10. Erich Mielke’s Breakfast Order

By Caroline West (@Caroline_N_West)

The archives of the East German Ministry for State Security (known as the Stasi) are vast. The holdings contain 111 kilometers of documents on the ministry’s operations – and perhaps most significant, its comprehensive and detailed recordings of the private lives of East German citizens. In 1989, aware that public support for the East German government was fading and eager to hide evidence that it had been spying on its own citizens, the ministry began shredding thousands of civilian files. Despite these efforts, protesters prevented complete destruction of the archives when they occupied the ministry’s East Berlin headquarters in late 1989 and early 1990. [1]

The file card pictured above is a unique item from the archives. It provides the kind of intimate details the Stasi gathered on private citizens, but about someone who was no ordinary civilian: Erich Mielke, the head of the Stasi for nearly four decades. This card, found in the desk of Mielke’s secretary, provides precise instructions about how he liked his breakfast served each day, from the number of minutes he wanted his two eggs to be cooked (four and a half for each) to the exact placement of his cutlery, plate, and napkin.

These details are almost humanizing in that they reflect the kind of idiosyncratic habits common among us all. But they have more chilling implications given the nature of Mielke’s work: they reveal the obsessive precision Mielke must have applied in constructing a surveillance state whose reach was so complete that no East German could escape it.


[1] https://www.stasi-unterlagen-archiv.de/en/archives/about-the-archives/

Image Credit: Author’s own

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