Swedish pastor admits to serving as Stasi spy

A Church of Sweden pastor in the diocese of Luleå has admitted to having worked as an "elite spy" for the East German Stasi during the Cold War, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily.

Swedish pastor admits to serving as Stasi spy

“I deeply regret the whole event and will work through my life story in the near future,” Aleksander Radler wrote in an email to DN.

In response to a direct question from the newspaper if her husband had worked for the feared East German secret service, Bettina Radler replied “yes”.

68-year-old Aleksander Radler is already the subject of a Church of Sweden investigation over reports that he served as a spy for the Stasi while working as a pastor in Burträsk in northern Sweden, a claim he has hitherto denied.

The investigation is being led by Church of Sweden lawyer Anna Wernqvist, who told The Local on Thursday that they are awaiting Radler’s response.

“The most important thing is what he is going to say to the cathedral chapter. He has received all the papers and we have a meeting in August,” she said.

Luleå cathedral chapter had previously considered the matter after Radler was implicated in a book by researcher Birgitta Almgren in October 2011. The investigation was however closed due to insufficient evidence.

In discussions with the bishop, Radler furthermore flatly denied the allegations forwarded in Almgren’s book, which was based on the Swedish Stasi files.

But following further revelations in a report based on the Stasi archives in the Expressen daily in April 2012, the Church of Sweden reopened the case against the pastor.

Anna Wernqvist visited the archives in Berlin and returned in no doubt that Aleksander Radler and the Stasi spy known as “IM Thomas” were the same person.

“According to the German authorities there is no doubt whatsoever that the pastor has handed over information to the Stasi,” Wernqvist said in a statement in June.

According to information in Thursday’s Dagens Nyheter report, Radler was part of the elite ranks of the Stasi which numbered 3,900 of a total 189,000 Stasi agents.

The newspaper cites a new report drafted by international Stasi expert Helmut Müller-Enberg which details Radler’s involvement in reports, which among other things, concerned defectors and escape routes from East Germany to Sweden.

The report contains signed receipts for payment and other handwritten notes which further established the link between Aleksander Radler and “IM Thomas”.

The Church of Sweden investigation will consider whether the retired pastor should be stripped of his licence to preach, although Anna Wernqvist does not expect him to face criminal charges.

“I am no criminal lawyer, but as I understand it he can’t be charged in East Germany because it wasn’t a crime there,” she told The Local.

“In Sweden, he has not been charged and even if the actions could have constituted an offence, it is so long ago that they would fall under the statute of limitations.”

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

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Ikea admits using East German prison labour

Ikea apologized on Friday after a report confirmed that East German political prisoners were used in the Swedish furniture giant's factories in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ikea admits using East German prison labour

“We are deeply sorry that this could happen,” Jeanette Skjelmose, head of sustainability at Ikea of Sweden, said in a statement.

Following revelations that surfaced in April this year on Sveriges Television’s (SVT) Uppdrag Granskning programme, the furniture company initially rejected the claims, but on Friday admitted that prisoners had been used to make its products.

Ikea had commissioned an investigation into the claims by auditors Earnst and Young which concluded that Ikea furniture had been built using East German prisoners.

Releasing a report, Ikea said there were “indications that political prisoners and convicts were partly involved in producing parts or pieces of furniture that were delivered to Ikea 25 or 30 years ago.”

“In addition, the investigation showed there were Ikea managers who were aware of the possibility that political prisoners would be used to manufacture Ikea products in the former East Germany,” the report added.

While the firm took steps to ensure this did not occur, “it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough,” the furniture giant acknowledged.

“At the time, we did not yet have the well-organised control system we have today and clearly did not do enough to prevent this type of production method,” the firm said.

Meanwhile, Skjelmose explained a similar incident could not occur given the company’s current control systems.

“Using political prisoners in production has never been accepted within the group. During this time, we did not have the well-developed control system and it’s clear that it was not enough to prevent the incident,” she told the paper.

The Ernst and Young report examined documents from the Ikea archives as well as from the German historical files.

The auditors also carried out some 90 interviews with a variety of Ikea employees, prisoners and witnesses.

But the report has already come under fire.

Klaus Schroeder, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said: “It would have been simpler to come and ask us because we are the experts on this subject.

Roland Schulz, vice-president of an association representing victims of the Communist regime in East Germany, dismissed the report as “unscientific.”

“Ikea as the guilty party is itself conducting the investigation rather than leaving it to unbiased sources. Therefore we strongly doubt the validity of the results,” he added.

He called for historians and political scientists to carry out a more thorough investigation.

According to media reports, Ikea was far from being the only company to employ forced labour in the former Communist East, noting that the mail-order companies Neckermann et Quelle are also alleged to have observed similar practices.

But Rainer Wagner, the president of the UOKG group representing “victims of communist tyranny” told the Berliner Zeitung daily on Friday that Ikea’s efforts were “a start” and called on other firms to investigate their past.

The UOKG and other victims’ groups have called for a compensation fund to be set up for former forced workers under the East German communist regime.

AFP/The Local/og

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