Stasi pastor gives up licence to preach

Aleksander Radler, the Church of Sweden pastor who was exposed as a spy for the feared East German intelligence service Stasi, has chosen to give up his licence to preach, he said in an interview with Christian newspaper Dagen.

Stasi pastor gives up licence to preach

“Through information that I passed on about students in what was then the DDR, these people were incarcerated and treated badly at the end of the 1960s. Nothing torments my conscience as much as that,” Radler wrote to Dagen.

He told the paper that it was the then most prominent East German theologian Hans-Georg Fritsche who drew him into the intelligence gathering as a young theology student in Eastern Germany.

“And for those who made the mistake to start, it was not unproblematic to get out again,” Radler wrote.

Many of the young people that Radler passed on information on were sentenced to long prison sentences in East Germany and were later refused to return to university or get a job.

Radler told the paper that once he moved to Sweden at the end of the 1960s, he continued his intelligence gathering for Stasi by reporting on high-ranking members in the Church of Sweden up until the fall of the wall in 1989.

“I should have listened to my inner moral voice and broken off with the destructive forces, despite the high social and academic costs,“ Radler told Dagen.

Radler, who says he is riddled by guilt and remorse, has now decided to give up his right to preach in Sweden, despite the fact that the Church of Sweden investigation into the matter has not yet been completed.

He describes his existence as a “double-nature”.

“On the one hand there was my work for God and then the dark memories, irreconcilable with the Christian message, on the other,” Radler told the paper.

According to a recent Stasi exhibition organized by the German embassy in Stockholm, 153 Swedes have so far been exposed as Stasi agents.

The Local/rm

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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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