2011-09-02.
  6. Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz, pp. 67—70.
  7. Ibid., pp. 91—120.
  8. See discussion about Björn Engholm, who the HVA called “Erdmann” or “Hecht” — for instance in Focus 49—52:2000 and 15—18:2001. The case was fought in the regional court of Berlin. Court decision on 2001-08-09 (Az. 27.0.172/01).
  9. Helmut Müller-Enbergs, Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit, Teil 3: Statistiken, Berlin 2008, p. 116—118.
  10. Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz.
  11. Ibid., p. 17—19.
  12. BStU, “Staatliche Überlieferung zum MfS/AfNS in Auflösung, Nr. 15: Protokoll AG-Leiter”, 1990-04-09, p. 54.
  13. Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz, p. 21.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. BStU, MfS, AGM Nr. 2290: “HV A: Bericht über den Stand der Einsatz und Mobilmachungsbereitschaft 1988”, 1988-12-05,
    p. 19.
  17. BStU, MfS, AGM Nr. 2290, pp. 6 .
  18. Michael Sontheimer, “Das Ende einer Legende”, in Der Spiegel 3:1999, pp. 40—51, here p. 44.
  19. Privatarchiv Wegener Friis: “Protokoll über die Vernichtung der Sicherheitskopien der Gesamtregistratur der Abteilung XII des ehemaligen Amtes für Nationale Sicherheit”, 1990-04-11.
  20. Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz, p. 26.
  21. Privatarchiv Wegener Friis: “Protokoll über die Vernichtung der Sicherheitskopien der Gesamtregistratur der Abteilung XII des ehemaligen Amtes für Nationale Sicherheit”, 1990-04-11.
  22. Sontheimer, “Legende”, p. 51.
  23. Friedrich Kühn, “Operation Rosewood: Wie der US Geheimdienst CIA am Ende des Kalten Krieges an die Agentenkartei der DDR-Auslandsspionage kam”, in Taunus-Zeitung 2003-07-09; Ralf Georg Reuth, “Die ‘Rosenholz’-Datei eröffnet neue Einblicke ins Stasi-Netz”, in Welt am Sonntag, 2003-07-06.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Robert Gerald Livingston, “Rosenholz: Mischa’s files, CIA’s booty” in Müller-Enbergs, Mackrakis & Friis (eds.), East
    German Foreign Intelligence
    , London 2009, pp. 70—88.
  26. Kühn, “Operation Rosewood”.
  27. Klaus Eichner and Andreas Dobbert, Headquarters Germany: Die USA-Geheimdienste in Deutschland, Berlin 1997, p. 285.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Mitteilung von Markus Wolf gegenüber dem Mitverfasser Helmut Müller-Enbergs, September 2006.
  30. See Peter Ferdinand Koch, Enttarnt, Zurich 2011.
  31. Walter Pincus, “Cold War Footnote: CIA obtained East Germany’s Foreign Spy Files”, in Washington Post 1998-11-22; Walter Pincus, “CIA to Germany: What Spy Files?”, in Washington Post National Weekly Edition 1983-11-30, p. 17.
  32. Eichner, Dobbert, Headquarters, p. 285.
  33. Gerald Robert Livingston and Georg Mascolo, “Das sind die Kronjuwelen”, in Der Spiegel 2005-04-18, p. 50.
  34. Emde and Limbach, “Tote Hose”; Vielain, “US-Geheimdienst”.
  35. Dirk Doerrenberg, “Erkenntnisse des Verfassungsschutzes zur Westarbeit des MfS”, in Georg Herbstritt & Helmut Müller-Enbergs (Hg.), Das Gesicht dem Westen zu ...DDR-Spionage gegen die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bremen 2003, pp. 72—111.
  36. Heinz Vielain, “USGeheimdienst CIA halt Akten über deutsche Stasi-Spione zurück”, in Welt am Sonntag 1993-08-15; Peter Gärtner, “Aufklärung nötig”, in WeserKurie 1993-08-13; Peter Gärtner, “Strafverfolgung möglich, wenn wir die Akten haben”, in Stuttgarter Nachrichten 1993-08-13; Peter Stöferle, “Stasi-Akten am Anfang der Kette”, in Augsburger Allgemeine 1993-08-11.
  37. Doerrenberg, “Erkenntnisse”.
  38. Helmut Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz, pp. 91.
  39. William Drozdiak, “The Cold War in Cold Storage. Washington Won’t Part with East German Spy Files. Bonn Wants Them Back”, in Washington Post 1999-03-03; Georg Mascolo and Peter Tiede, “Dom im Rosenholz”, in Der Spiegel 11:1999, pp. 72; John Goetz and Matthew Camphbel, “Germany Seeks CIA Spy Dossier”, in Sunday Times 1999-03-21; Müller-Enbergs, Rosenholz, p. 32.
  40. Finnish Embassy in Berlin to the Finnish Foreign Ministry 2000-02-16: “Suomen kansalaisten tiedot USA:n hallussa olevissa Stasiarkistoissa; Saksan liittokansleriviraston tiedustelu”, Information on Finnish citizens in the Stasi archives possessed by the US; German federal government request.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Finnish Foreign Ministry/Europe Line: Promemoria for Government: “Suomen kansalaisten tiedot USA:n hallussa olevissa Stasiarkistoissa; Saksan liittokansleriviraston tiedustelu”. 2000-04-07.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid.
  50. A somewhat vague description can be found in Danmark under den Kolde Krig [Denmark during the Cold War]. Vol. 3, Copenhagen 2005, pp. 413—418.
  51. Björn Cederberg, Kamrat spion: Om Sverige i Stasiarkivet [Comrade spy: On Sweden in the Stasi archives], Stockholm 2007, p. 43.
  52. Birgitta Almgren, Inte bara spioner... [Not just spies...], Stockholm 2011, p. 13.
  53. Lars Halskov, “EU-kommission presses ind i spionagesag” [EU Commission forced into spionage saga], in Politiken 2004-05-19; “Stasi-Spitzel bei Verheugen?”, in Bild-Zeitung 2004-09-06.
  54. PET-arkivet: DIIS samlingen Nr. 261: “Lenz”. 1995-10-02; Werner Grossmann, Den sidste spionchef [The last head of intelligence], Middelfart 2004, p. 97.
  55. Per Michaelsen and Mette Herborg, Stasi og Danmark [Stasi and Denmark], Vyborg 1996, pp. 52—53.
  56. See for instance “Skyldig, men fri” [Guilty, but free] in Ekstra Bladet 2001-06-09; “Det store svigt” [The great failure] in: Jyllandsposten 2000-02-06; “Stikkeren og medløberen” [The informer and the collaborator] in Ekstra Bladet 1999-03-27; “Nyrop og spionerne” [Nyrop and the spies] in Ekstra Bladet 1999-03-23.
  57. Notably in question time in the Danish parliament between 1999 and 2001. Answers had to be given by the prime minister, the minister of justice, and the minister of culture. On May 21, 1999, rhw parliament had a long general debate on the issue of Stasi spies (F 53).
  58. “Lenz-sagen spreder sig til S-toppen” [The Lenz affair is spreading to the leadership of the Social Democrats] in Ekstra Bladet 2000-08-18.
  59. The White Book by the Danish Institute for International Studies 2000—2005 and the Commission of the Danish Security Police and registration, PET-kommissionen, 1999—2009.
  60. Thomas Wegener Friis and Helmut Müller-Enbergs, “En blomst fra Rosentræet” [A flower from the rose tree], in Arbejderhistorie: Tidsskrift for Historie, kultur og politik 1:2009, p. 14.
  61. Thomas Wegener Friis, “Die dänische Rosenholz-Akten”, in Horch und Guck. 15:55, 2006, pp. 10—16.
  62. PET’s overvågning af Danmarks Kommunistiske Parti 1945—1989 [PET’s surveillance of Danmark’s Communist Party, 1945—1989]. PET-kommissionens beretning vol. 6, Copenhagen 2009, p. 318.
  63. KGB:s kontakt og agentnet i Danmark [KGB’s contact and agent network in Denmark]. PET-kommissionens beretning vol. 13, Copenhagen 2009.
  64. Alpo Rusi and Olli Rehn, Kylmä tasavalta [Cold Republic], Helsinki 2003.
  65. Kimmo Elo and Helmut Müller-Enbergs, “Suomen merkitys DDR:n ulkomaantiedustelun kohteena” [Finland's siginificance as a target of GDR foreign intelligence], in Kosmopolis 2010, 40:4, pp. 31—47.
  66. “Diplomat klagt auf 500,000 Euro für falsche Stasi-Anklage”, in Mitteldeutsche Zeitung 2007-08-29. The verdict was reached on November 8, 2007, and resulted in a payment of 50,000 euros for damages.
  67. Alpo Rusi, “Tiitisen lista: Stasin vakoilu Suomessa 1960—1989”  [The Tiitinen list: Stasi espionage in Finland 1960–1989], in Aamulehti 2011-10-11.
  68. Stein Viksveen, Kodenavn “Lanze”: En tenkt spion [Code name “Lanze”: A suspected spy], Oslo 2002.
  69. Werner Grossmann, Den sidste spionchef, p. 126.
  70. Rapport til Stortinget fra kommisjonen som ble oppnevnt av Stortinget for å granske påstander om ulovlig overvåking av norske borgere [Report to Parliament by the Commission appointed by Parliament to investigate allegations of illegal surveillance of Norwegian citizens], Oslo 1996.
  71. Trond Bergh and Knut Einar Eriksen, Den hemmelige krigen: Overvågningen i Norge 1914—1997 [The Secret War: Surveillance in Norway, 1914—1997], Oslo 1998.
  72. Ibid., p. 121.
  73. Sven Holtsmark, Avmaktens diplomati: DDR i Norge 1949—1973 [The diplomacy of powerlessness: the GDR in Norway 1949—1973], Oslo 1999, p. 9.
  74. Sven Holtsmark, “DDR i Norge 1949—1973: Myter og virkelighet” [The GDR in Norway,  1949—1973: Myths and reality], in Thomas Wegener Friis and Andreas Linderoth (eds.), DDR & Norden [The GDR and the Nordic region], Odense 2005,
    p. 233.
  75. Kommissionens arbete. SOU 2002:87, Stockholm 2002; Politisk övervakning och personalkontroll 1945—1969. SOU 2002:88, Stockholm 2002; Hotet från vänster. SOU 2002:9, Stockholm 2002; Debatten om IB. SOU 2002:92, Stockholm 2002; Övervakningen av “SKP-komplexet”. SOU 2002:93, Stockholm 2002.
  76. Den farliga fredsrörelsen. SOU 2002:90, Stockholm 2002,
    p. 298. The report states that “Kiesling” is not a person but a general reference to the GDR embassy. This seems to be a mistake, and it has been corrected by Birgitta Almgren. “Kiesling” (XV 649/82) is in fact identical with Dieter Ebert, the chief of the Stockholm rezidentura of the HVA from 1982 to 1987.
  77. Kommissionens arbete, p. 82.
  78. Andreas Linderoth, Kampen för erkännande: DDR:s utrikes-politik gentemot Sverige 1949—1972, Lund 2002; Alexander Muschik, Die beiden deutschen Staaten und das neutrale Schweden, Berlin 2005; Nils Abraham, Die politische Auslandsarbeit der DDR in Schweden, Berlin 2007.
  79. Björn Cederberg, Kamrat spion, p. 269.
  80. Birgitta Almgren, Inte bara Stasi..., Stockholm 2009.
  81. Birgitta Almgren, Inte bara spioner, p. 42.
  • by Helmut Müller-Enbergs & Thomas Wegener Friis

    Helmut Müller-Enbergs, adj. professor, University of Southern Denmark; Guestprofessor, University of Gotland; Senior Researcher The agency of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi records (BStU). Thomas Wegener Friis, associate professor and network coordinator at the Centre for Cold War at the Department for History and Civilization, University of Southern Denmark

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