Stasi Records Agency
|Formed||29 December 1991|
|Employees||1,440 (at 1 January 2019)|
The Stasi Records Agency (Stasi-Unterlagen-Behörde) is the organisation that administers the archives of Ministry of State Security (Stasi) of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It is a government agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was established when the Stasi Records Act came into force on 29 December 1991. It is formally called the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik); in German it is commonly known by the abbreviation BStU.
The Stasi was established on 8 February 1950. It functioned as the GDR's secret police, intelligence agency and crime investigation service. It grew to have around 270,000 people working for it, including about 180,000 informers, or "unofficial collaborators". It was renamed the "Office for National Security" (German: Amt für Nationale Sicherheit) on 17 November 1989. It was dissolved on 13 January 1990.
The Stasi spied on almost every aspect of East Germans' daily lives, and it carried out international espionage. It kept files on about 5.6 million people and amassed an enormous archive. The archive holds 111 kilometres (69 mi) of files in total. About half of the material is held in the Stasi Records Agency's headquarters in Berlin, and the rest is in its 12 regional offices. As well as written documentation, the archive has audio-visual material such as photos, slides, film and sound recordings. The Stasi also had an archive of sweat and body odour samples which its officers collected during interrogations.
The agency is formally known by the title of its lead official, the "Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic" (German: Der Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik). Due to the unwieldy name, the Commissioner is usually referred to as the "Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records" (German: Der Bundesbeauftragte für die Stasi-Unterlagen), abbreviatated as "BStU".
It is also called the Stasi-Unterlagen-Behörde ("Stasi Records Agency" ).
The head office of the Stasi Records Agency is in the central suburb of Lichtenberg in Berlin, in what was part of the sprawling former Stasi headquarters compound. In addition to providing access to files, it also has exhibitions, tours and public events related to the Stasi and the history of the GDR.
The offices in Dresden, Erfurt, Frankfurt-an-der-Oder and Halle all have permanent and changing exhibitions, offer tours to the public and host events and educational programmes relating to the activities of the Stasi in their region.
The agency is a member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, an organisation founded in October 2011 which brings together public and private institutions in 20 countries which focus on history of the totalitarian regimes in 20th century Europe
The agency is headed by a Federal Commissioner, elected by the Bundestag.
After the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party stepped down on 3 December 1989, the Stasi became the last bastion of the dictatorship. Citizens were alert to the fact that the Stasi might try to its destroy files and records, in order to cover up its activities. On the morning of 4 December, dark smoke was seen coming from the chimneys of the Stasi district headquarters in Erfurt, and it was deduced that files were being burned. With the help of other citizens, a women's group, "Women for Change" (German: Frauen für Veränderung) occupied the building and the neighbouring Stasi remand prison, where they stored files for safekeeping.
This instigated the take over of Stasi buildings all over East Germany. Citizens gained access to the Stasi headquarters in Berlin on 15 January 1990.
After German Reunification in October 1990, Joachim Gauck was appointed Special Commissioner for the Stasi Records. When Stasi Records Act was passed in December 1991, he became first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, heading the newly created Stasi Records Agency. The act sets out the rights of people to view Stasi Records, which they were first able to do on 2 January 1992.
As at January 2015, over 7 millon people had applied to view their own Stasi files. In January 2015 the Stasi Records Agency created a digital portal and made files available online, although for privacy reasons no files of living people are available digitally. The website includes information about the 1953 uprising in East Germany and the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Controversy arose after an investigation, whose report had been leaked to the media, found out that the BStU at one point employed at least 79 former Stasi members and still employed 52 as of 2009. The great majority of these were hired from the "bodyguards" branch of the Stasi; some were former archivists and some were just technicians. There was suspicion that some of these former Stasi officers managed to manipulate records, so nowadays no former Stasi officers are allowed to enter the Stasi Archives by themselves. The report recommended, for several reasons besides the issue of former Stasi officers working for the BStU, to integrate the BStU into the German Federal Archives. It also reported there was a constitutionally questionable situation. In summer 2008, the German Parliament decided to found an expert commission to analyze the role and future of the BStU.
Reconstruction of shredded files
In 1995, the Stasi Archives began reassembling documents that had been shredded by Stasi staff before citizens had been able to protect them. There were nearly 16,000 bags of shredded material; an estimated 33 million pages. The project to reassemble them is ongoing. This work has mainly been done by hand but since 2007 specially developed computer technology has been used to help with the project.
The Rosenholz files are a collection of microfilmed Stasi files that have information on East Germany's foreign intelligence service employees and informers. They contain 320,000 agent cards and 57,000 spy reports. They were acquired by the CIA shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in unclear circumstances. Between 2001 and 2003 the United States gave the files it had, which were on 380 CD-ROMs, to the Stasi Records Agency. Since July 2003, these been available for viewing. They provide an insight into the Stasi's spying activities in western countries. They have been used to identify Stasi spies and informers, including Lothar Bisky, the chairman of the now defunct Party of Democratic Socialism.
The CIA passed on some of the material to the United Kingdom and other countries. In 2011, the German government asked the UK's MI5 to return the files they have, but they refused due to concerns that British Stasi spies could be exposed.
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- Müller-Enbergs, Helmut. "Rosenholz": Eine Quellenkritik. BStU. ISBN 9783942130691. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bundesbeauftragter für die Stasi-Unterlagen.|
- Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (in English)
- People & Power: Germany's records of repression on Al Jazeera English. YouTube (25 min)
- Stasi Mediathek The Stasi Records Agency's Online Archive (in German)