One of the biggest newspapers in Berlin will carry out background checks on all its journalists after two senior staff admitted to having worked for the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, during the Cold War.
The Berliner Zeitung, a left-leaning daily, admitted on Monday that its assistant politics editor was a Stasi informant for a decade, from the age of 18 until the collapse of East Germany in 1989. The 50-year-old, who has not been named, told colleagues about his secret and apologized to them during an editorial conference, the paper's editor Josef Depenbrock said.
He decided to reveal he cooperated with the Stasi after a colleague of his, Thomas Leinkauf, who is responsible for the paper's magazine and third-page feature, had admitted his involvement with the former East German secret police.
Depenbrock announced Monday that all of the paper's approximately 120 editorial staff members would have their backgrounds checked by an independent, external body. "We want to make sure that we don't lose our journalistic integrity," he told German news agency DPA.
Leinkauf was outed as a civilian Stasi spy on Saturday after a file detailing his involvement surfaced. As a philosopy student, Leinkauf worked for the Stasi for two years in the 1970s, snitching on fellow students and teaching staff. He was dropped by the Stasi in the summer of 1977 because it deemed him politically unreliable, as he had allegedly shown too much sympathy for Trotskyist ideas.
According to the paper's editor, Leinkauf had not kept his Stasi past secret. Depenbrock added that although it was tragic on a personal level, as both men had done good work for the paper, it was wrong to play down or trivialize working for the Stasi.
The paper is now checking the legal requirements for looking into the history of its staff. The two outed former Stasi informants have been relieved of their duties.
Founded in 1945, the Berliner Zeitung was the daily paper of Communist East Berlin. Today, it sells around 185,000 copies a day in Berlin and the state of Brandenburg.