Vol. 29 (2009)

Canada as the Target of GDR Espionage

Published 2009-04-01

How to Cite

Muller-Enbergs, H. (2009). Canada as the Target of GDR Espionage. Journal of Conflict Studies, 29. Retrieved from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JCS/article/view/15232


German Democratic Republic (GDR) diplomatic missions included a legal residentur: an intelligence service base whose presence was more or less openly acknowledged. This was staffed by the Hauptverwaltung A (HVA - Main Directorate Foreign Intelligence), one of the principal divisions within the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security). The HVA’s main task was espionage. While most of the HVA files have been destroyed, the HVA had created a special database which holds all of the information it produced between 1969 and 1989. This database allows us to identify which source delivered what information and when, who received the information, and what value each piece of information had. The GDR’s Canadian embassy did not open until 1987, and due to the short term of its existence the HVA residentur in Canada could hardly have played a significant intelligence role. And we can almost be certain that it did not build up and manage an unofficial spy network from Canada. In fact, the HVA appears to have acquired its knowledge about Canada primarily from other sources, mainly agents within the West German foreign ministry and from other partner intelligence agencies. The GDR had undoubtedly deep insights into the domestic and foreign affairs of Canada. They were well informed about the role Canada played within NATO and within the Helsinki Accord. Within Canada, regulations governing everyday life were of primary concern, indicating that the country was being used as an operational spearhead. Knowledge about the Canadian intelligence services was fragmentary and selective, but also very accurate. Although there has been no evidence concerning East German spies in Canada, we cannot definitely conclude that there were none. Only the Canadian Security Intelligence Service can shed light on that.