Carola Stern was born Erika Assmus on the German island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea. Her father was a civil servant. During World War II, she was an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. After the war, living in the Soviet Zone, she became committed to the Socialist Unity party and taught taught Marxism-Leninism at one of the party colleges. On a visit to her sick mother in West Berlin in the late 19, she was recruited as a spy by the American intelligence services, as revealed in her 2001 autobiography, Doppelleben. In 1951, she was betrayed by a colleague and fled to West Berlin. There she adopted the name "Carola Stern" and lectured at the Otto Suhr Institute of political science. She wrote books critical of both sides in the Cold War and became political editor of Kiepenheuer & Witsch, a publishing house in Cologne. In 1970, she began working as chief political commentator of West German Radio. Around this time, she married Heinz Zöger, also a journalist. She also wrote novels and biographies.