From Der Spiegel:

Ein halbes Dutzend Aktivisten der "Marianne" wechseln sich beim Telefondienst ab -- Schwabe, Oltmanns, Sellentin und dessen Freundin Anke Hansmann riskieren für die Übermittlung von "Nachrichten zum Nachteil der Interessen der DDR" eine mehrjährige Freiheitsstrafe.

What does "Nachrichten zum Nachteil der Interessen der DDR" mean?

News of the disadvantage of the interest of the DDR.

Does "interest" here refer to "caring for / paying attention to" the DDR? That is, the detriment of caring for the DDR?

2 Answers 2


"Interessen der DDR" is "(political, strategic...) interests of the GDR", i.e. things or circumstances that serve the benefit of the state or its government.

The sentence doesn't mean that the news itself are against the GDR's interest, but rather their transmission (Übermittlung). So the "crime" that these brave people were accused of was an action that wasn't real espionage, but that was regarded as something quite close to it.

EDIT: Loong pointed out correctly that the clause that "Der Spiegel" is referring to deals with non-secret news (or more generally: data / information). So it is not about espionage (in the normal sense). The data could be literally anything, even as simple things as your passport data. As can be seen from this book on the GDR's law system(1) the "criminal act" was constructed from "the other side" learning about these (non-secret!) data. It was a classic ambiguous clause ("Gummi-Paragraph"), because it was completely at the discretion of the authorities whether it was "detrimental to the interests of the GDR" when someone learned about some data.

1) Marxen, Klaus; Werle, Gerhard: Strafjustiz und DDR-Unrecht. Band 5: Rechtsbeugung, Teil 1


The term „Nachrichten zum Nachteil der Interessen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (DDR)“ (“information detrimental to the interests of the German Democratic Republic”) comes from the Criminal Code of the German Democratic Republic, which reads:

§ 99 Landesverräterische Nachrichtenübermittlung

(1) Wer der Geheimhaltung nicht unterliegende Nachrichten zum Nachteil der Interessen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik an die im § 97 genannten Stellen oder Personen übergibt, für diese sammelt oder ihnen zugänglich macht, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe von zwei bis zu zwölf Jahren bestraft.

Paragraph 99 Treasonous Transfer of Information
If a person transfers non-confidential information detrimental to the interests of the German Democratic Republic over to places or individuals mentioned in Paragraph 97; if he collects or makes it accessible to them; he will be convicted with a prison sentence of between two and twelve years.

(Note: Paragraph 99 is about non-confidential information; thus, this is not espionage. Espionage is covered by Paragraph 97.)

  • 1
    Thanks for giving this background. I think, however, that the translation does not reflect properly that "zum Nachteil der Interessen der DDR" is adverbial to "übergibt, ... sammelt, ... zugänglich macht" and NOT to "Nachrichten". The logic of this clause was that some data would become detrimental by handing it over to the enemy. It was applied to people who showed their passport to western institutions - and even the GDR would not have claiemd that the data itself in the passports they issued was detrimental to their interests.
    – Matthias
    Oct 22, 2014 at 8:31

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