The unofficial collaborators (IMs) were the "key weapon" of the Ministry for State Security (MfS). They were used primarily in the GDR. With their help the MfS spied on the population and tried to gather information on its moods and any attempts at "subversion".
In written or oral statements collaborators committed themselves to working under cover with the MfS. They reported on all areas of society, infiltrated opposition groups and supplied even the most intimate information about their colleagues, friends or fellow pupils. They also played an active role in the State Security's activities in the field of so-called "psychic demolition".
The collaborators had many different motives, ranging from political conviction, a sense of duty or bloated self-importance – to a fear of reprisals. Some hoped for professional or material advantages. In the case of young collaborators it was often a longing for recognition or a sense of security that made them susceptible to recruitment by the MfS.
By 1989 the State Security had about 189,000 unofficial collaborators – one for about every 90 GDR citizens.