Hermann Günter von Berg (* March 29, 1933, in Mupperg; † March 21, 2019, was a secret diplomat of the GDR from 1962 to 1972 and at the same time an agent of the GDR State Security. GDR Diplomat Secret Spy
Von Berg joined the FDJ in 1946 and the SED in 1950 and was the first secretary of the FDJ district leadership and a member of the SED Eisenach district leadership. From 1954, he studied economics, history, and philosophy at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig and was deputy head of the university’s All-German Student Council and a staff member of the FDJ Central Council’s International Relations Department. From 1959 he was a lecturer at the Fachschule für Außenwirtschaft in Potsdam.
From 1962 he was head of the International Relations Department in the Press Office of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He conducted secret negotiations with representatives of the federal government, the SPD, and the West Berlin Senate, among others, in preparation for the 1963-64 passport agreement, the meetings between Willi Stoph and Willy Brandt in Erfurt and Kassel in 1970 and the 1972 German-German Basic Treaty. In 1973, he was awarded the Fatherland Order of Merit in Silver. According to the Stasi, Berg is said to have discussed with Egon Bahr the possibility of financial influence on CDU/CSU deputies by state security in the run-up to the vote of no confidence against Willy Brandt in 1972. According to Spiegel, the only evidence until 2013 was that the Stasi had bribed the CDU/CSU MP Julius Steiner with DM 50,000 in order to bring down the CDU/CSU vote of no confidence. The same is reported by Daniela Münkel of the Stasi Records Authority. GDR Diplomat Secret Spy
From 1966 he was an aspirant at the Institute for Social Sciences at the Central Committee of the SED, and after receiving his doctorate, from 1970 he was a lecturer and in 1972 a professor at the Economics Section of the Humboldt University in Berlin. After submitting an article critical of the leadership of the SED and the national question to Der Spiegel magazine, which was published as the “Manifesto of the League of Democratic Communists of Germany,” he was remanded in custody in 1978 and subjected to three months of interrogation by the Ministry of State Security. Further critical statements led to increasing obstructions to his ability to work and publish in the GDR.
After illegally handing over two book manuscripts with radical criticism of Marxism and the GDR’s economic system to a Cologne publishing house in 1985 and applying to leave the country, von Berg was again interrogated by the MfS and threatened with imprisonment, first granted leave of absence from Humboldt University and then dismissed, and after the intervention of West German politicians and the mediation of the lawyer Wolfgang Vogel, expelled to the Federal Republic in 1986.
From 1987 to 1990 he taught at the University of Würzburg, then again at Humboldt University Berlin until 1992. GDR Diplomat Secret Spy
Stasi-Agent GDR Diplomat Secret Spy
Von Berg was considered a top agent (code name “Günther”) in the Main Intelligence Directorate (HV A) of the Ministry of State Security. He was often personally guided by Erich Mielke (Stasi minister) or Markus Wolf (head of HV A). The minutes of his talks with Western partners contained in his reports for HV A were “meticulous.”.
Many of von Bergs’ reports about his activities as a secret diplomat 1962-1972 and simultaneous agent of the HV A have been preserved in large parts by a coincidence. After his arrest in 1978, the MfS’s Hauptabteilung II (counterintelligence) conducted a far-reaching investigation into the “von Berg” case. Large parts of von Berg’s reports on his work for the HV A were also included in the investigation files. These investigation files, a convolute of 12 volumes, survived the fall of communism in 1989/1990, as the Main Department II was occupied in time by the civil movement, and the handling of the files was subsequently monitored.
In contrast to the domestic departments, the Stasi’s foreign department, HV A, was given permission to “self-dissolve” without any outside control in 1990 for reasons that remain unexplained to this day. This led to the gigantic destruction of files, which was complete except for a few (albeit momentous) blunders and to which the original files on the activities of agent “Günther” also fell victim. GDR Diplomat Secret Spy
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...