The Stasi File on Michael Jackson

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Franka Bruns / AP

East Germany's Stasi secret police had Michael Jackson under surveillance when he visited West Berlin in 1988, snapping this photo of a man they thought was the pop star (front row, second from left) but has since been revealed as a look-alike.

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Why would the West Berlin promoter be so willing to cooperate with the East Germans? Possibly because the concert was sponsored by Coca-Cola, which had a stake in keeping East-West relations smooth. "The Coca-Cola company has economic interests in a relationship with the G.D.R.," the report says. "A meeting between the company's management and the General Secretary [Erich Honecker, head of the Socialist Unity Party and G.D.R. leader] is planned."

A crowd of about 5,000 people did gather on the eastern side of the Wall, according to a June 20, 1988, wire report by West Germany's Deutsche Presse Agentur news service, which is included in the Stasi file. It says that hundreds of East German security forces rushed the crowd in the early morning hours after the concert, and estimates that about 30 people were arrested.

But though it's difficult to verify the accuracy of the Stasi report, it appears that the East Germans who ventured to the Wall that night in the hope of hearing Jackson were disappointed. Alfred and Scarlett Kleint, who today write scripts for German television, were not Jackson fans but were curious to see the spectacle. They marched down Unter den Linden, past the Soviet embassy, the streets full of people. Alfred describes seeing a lot of police but says the atmosphere was peaceful. He climbed partway up one of the trees on the median on Unter den Linden. A policeman tugged at his leg and ordered him down from the tree, but Kleint says he shook him off and kept peering over the heads of the crowd.

"He was a young guy who apparently didn't want any trouble on his beat," Alfred says. "He let me go. And off in the distance you could faintly hear music, not very enjoyable. And then we went home."

Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, a historian at the government agency that maintains the Stasi files today, was a teenager in 1988 and worked as a doorman in East Berlin. He was also a die-hard Pink Floyd fan and determined to get close enough to the Wall to hear the concert. He wound his way through backstreets to a building near the Wall and climbed onto the roof from a window in the building's attic. Yet despite his efforts, he could hardly hear a thing.

"The wind must have been coming from the wrong direction," he says. "I was really close to the Wall and could see the Reichstag. But I couldn't hear the concert."

It's impossible to say whether the Stasi's fears of Michael Jackson were justified. But two decades later, Checkpoint Charlie is a museum, the Wall all but gone, and Berlin Mitte, the city center, has been returned to shopkeepers, restaurants and offices. Maybe the power of pop had something to do with it.

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