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The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi (Oxford Oral History) Hardcover – July 9, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Oral History
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Book Club Edition edition (July 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195392051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195392050
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,196,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Brilliantly written and deeply researched, this is the best book in any language on East Germany's Stasi. To cut through the myths and recreate the grassroots workings of the secret police, the author plowed through the archives and used oral interviews. We not only get inside 'the firm,' but learn how it operated and its social impact. This is an accessible history from a consummate professional and it deserves a broad audience."--Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe


"Gary Bruce's fascinating book is a major contribution to the enormous literature on the Stasi, providing a detailed study of how the Stasi operated at the local level to enforce communist rule. Bruce convincingly shows that the Stasi was sophisticated in its repression, relying on pervasive surveillance, psychological pressure, physical coercion, imprisonment, and blackmail to keep the population under control. Tracing the functions of the Stasi district organs from beginning to end, Bruce not only enriches the historiography on the Stasi but also touches on larger questions about the nature of the East German state. His book is an excellent complement to the best German works on this topic." --Mark Kramer, Director of the Harvard Project for Cold War Studies


"This is surely the most detailed micro-analysis of the East German security service recently added to the existing flood of material on the subject...in a rare step, [Bruce] actually interviews a number of former Stasi staff, weaving from his conversations telling portraits of 14 of them." -- Foreign Affairs


"This brilliant, thoroughly researched, and highly readable account enables readers to better understand how the Stasi operated in everyday life and how its inescapable presence affected citizens." -- CHOICE


"The Firm contributes a unique insight into the mechanics of political oppression in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) through the eyes of the agents who created the surveillance documents and the civilian informants who helped gather informationEL Gary Bruce has done an admirable job of exploring the repressive nature of the East German state and experience of normalcy in the small towns where the watchers and watched lived side by side. The Firm successfully demonstrates the value of oral history in studies of the late twentieth century as a means to bridge the gulf between traditional archival sources and popular memory." -- The Oral History Review


About the Author


Gary Bruce is Associate Professor of History at the University of Waterloo and author of Resistance with the People: Repression and Resistance in Eastern Germany, 1945-1955.

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Customer Reviews

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It combines academic detail with a casual reading style.
Gordo
I can't find anyone who gives a traceable reference, and the almost always reliable "Yale Book of Quotations" attributes it to Abraham Maslow.
Randall L. Bytwerk
Based on surviving files and extensive interviews, the book provides an illuminating account of how the Stasi functioned.
Mike Filsamemon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Espionage Historian on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a narrowly focused academic micro-study of two small town Stasi districts in East Germany - Perleberg and Gransee. There was no particular reason for choosing the two towns other than the fact that the archival material was available. The extensive literature review underscores the academic nature of the book and the extent to which Bruce builds on previous German work. He is not the first to interview Stasi officers and informants, but they add to what would otherwise be an even dryer book.There are livelier and more original books out there on the Stasi -- for example Stasiland and Seduced by Secrets.

When I bought the book, I should have heeded the Sacramento Bee amazon review, which gave it three stars and also found it narrow in its focus. For some reason the balanced review was removed and replaced with a 5 star review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Herr Lyppe on April 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book revolves around evidence derived from 'surviving' Stasi documents from two small towns. It felt more reflective of regional experiences rather than any great insight into the Stasi as it existed as a state wide organization. Maintaining a value in it's own right it's worth the read, but there are far more insightful and less repetitious books on the subject available.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Marcus on September 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
I gave this book four stars due to the exceptional detailed research the author Dr. Gary Bruce conducted in Berlin, Gransee, and Perleberg. The personal interviews with former Stasi members were very illuminating and it shines light on how that organization operated. I found the comparison and contrast between the Stasi and the Gestapo of particular interest. The fact that these organizations were very different, both in size and methods was an interesting surprise and motivates me to look deeper. It was also quite interesting how the former Stasi members reflected on their careers and how they justified and explained what they did. Having stood in several former Stasi offices in the Berlin area myself, I still think of how that could have been possible. Congratulations to Dr. Bruce for the fine historical research and a very readable book.

Unfortunately, my strong positive view of this book was tempered by the last two pages of the conclusion. It appears at the very end Dr. Bruce decided to comment on more current affairs and insert his political views, which were misplaced. Dr. Bruce, who is an Assistant Professor of History at a Canadian University, compared what happened with the Stasi to the provisions of the USA Patriot Act and to having cameras in public places in the UK. I found that so incredulous that I reread it several times as it was a ridiculous and offensive comparison. To compare that to the Stasi, an organization that had one informant for perhaps every seven citizens, an organization that was designed to protect the State and not the folks, is just a bad joke and fraught with political bias. Dr. Bruce also implies rather directly that the U.S.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Gyro Captain on January 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
In "The Firm," Professor Bruce has written an academic, yet very read-able, account of East Germany's Ministry for State Security--the Stasi. I'm glad he has done so, as the historiography of the Cold War in East Germany is pretty sparse (at least in English). Professor Bruce's research was in two districts in the former East Germany, which were located north of Berlin. The Professor interviewed former Stasi officers who were stationed in those two districts, as well as civilian (then) East Germans who had dealings with the Stasi. In addition, Professor Bruce backed his oral history with archival sources.

A few random thoughts...

* Professor Bruce subscribes to the theory that a totalitarian government can be "total." I disagree, and many recent scholarly works also disprove Bruce's theory--even to the point that "totalitarian government" is often dismissed as a term. Many of the Stasi officers Bruce interviews admit that the East German state never had total control (though they wistfully remark that they wish they had!). Despite this, Bruce continues to cling to the fallacy that the East German government was omnipotent. I got the impression that Professor Bruce could not see the Stasi as an evil organization UNLESS they had total control.

* The author often referred to the Stasi as "the army." In reality, the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) and the Ministry of Defense (which oversaw the National People's Army) were two very distinct organizations whose chains-of-command never crossed. Further, I see a broad difference between Stasi officers who volunteered to be secret police, and typical soldiers, who were conscripts performing 18 months of mandatory military service (successful completion of which would allow one to go to University).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book! Very interesting view of the Stasi from the local level. From what I can tell, the District would be the equivalent to the County here in the US, although I can't fathom my Sheriff having the powers or resources to disrupt lives that the Stasi District Commanders did!!
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By Amazon Customer on May 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book actually got me hooked on the topic and everything I have read since has been related to Eastern Germany after WWII. So far, specifically related to the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) this has been my favorite. Treading on ground that can be rather sensitive I felt that for the majority of the book it was written with an eye to keeping neutral as to the overall morality of the activities presented and instead tell the story of those that worked for and with the Stasi. When it does branch into more deep ethical and moral discussions it is done in a way that is separate enough from the rest that I didn't feel it was being hammered into me at every step.

I give it just four stars because it's really far too focused on two smaller districts and I really wish the author had brought their style to other areas of the Stasi or districts in Germany. I was left feeling like there was more story to tell, hence why I've been continuing reading on the topic.

I highly recommend this book all the same.
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