Glossary for the Reim Series

This is the glossary that appears in Baltic Approach, book 4 of the Reim Series.

Stasi departments

Abteilung – Department. The Hauptabteilungen (HA—main departments) were based at Berlin Centre, responsible for national co-ordination and strategy in their areas of responsibility. The Abteilungen were sub-departments of the HAs based at Berlin Centre, (e.g. Abt. M, Abt. 26) or the equivalent departments in the District Administrations and County Offices. Most local departments kept the number of the Main Department they belonged to (e.g. Abt. II → HA II), the main exception being Abt. XV, the local level of the HV A.
Abteilung M – Department M, responsible for surveillance of post and mail.
Abteilung 26 – Department 26, responsible for audio and visual surveillance (including telecommunications).
Bezirksverwaltung des MfS, BV – District Administration. Each of the 15 administrative districts in the GDR had a Stasi Administration, which co-ordinated operations in that area. The next administrative level down, the counties (Kreise), had offices in each county town (Kreisdienststelle, KD).
County Office see Bezirksverwaltung
Department see Abteilung
District Administration see Bezirksverwaltung
HA, Hauptabteilung – see Abteilung, or the specific Main Departments below.
HA II – Main Department II, counter-intelligence
HA VI – Main Department VI, passport control, tourism, transit traffic, where Reim was posted until autumn 1983.
HA IX – Main Department IX, central investigation, interrogation and prosecution of suspects
HA XX – Main Department XX, state organs and institutions, culture, church, underground groups; security of military communications infrastructure.
HV A, Hauptverwaltung A – Main Administration A, foreign intelligence.
Main Department see Abteilung.
Kreisdienststelle, KD – see Bezirksverwaltung.
PKE, Paß- und Kontrolleinheit – Pass and Control Unit at border crossings, part of HA VI but dressed in border guards uniforms.
ZAIG, Zentrale Auswertungs- und Informationsgruppe – Central Evaluation and Information Group, general staff unit with wide-ranging responsibilities, notably archiving, general reporting and, in Reim’s section (ZAIG/II), control and measurement of professional standards.

GDR/German terms

Ausweis – identity card.
ABV, Abschnittsbevollmächtigter – beat policeman with responsibility for a particular neighbourhood or area.
Bereitschaftspolizei der Volkspolizei / Volkspolizei-Bereitschaften, VPB – barracked police troops, used whenever large numbers of police were required, e.g. public order situations or large-scale searches.
Bezirk – the GDR was administratively divided into 15 Bezirke (districts), each of which was further divided into Kreise, which I’ve translated as counties (NB some authors and historians translate Bezirk as county and Kreis as district).
Bino – seasoning sauce, similar to Maggi sauce.
BND, Bundesnachrichtendienst – West German foreign intelligence service.
Bundesbahn, Deutsche Bundesbahn, DB – West German railways.
Bundespost, Deutsche Bundespost, BP – West German postal service.
Cheka – originally the Bolshevik secret police agency set up by Felix Dzerzhinski in 1917 in the Soviet Union. The secret police agencies in socialist states, and particularly the Stasi, drew on the traditions of the Cheka, seeing themselves as Chekists.
Chekist – member of the Cheka.
Comrade, Genosse – member of the Socialist Unity Party (Communist party of the GDR), member of the army and other armed organs of the GDR.
Datsche, Datschek – weekend cottage, hut on an allotment or similar. From the Russian.
Department see Abteilung
Dederon – GDR synthetic material, similar to nylon.
DEIN STAR – substitution (encryption) table commonly used by BND agents in the GDR.
Deutsch-Sowjetische Freundschaft – Society for German-Soviet Friendship.
District see Bezirk.
Diversant – (plural: Diversanten) person engaged in Diversion.
Diversion, politisch-ideologische Diversion – anti-socialist influence or actions, whether in thought or action.
DT64 – youth radio station in the GDR.
Exquisit – expensive boutiques that sold limited edition, GDR produced clothes and fashion items not available in the usual shops.
F96 – Fernstraße 96. The Fernstraßen were the equivalent of the Bundesstraßen (the F96 is now labelled the B96): trunk roads, A-Roads, highways.
FDJ, Freie Deutsche Jugend – Free German Youth, Communist Party youth movement
Feierabend – end of shift, knocking off time, home time.
Fischkopf, Fischkopp – fish-head, prerogative term for a resident of the coast.
Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik, GST – Society for Sports and Technology, youth group specialising in pre-military training.
Groschen – ten Pfennigs.
Grützwurst – type of black sausage.
GÜST, Grenzübergangsstelle – border crossing point.
Hausbuch – housebook, each block kept a Hausbuch in which residents’ and visitors’ details were entered—Westerners on arrival, visitors from within the GDR after three days. The Hausbuch was regularly checked by the ABV, beat policeman.
Haus des Reisens – central travel agency of the GDR, on Alexanderplatz. A police desk there provided registration services for Western tourists to save them the trip to the local police station.
Herein! – come in! Enter!
IM, Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter – unofficial collaborator of the Stasi.
Interhotel – chain of international standard hotels in the GDR.
Kaschi – Kalashnikov KM-72 / AKM
Kaufhalle – self-service supermarket.
konspirative Wohnung, KW – safe house/flat.
Kripo, Kriminalpolizei, ‘K’ – Criminal Police, the criminal investigation agency for police forces in German speaking countries. The abbreviation K was unique to the GDR.
Lederol – imitation leather.
Ludmilla – Soviet built diesel locomotives hauling passenger and freight trains (Reichsbahn classification 130, 131, 132, 142).
Meschugge – not all there, crazy. From the Yiddish‎.
Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS, Stasi – Ministry for State Security, secret police and intelligence agency.
OvD, Offizier vom Dienst – Duty Officer, cf. UvD
Pentakta L100 – semi-portable microfiche reader, made by VEB Pentacon in Dresden.
Pfeffi – square sweets, originally peppermints, but in later years other flavours were available.
Polizeirat – West German police rank, equivalent to Major in the Volkspolizei.
Red Army Faction, Rote Armee Fraktion – West German terrorist group, originally formed around Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof and others.
Reichsbahn, Deutsche Reichsbahn – East German railways.
Sandmännchen, Unser Sandmännchen – Our Sandman, children’s programme on East German television.
Schlagermusik – German language ballads.
Selters – sparkling water.
Sprelacart, Sprelakart – decorative laminate sheets, similar to Resopal and Formica.
Starshina – senior sergeant in the Soviet Army.
Station der jungen Naturforscher und Techniker – Centre for Young Naturalists and Engineers, after-school centres encouraging interest in the sciences.
Tacheles – straight talk. From the Yiddish‎.
Taigatrommel – Soviet built M62 heavy diesel locomotive (Reichsbahn classification V200, later 120). Called the Taiga Drum on account of the loud exhausts.
Transportpolizei, Trapo – East German transport police.
Uffzi, Unteroffizier – the lowest rank of the non-commissioned officers (equivalent to corporal / sergeant), also generally used to cover all NCO ranks.
UvD, Unteroffizier vom Dienst – Duty NCO, cf OvD.
Verfassungsschutz – West German domestic intelligence agency.
Volkspolizei, Deutsche Volkspolizei, DVP – East German police force.
Volkssolidarität, VS – mass organisation organising care for elderly and vulnerable people.
W50 – medium sized diesel truck, ubiquitous in the GDR.
Warnowwerft, Warnow shipyard – One of the shipyards in Rostock, based near the mouth of the river Warnow.
Wofasept – disinfectant, used in practically every public building and train in the GDR.
Weiße Flotte – ships plying tourist routes.

Are Referendums Democratic?

One person against everyone else in a big meeting

This post was written just afer the EU referendum in the UK in 2016, but I haven’t updated it because I believe the central points still stand.


In the wake of the Brexit vote many voices in the media proclaimed that direct democracy leads to a tyranny of the majority, even mob rule.

In this post I’ll be considering whether this is the case, and suggesting some conditions I feel are needed to have a fair referendum.
Continue reading “Are Referendums Democratic?”

For Our Country

The original print out of the Für Unser Land statement

(This article was originally written for and posted on the website of the interdisciplinary academic network Cultures of the Cold War.)

In the counter-factual novel Stealing The Future the rift with reality is pinpointed as beginning on the 4th November 1989, but the subsequent publication of the  For Our Country Statement played a significant role in building East Germans’ confidence in their ability to remain independent of West Germany. Continue reading “For Our Country”

Political Structures in Stealing the Future

Citizens enter the main Stasi HQ in Berlin

Where to start?

When writing a political novel the author needs to be very clear about the political structures that form the framework of the story, not to mention how they work on a day-to-day basis (indeed it is the tension between the theory and the practice of these institutions that provide the gaps that allow such stories to be developed).

The reader of Stealing the Future will have picked up on the fact that there are parliaments at several levels (Volkskammer at the federal level, and the Landeskammern at the Land, or regional level). But in Martin’s everyday life, most of the actual decisions are taken by the Ministry of the Interior (at which he works) or by the various assemblies – from the Central Round Table right down to the plenary meeting of the residents in his tenement block. Continue reading “Political Structures in Stealing the Future”

Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future

Gorbachev and Honecker in conference



As I said in Part II, in Stealing the Future I’ve tried to remain as true to historical fact as possible – practically this means trying to keep the history of countries other than Germany pretty much true to real life. Outside the GDR the biggest surprise is the continued existence of the USSR. I decided to let Mikhail Gorbachev keep the Soviet ship of state afloat, despite all its leaks and mutinies. Continue reading “Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future”

Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…

An East German Map, showing West Berlin as an empty space.

West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin, Berlin (West), B(W), BW?!?

It wasn’t until I’d finished my first draft of Stealing The Future that I started worrying about how to spell Westberlin (or West Berlin, West-Berlin or even Berlin (West)!). I’d blithely tapped away at my keyboard, using the Eastgerman (East German) vernacular, only realising that this may seem odd to a non-German audience, or even a Westgerman (West German) audience.

In English it’s really not very hard: West Berlin, West Germany, East Berlin, East Germany. But in German the way you spell West Berlin tells the reader something about you, and your politics. Yep, you guessed right, it’s about the Cold War, of course. Continue reading “Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…”

Für unser Land

Demonstration for an open country and free people 1989

Unser Land steckt in einer tiefen Krise. Wie wir bisher gelebt haben, können und wollen wir nicht mehr leben. Die Führung einer Partei hatte sich die Herrschaft über das Volk und seine Vertretungen angemaßt, vom Stalinismus geprägte Strukturen hatten alle Lebensbereiche durchdrungen. Gewaltfrei, durch Massendemonstrationen hat das Volk den Prozess der revolutionären Erneuerung erzwungen, der sich in atemberaubender Geschwindigkeit vollzieht. Uns bleibt nur wenig Zeit, auf die verschiedenen Möglichkeiten Einfluss zu nehmen, die sich als Auswege aus der Krise anbieten. Continue reading “Für unser Land”