17:01 GMT +310 December 2019
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    People stand in front of a projection on the former Stasi secret police headquarters in Berlin, Germany, November 4, 2019

    Stasi Among Us? German Newspaper Probes Its Owner Over His Former Job as Spy

    © REUTERS / FABRIZIO BENSCH
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    Holger Friedrich, who bought the Berliner Zeitung in September, has insisted that he was “not active” in his spy role, allegedly taking every opportunity to avoid working for the Stasi.

    The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung has launched a probe into its new owner Holger Friedrich who once served as an informant for the Stasi, the East German secret police.

    “We will collect the facts, we want to see the files, both of the victims and the perpetrators,” Berliner Zeitung’s editors, Jochen Arntz and Elmar Jehn, pointed out in a joint editorial.

    Friedrich admitted to acting as a Stasi informant, and pledged his “full support and cooperation” with the investigation.

    At the same time, the 53-year-old underscored that he did not work for the Stasi “proactively” and that he tried to take every chance to refrain from doing so.

    “The documents should show that I was in an emergency situation, I agreed to ‘make good’ under duress. I withdrew from this predicament at the first opportunity and cut off my cooperation with the Stasi,” Friedrich argued, referring to his being released from his Stasi duties in August 1989, three months before the Berlin Wall fell.

    His remarks came after rival German newspaper Welt am Sonntag published documents revealing that Friedrich was employed by the Stasi under the codename “Peter Bernstein” in 1987 to inform on soldiers he worked alongside during his military service.

    There were more than 90,000 regular workers and 174,000 informal ones, or IMs, in the Stasi at the time. The IMs were tasked with spying on friends, family and work colleagues and reporting information to their designated handlers.

    Friedrich and his wife bought the Berliner Zeitung, the only East German daily to preserve its clout after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in September 2019. The ailing newspaper was jointly bought by the UK media group Mecom and a US company in 2005, but four years later it was sold on again to a Cologne-based publisher.

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