Despite Concerns, Germany to Put Stasi Files in Archives

East German secret police kept records on millions of citizens
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2019 2:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Over the objections of historians and dissidents of the era, Germany is moving the files of the notorious East German secret police to the national archives. Parliament approved the transfer on Thursday, the BBC reports. The Stasi compiled millions of files on citizens during the Cold War and tried to destroy the documents when communist East Germany fell in 1989. Citizen groups rushed the offices to seize the records, and they've been available since then to those wanting to see what information about them and their families the files held. A federal commissioner has had control of the documents, thousands of audio and video recordings, and more than 1.7 million photographs. More than 3 million people have asked to see the files, per DW. Using millions of officers and informants, the Stasi employed surveillance and intimidation, including secret prisons.

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Supporters of moving the files said the Federal Archives is better-equipped to maintain and digitize the files. Few are digitized so far. Others say the files could become less accessible, fall under political control and be covered up to avoid embarrassment. One lawmaker said he's concerned that "a lid will be put on history." The legislation allows two years for the transfer. A historian pointed out that by 2021, the nation's largest institution responsible for preserving the record of East Germany will be gone. The files include 15,000 bags of paper shreds; as East Germany fell, Stasi officers used shredders to destroy the documents, then, as citizens neared, began tearing papers by hand. (Read more Stasi stories.)

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