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The School of the Ministry for State Security, 1951 to 1955

The School of the Ministry for State Security was founded on June 16, 1951, in Eiche near Potsdam, on the premises of today’s Golm campus of the University of Potsdam. The School reported directly to the Ministry and ultimately to the Minister.

At the beginning, teaching was based in the professorships for political science and specialized training, as well as the teaching division for general education. One-year, largely improvised courses were offered that also included instruction in weapons, German, and sports. The training was purely educational, without scholarly or academic demands. The participants were typically inexperienced and new to the field and were supposed to receive instruction in the foundations of secret service work.

Training was received in Eiche while the students worked in parallel in the offices of the Ministry for State Security. Teaching was therefore interrupted constantly due to work assignments. The training of these Kursants (students of military and police academies) was subordinate to their state security work. Erich Mielke, who was the deputy head of State Security at the time, said in 1953:

“It seems that what is important for this comrade, who perhaps can’t write, knows how to win and what to do in order to destroy his enemies. Let’s take a look at those who are great writers and speakers, and assess how many enemies they have obliterated. [...] And even if he can’t sign his name, it’s not important; but when he knows who his enemies are, he’s on the right path.” (1)

As a result of the events of June 17, 1953, there was a change in leadership at the Ministry for State Security from Wilhelm Zaisser to Ernst Wollweber. The Ministry was not just demoted by 1955 to a State Secretariat and formally subjected to the authority of the Ministry of the Interior; there was also a shift in thinking among the leadership. Ernst Wollweber had this to say in 1954:

“[...] The cadres are getting old, and new cadres have to be trained. This is why I’ve asked the Politburo the following question: If an engineer is to prepare a drawing of a machine, then he has to have an academic degree; before a physician can perform an operation, he has to have completed his studies. But when people are tasked with the most complicated mission – uncovering the enemy – we don’t even have an academic institution for this.” (2)

Just one year later, a remedy was found when the School in Eiche was transformed into the “Academy of the Ministry for State Security.”

(1) Erich Mielke at an SED District Party Conference, January 28, 1953, BStU, ZA, KL-SED 570, page 24.

(2) Ernst Wollweber, 1954; quoted from: Jens Gieseke, Doktoren der Tschekistik, Berlin 1994, p. 188.