Spies in disguise: Fashion secrets of the Stasi revealed (and it's not quite as incognito as you might think)
By ALLAN HALL
Last updated at 4:30 PM on 4th August 2011
For a profession as covert as theirs, you might have thought the Stasi would kit out their spies with an inconspicuous wardrobe to aid them in their secretive work.
However far from blending in, a new exhibition has revealed that operatives from the secret police of former East Germany looked astonishingly like, well, spies.
Dodgy fashion secrets of the Stasi show how they seem to have taken a leaf out of the book of many a Hollywood screen spy.
Work wardrobe: With upturned collars and, fur hats and sunglasses, these Stasi operatives could not look more like spies if they tried
Fur hats, upturned collars and sunglasses were the order of the day for spooks sent on missions to the hated west.
The photos were found in the miles and miles of paperwork found in Stasi offices across East Germany that the agency's shredders and furnaces did not have time to destroy in the hours and days following the collapse of the regime in 1990.
They show, starkly, how the spymasters' idea of 'inconspicuous' was divorced from reality; most of their 'art of disguise' training photos show operatives looking like... spies.
Berlin-based artist Simon Menner unearthed the images while exploring the archives of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) in Berlin.
He was authorised to reproduce the photos and they are now on display in an exhibition entitled: 'Pictures from the Secret Stasi Archives.'
Blending in: The extraordinary images form part of the Stasi secret police course on the 'art of disguising' and are now on display in Berlin
Morgen Contemporary, the Berlin gallery hosting the exhibition, said; 'Many of the snapshots seem absurd and they may even be amusing. And yet we ought not lose sight of the intention that led the Stasi agents to take them.'
The Stasi fashion collection was no theoretical exercise. The agency sent thousands of spies into West Germany and had access to vast amounts of cash to buy western goods to equip agents with.
But the photos show their operatives clad, for the most part, in the drab utilitarian garb of their state which excelled in little but shortages.
Covert: The pictures show how the spymasters' idea of 'inconspicuous' was divorced from reality and made operatives look like... spies
'Orwellian': The extent of the Stasi's snooping is seen in other photos running in the exhibition, including snapshots agents took of houses and people under suspicion of being 'harmful to the state'
The Stasi turned one in three of the 17 million people of the German Democratic Republic into an informant. Children sneaked on their parents at school, wives informed on husbands, lovers betrayed one another.
The extent of their snooping is seen in other photos running in the exhibition. They include snapshots agents took of houses before they were to be searched for contraband or material 'harmful to the state.'
The Stasi always took photos of rooms they ransacked so they could put everything back in its place and the victims would not know they had been to visit them.
Menner said; 'I have always found the concept of the Orwellian Big Brother society fascinating, and they didn't come much more Orwellian than the Stasi.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2022401/Fashion-secrets-Stasi-revealed-new-exhibition-Berlin.html#ixzz1U7DC3Gja