by Shawn Bohannon

Erich Mielke in 1985
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

28 Dec 1907: Born in Berlin-Wedding.
1914-1922: Attended the 43. Gemeindeschule (Community School) in Berlin.
1921: Joined the German Communist Youth Organization (KJVD) (he had previously joined the Workers Sports Club “Fichte”).
1923-1924: Attended the Köllnischen Gymnasium (High School) in Berlin.
1924-1927: Training and work as a dispatch clerk (forwarding agent) in Berlin.
1925: Joined the German Communist Party (KPD).
1927-1931: Employed as a dispatch clerk.
1928-1931: Employed as a reporter for the KPD newspaper “Rote Fahne” and a member of the “Parteiselbstschutzes” or Party Self Defense Units.
1930: Four days’ detention for participating in the forbidden International Youth Day.
9 Aug 1931: Mielke and fellow communist Erich Ziemer ambushed and murdered Berlin police captains Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck outside the Babylon Theater in the Bülowplatz. A police sergeant, Max Willig, was also badly wounded in the ambush but survived. (Mielke was armed with a long-barreled 9mm Luger “artillery” pistol; Ziemer carried a .32 Dreyse automatic pistol.) Shortly after committing the murders, Mielke and Ziemer fled Germany aboard a merchant ship for the Soviet Union.
1932-1935: Attended the International Lenin School in Moscow and trained as a school politico-military lector.
1934: Sentenced to death in absentia in Germany.
1935-1936: Lector for Politico-Military Questions at the International Lenin School.
Dec 1936-Feb 1939: Served in the international brigades in Spain during the civil war under the alias “Fritz Leissner” (lieutenant on the staff of the XIV International Brigade, the XI International Brigade and then the 27th Division; adjutant of the base commandant of Albacete; promoted to captain; adjutant of the commander of the 35th Division).
Mar 1939-May 1940: Settled in Belgium; employee of the newspaper “Neuen Rheinischen Zeitung” and, from 1940, with the Informationsblättern (information papers) for immigrants in Belgium.
May 1940-Apr 1941: Interned in France and then until Dec 1943 in southern France; among other things, he worked as a woodcutter; legalized himself as a Latvian with the name “Richard Hebel.”
Ca. 1940-1943: Worked for the illegal KPD Leadership in France.
Dec 1943: Arrested.
Jan-Dec 1944: Conscripted into the Organisation Todt (OT).
Jan-May 1945: Resided in the French and American Zone.
14 June 1945: Returned to Berlin.
15 July 1945-30 Nov 1945: Leader of the Police Inspectorate of Berlin-Lichtenberg.
Dec 1945-Aug 1946: Police and Justice Department Leader of the Central Committee of the KPD.
1946: Joined the German Socialist Unity Party (SED).
17 Aug 1946-11 Oct 1949: Vice President (from mid-1948, 1st Deputy President) of the German Administration of the Interior (responsible for the General Department as well as personnel and schooling questions; from mid-1948, the Main Departments of Organization, Personnel, Schooling and Culture and Higher Police Schools, Political Culture and Classified Materials).
7 Feb 1947: Arrest warrant issued by the Berlin District Court for the 1931 murders of police officers Anlauf and Lenck.
18 Dec 1948: Married Gertrud Müller (the couple had a son, Frank, earlier that year).
12 Oct 1949-7 Feb 1950: Leader of the Main Administration for Protection of the People’s Economy (granted the rank of Generalinspekteur).
1950-3 Dec 1989: Member of the Central Committee of the SED.
8 Feb 1950-17 Jul 1953: State Secretary and Deputy Minister for State Security (MfS) under Wilhelm Zaisser (promoted to Generalleutnant on 1 Jan 1953).
27 Mar 1953-1989: First Chairman of the Sportvereinigung (Sports Club) “Dynamo Berlin.” Mielke’s sports club rated its own bureau in the MfS: Büros der Zentralen Leitung der Sportvereinigung Dynamo Berlin. Bureau heads included Oberst Dipl.-Jurist Heinz Eggebrecht (1972-1982) and Generalmajor Dr. jur., Dipl.-Jurist Heinz Pommer (1982-1989).
18 July 1953-23 Nov 1955: Deputy Leader of the State Secretariat for State Security (SfS) under Ernst Wollweber. Downgraded in the political fallout after the German workers’ uprising in June 1953, the MfS ceased to be an independent ministry effective 18 July 1953. Renamed the SfS, the former ministry was subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior. On 24 Nov 1955, the SfS was restored to its former status as a separate ministry.
24 Nov 1955-31 Oct 1957: Deputy Minister for State Security under Ernst Wollweber.
1 Nov 1957-7 Nov 1989: Minister for State Security (promoted to Generaloberst on 1 Oct 1959; promoted to Armeegeneral on 1 Feb 1980). Under Mielke’s guidance, the MfS developed into a ruthlessly efficient instrument of repression that infiltrated all walks of life in the German Democratic Republic. The ministry included the Hauptverwaltung A(ufklärung) headed by deputy minister and arch spymaster Generaloberst Markus Wolf from 1953-1986, arguably the most effective intelligence service of all the Warsaw Pact states. The complex spider web that comprised the MfS included main departments specializing in counterintelligence; intelligence gathering within the Grenztruppen and the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA); personal protection services; economic security; MfS cadre and schools; passport control, tourism and hotels; intelligence gathering within the Ministry of the Interior/German Volkspolizei; observation and investigation; anti-terrorism; transportation, post and news agencies; and counter dissidence, culture, churches and underground groups. The MfS also included departments for handling international relations; detention and the penal system; central information/archives; and internal security within the MfS. Additionally, the ministry maintained its own central medical agency; central evaluation and information group; and financial department. The Wachregiment “Feliks E. Dzierżyński” functioned as the combat support arm of the MfS for special repression actions and physical security tasks. By 1989, the regiment boasted 11,426 personnel, a number that rivaled the manpower strength of a regular division of the NVA.
1957-1989: Member of the executive committee of the German Gymnastics and Sports Association (DTSB) of the German Democratic Republic and member of the National Committee for Physical Culture and Sport of the German Democratic Republic.
1958-17 Nov 1989: Member of the Volkskammer or Parliament of the German Democratic Republic.
1960-1989: Member of the National Defense Council of the German Democratic Republic.
1971: Candidate for the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED.
1976-8 Nov 1989: Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED.
1987: Publication of Sozialismus und Frieden – Sinn unseres Kampfes. Ausgewählte Reden und Aufsätze (Socialism and Peace – Sense of our Struggle. Selected Speeches and Essays).
7 Nov 1989: Resigned as Minister for State Security along with the rest of the ministerial council chaired by Willi Stoph. The council retained only caretaker status until a new government was formed under Hans Modrow – Stoph’s successor as Chairman of the Council of Ministers – six days later.
8 Nov 1989: Resigned along with the rest of the Politburo.
13 Nov 1989: Called before the Volkskammer to brief the country’s security situation, Mielke, in a televised address, claimed the Stasi remained in control. Faced with stubbornness and laughter from the delegates, Mielke helplessly exclaimed: “ich liebe doch alle, alle Menschen!” (“I love you all nonetheless, all of the people!”). In a decidedly Kafkaesque moment earlier in his speech, Mielke declared: “wir haben, Genossen, Abgeordnete, einen außerordentlich hohen Kontakt mit allen werktätigen Menschen” (“We [the Stasi] have, comrades, delegates, an extraordinarily high relation with all working people”).
17 Nov 1989: Revocation of Mielke’s seat in the Volkskammer. Also on this date, Hans Modrow ordered the MfS restructured into the Amt für Nationale Sicherheit (AfNS) (Office for National Security) under Generalleutnant Dr. jur., Dipl.-Jurist Wolfgang Schwanitz, one of Mielke’s former deputy ministers. However, widespread public outcry over the continued existence of the secret police organization prompted the government to vote for the dissolution of the AfNS on 14 Dec 1989.
3 Dec 1989: Expelled from the Central Committee and the SED.
7 Dec 1989: Imprisoned on remand for suspicion of abuse of office and corruption causing damage to the national economy.
9 Mar 1990: Released for health reasons.
July 1990: Arrest warrant issued for providing safe haven and support for Red Army Faction (RAF) “retirees” in the German Democratic Republic; confined in the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen prison.
Oct 1990: Transferred to the Berlin-Moabit prison.
19 Oct 1990: Arrest warrant issued for breach of trust and unfaithfulness.
1990-1992: Confined in the Plötzensee prison.
Mar 1991: Arrest warrant issued for attempted murder in connection with support given to RAF terrorists.
14 May 1991: Indicted for indirect complicity in manslaughter (68 documented cases) in connection with the alleged “shoot to kill” orders given to East German border guards and the implementation of other lethal inter-German border fortification.
Nov 1991: Arrest warrant issued for the murders of Berlin police officers Anlauf and Lenck in 1931.
4 Jan 1992: Again confined in the Berlin-Moabit prison.
9 Feb 1992: Start of Mielke’s trial for the 1931 murders of the Berlin police officers.
19 Oct 1992: Arrest warrant issued for indirect complicity in 68 cases of manslaughter at the Berlin Wall and along the inter-German border.
1992-3 Aug 1995: Confined in the Berlin-Moabit prison.
12 Nov 1992: One of six defendants, including former East German leader Erich Honecker, placed on trial in Berlin for indirect complicity in 68 cases of manslaughter at the Berlin Wall and along the inter-German border. Shortly after the trial began, the court suspended proceedings against Mielke as he was simultaneously being tried for the 1931 murders.
26 Oct 1993: Sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for the 1931 murders of Berlin police officers Anlauf and Lenck.
3 Aug 1995: Released on probation for health reasons; thereafter resided in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen.
Aug 1998: All further legal actions against Mielke were halted for health reasons.
21 May 2000: Died in a home for the elderly in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen.
6 June 2000: Interred in an anonymous grave at the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde, the resting place of many well-known German communists, socialists and social democrats including Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Wilhelm Pieck, Walter Ulbricht, Otto Grotewohl, Erich Weinert, Ernst Thälmann and Armeegeneral Dr. h.c., Dipl.-Mil. Heinz Hoffmann. However, Mielke’s grave was placed outside the memorial section established in 1951 by the East German authorities for their heroes. Generalmajor a.D. Prof. Dr. sc. jur., Dipl.-Jurist Willi Opitz, former rector of the Legal University of the MfS in Potsdam-Eiche (1986-1989), delivered the memorial speech: “With Erich Mielke died an anti-fascist, a communist and internationalist, who placed his life by deepest conviction in the service of the ambitious and noble goals of the working class and all workers, in the service of socialism and peace.” (Note: The editor of this profile and the website host do not subscribe to nor endorse this characterization of the former Minister for State Security of the German Democratic Republic; it is included here as a matter of historical interest only.)

Major Decorations

Title of Honor “Hero of the German Democratic Republic” (two awards: 1 Dec 1975 and 28 Dec 1982)
Title of Honor “Hero of Labor” (three awards: 5 Oct 1964, 24 Dec 1967 and Dec 1982)
Karl Marx Order (six awards: 28 Dec 1957, 20 Nov 1973, 28 Dec 1977, June 1982, Dec 1982 and 1987)
Honor Clasp to the Fatherland’s Merit Order in Gold (4 Oct 1969)
Fatherland’s Merit Order in Gold (7 Oct 1954)
Scharnhorst Order (three awards)
Order of the Banner of Labor in Gold (8 May 1960)
Title of Honor “Hero of the Soviet Union” and Gold Star Medal – USSR (25 Apr 1987)
Order of Lenin – USSR (four awards: 20 Nov 1973, Dec 1982, ? and 25 Apr 1987)
Order of the October Revolution – USSR (8 Feb 1975)
Order of the Red Banner – USSR (four awards: 23 Oct 1958, 3 Feb 1968, 28 Dec 1977 and 8 Feb 1980)
Title of Honor “Distinguished Employee of the State Security” (7 Feb 1970)
Title of Honor “Distinguished Jurist of the German Democratic Republic” (8 Dec 1980)
Order of Merit, Commander’s Cross with Star – Poland (Mar 1982)
Merit Medal of the National People’s Army in Gold (1957)
Merit Medal of the Customs Administration in Gold (1967)
Merit Medal of the German Reichsbahn in Gold (1967)
Medal for Merit in the Administration of Justice (2 Sep 1965)
Medal for Fighters against Fascism, 1933-1945
Hans Beimler Medal (for service in the Spanish Civil War)
Ernst Moritz Arndt Medal of the National Council of the National Front
Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Socialist Training in the Pioneer Organization “Ernst Thälmann” (1967)
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Medal of the German Gymnastics and Sports Association (DTSB)
Ernst Grube Medal of the DTSB
Medal for Faithful Service in the Barracked People’s Police
Medal for Faithful Service in the National People’s Army in Bronze (1957)
Medal for Exemplary Border Service (1957)
Decoration of the German People’s Police (22 Feb 1950)
Commemorative Medal “30 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” – USSR (1975)
Golden Honor Pin of “Dynamo”
Golden Honor Pin of the Democratic Sport Movement (1957)
Golden Honor Pin of the DTSB (1967)
Golden Honor Pin of the German Football Association (1967)
Golden Honor Pin for Special Achievement in the Huntsmanship of the German Democratic Republic (1967)

Sources used

Biographie Erich Mielke:
Froh, Klaus & Wenzke, Rüdiger. Die Generale und Admirale der NVA: Ein biographisches Handbuch. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2000.
Gieseke, Jens. Wer war wer im Ministerium für Staatssicherheit. Kurzbiographien des MfS-Leitungspersonals 1950 bis 1989.
Gieseke, Jens. Die hauptamtlichen Mitarbeiter der Staatssicherheit. Personalstruktur und Lebenswelt 1950-1989/90. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2001.
Koehler, John O. Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1999.
Otto, Wilfriede. Erich Mielke – Biographie: Aufstieg und Fall eines Tschekisten. Karl Dietz Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2000.