Many observers have been puzzled by the extent of the uprising that swept through East Germany in June 1953, given the legendary efficiency of the East German state security (Stasi) forces and their vast network of informants. Some scholars have even attempted to explain the Stasi's inability to foresee and prevent the uprising by arguing that the Stasi conspired with the demonstrators. The opening of the archives of the former German Democratic Republic has shed valuable light on this issue. Based on extensive research in the archives of the Stasi and of the former Socialist Unity Party of East Germany, as well as materials from the West German archives, this article shows that the Stasi did not fail its party superiors in being unable to foresee the uprising of June 1953. There was, in fact, no way that the organization could have foreseen the rebellion. Prior to 1953 the Stasi was not outfitted with a massive surveillance apparatus, nor was it mandated for broad internal surveillance. Rather, it primarily targeted well-known opposition groups at home and anti-Communist organizations based in West Berlin. The criticism directed against the Stasi after the uprising was attributable mainly to Walter Ulbricht's embattled leadership position and his need for a scapegoat.

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