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My spouse the spy: East German spy files still wrecking lives

June 27, 1997 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ A taxi driver finds out his wife snitched on his plans to escape East Germany. A dissident learns her husband reported all their intimate conversations to secret police. A West German politician discovers his East German mistress was pumped for information.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall threw uncounted lives into turmoil _ and continues to do so _ as Germans discover the extent to which the communist regime’s spy agency was willing to go to keep tabs on them.

Not only did the Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi, send seductive ``Romeos″ to the West to steal state secrets from lonely government secretaries, but it violated existing relationships at home, enlisting spouses and lovers to spy on their partners.

With hundreds of thousands of people still waiting to see their once-secret Stasi files, the shock of betrayal keeps coming, seven years after unification.

Rolf Schramm found out this past winter that his wife had been reporting on his plans to leave East Germany since the day they met in his cab in East Berlin.

``Often we sat at dinner, and she was next to me writing letters to the Stasi,″ Schramm, now divorced, told a German magazine this month. ``So cold-blooded!″

He is suing her to recover the $24,000 the divorce cost him and wants their 19-year marriage annulled.

``If I had known she was a spy, I never would have married her,″ he said.

Former East German dissident Vera Lengsfeld learned in 1992 that her husband, Knud Wollenberger, had been spying on her through their entire 11-year marriage. ``A private natural disaster,″ was how she described the discovery.

Under the code name ``Donald,″ he reported details of their most intimate conversations to the Stasi, all of which she later found meticulously recorded in the files.

``I would have rather endured years in a Stasi prison than have had to go through that,″ she said at the time.

The divorce went through in a near-record six weeks, and she took back her maiden name. Her two teen-age sons live with her; she has no contact with her ex-husband.

Now a member of the united German parliament, Lengsfeld is reluctant to relive those days, saying she doesn’t want to be known as the ``eternal victim.″

Last year, however, she sold the film rights to her story to Mike Newell, producer of ``Four Weddings and a Funeral.″

``The film was going to be made anyway and then I thought, before they buy the rights from my former husband, I’ll do it myself,″ Lengsfeld said. ``I don’t want a spy to earn money on his story.″

Not every story ended so bitterly.

A prominent West German politician, Karsten Voigt, began a secret affair in 1987 with an East German journalist, Brigitta Richter, only to find out after unification that she had been approached by Stasi officers.

The shock and scandal-sheet headlines caused him to break off the relationship for a few months, but only until he realized she was as much a victim as he was. They married in 1995, after he divorced his first wife.

``Here it wasn’t the case that someone was assigned to someone, but that two people fell in love and they found out about it,″ says Voigt, a leading voice on defense and foreign policy for the opposition Social Democrats in parliament.

``They tried for months to get some information″ from her, he said. ``But there was no information.″ Stasi files back them up.

``My wife was not an informer,″ he said. ``Otherwise I wouldn’t have survived as a politician.″

While former East German spymaster Markus Wolf boasts about ``perfecting the use of sex in spying″ in his recently released memoirs, he seems to have had a change of heart.

``It was wrong,″ the 73-year-old Wolf said at a news conference to promote the book. ``Nobody has the right to spoil an innocent person’s life.″

Cold comfort, though, to victims. ``It would have been better earlier,″ Lengsfeld said. ``If he really means it.″