On the 13th November 1989, a few days after the opening of the wall, Erich Mielke gave his first speech at the Volkskammer at the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic). His words: “I love – I love all – all people/humans – Well, I love – I still stand up for it” have been often quoted and give deep insight into the mind of the 82 year – old man. How could this man serve for more than three decades as a Minister of State Security and give a significant imprinting to the apparatus?
Erich Mielke was born in 1907 in the working class district Wedding in Berlin, known at that time as the “Red Wedding”.
He came from a very simple family, the father worked as a cartwright and he was an ardent communist, which give a strong imprinting to Erich Mielke. At the age of 14 he gave a speech at the “Kommunistischen Jugendverband Deutschlands”, four years later he became a member of the KPD. In addition to his idelogic activity, Mielke graduated in 1927 as a forwarding agent. The late 20s and the early 30s were marked often by violent armed hostilities among the NSDAP and the KPD, brawls were not uncommon. In this period Mielke was in the “Roter Frontkämpferbund” (Alliance of Red Front-Fighters) and in 1931 took part at the “self protection party”, both were paramilitary forces of communists.
On August 9, 1931 Mielke shot, together with another member of the self-protection party, two policemen during a demonstration on the Bülowplatz (today Rosa - Luxemburg Platz) in Berlin Mitte. In order to avoid jurisdiction; Mielke and his accomplices were taken by the KPD to the Soviet Union. During the years of the soviet exil, Mielke has been ideologically trained in the Lenin School in Moscow.
From 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, he served as an officer of the Stalinist secret police in the International Brigades. His secret name was "Fritz Leissner ". At the beginning of the 2nd World War, in 1939, Mielke, appointed by the KPD, moved to Belgium and in 1940 went from there to Toulouse. There he worked as a construction worker and hid his real identity. A year before the war ended his workerteam was integrated into the German "Organisation Todt". So Mielke came unscathed through the period of the Second World War.
Less than a month after the end of the war, on 14th June 1945, Mielke announced at its party in Berlin and took immediately charge of the police station Berlin Lichtenberg in the former Soviet sector. From May 1949, he was responsible to build the Hauptverwaltung zum Schutze der Volkswirtschaft (Headquarters on the Protection of the national economy), the predecessor of the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit (Ministry of State Security - Stasi). With the establishment of the Ministry for State Security in February 1950 Mielke was appointed as deputy director of the institution. In November 1957, he stood in for Wollweber as Minister of State Security. In the newspaper “Neues Deutschland”, Mielke’s announcement was shortly mentioned: "The press office of the Prime Minister announces: the Minister of State Security, Ernst Wollweber has asked for resignation for health reasons. The Prime Minister Grotewohl has accepted his request and Erich Mielke will be from the 1st November of 1957 on the Minister of State Security. "
Mielke was in charge until his resignation on the 7th of November 1989. With over 32 years of service, he was the longest-serving minister of the entire GDR. The Ministry of State Security has been greatly expanded under his aegis. In 1957, the Stasi had 14,000 full-time employees, in 1989 nearly 90,000 employees. On the 3rd of December 1989 Erich Mielke was expelled from the SED, four days later he was arrested and was imprisoned on remand. In the early 90es, he sat for about a month at the notorious remand center in Hohenschönhausen, today's Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen (the memorial of Hohenschönhausen). Shortly after his arrival due to medical reasons he was released. But nevertheless, three months later he was arrested again. The accusation was initially "crimes against humanity" and "perversion of justice". After several stays in the prison of Rummelsburg and Plötzensee, Mielke stayed for a long time in the prison Moabit. At this time, investigators focused on the murder attempt on Bülowplatz of 1931. In October 1993, the now 85 year-old man was convicted to a prison sentence of six years for the murders of 1931. At the end of 1995, Mielke was released on parole because of his age.
Together with his wife Gertrud the old man moved to the Berlin district of Hohenschönhausen. It became quiet around the once powerful man. On the 22th of May 2000, Mielke died at the age of 93 years in a retirement home in Berlin. He is buried at the Central Cemetery Friedrichsfelde in an anonymous urn grave.
Translation: Thea Prini