Tiffany Jane Brand Stasi Records Office Emerging Tech and Cold War Archives


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Slides for International Perspectives on Archives Presentation (2010), Document Recovery:Stasi Records Office. Demonstrates knowledge of social memory, political influence on archives, German Cold War history and emerging technology.

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  • The GDR was formed in response to the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 23 rd , 1949 as a result of the Parliamentary Council in Bonn adopting the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany–a statute which established Bonn as the capital of the country and was meant to solidify German political power in the West.
  • The MfS so impressed the KGB, that they were invited to set up a satelite office in Leningrad to monitor East German tourist. Stasi methods differed from that of the Gestapo (prison camps) or KGB (execution); they relied on psychological warfare in order to coerce cooperation.
  • Burning was more effective, but alerted angry German citizens to the cites where they tried to block the destruction of records. When destruction began at the main headquarters in Berlin, a more subtle method was agreed upon.
  • Appraisal went out the window, the protesters threw away several documents they couldn’t make sense of due to damage. What impact does this have on reconstructing memory of events during the Cold War in Eastern Germany? How does this affect people researching their own records?
  • In 2000 the BStU sent the records to a warehouse in Magdeburg, Germany. The records fill three stories and 60,000 sq. ft. of space.
  • The German parliament gave the Institute $9 million for the first 400 bags of documents. The remaining costs come from scanners, staffing and training expenses. Critics are wondering whether the project is worth the cost, especially in this economic climate.
  • Tiffany Jane Brand Stasi Records Office Emerging Tech and Cold War Archives

    1. 1. Document Recovery: Stasi Records Office
    2. 2. GDR Timeline <ul><li>October 7, 1949 -German Democratic Republic formed as a response to the creation of the Federal German Republic by Parliamentary Act in Bonn. East Berlin became the capital. </li></ul><ul><li>August 12, 1961 construction begins on Berlin Wall . </li></ul><ul><li>October 1989, Government collapses. </li></ul><ul><li>November 9, 1989 border opened between East and West Germany. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Stasi <ul><li>February 9, 1950- the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS-Ministery of State Security) or Stasi-is formed. </li></ul><ul><li>Police arm of the GDR’s Communist Party, modeled after the KGB in the Soviet Union. </li></ul><ul><li>Stasi employed 91,000 people to monitor and 174,000 “unofficial employees” for 16.4 million people. This was three times the amount of people employed by the Gestapo for an area ¼ of unified Germany’s size. </li></ul><ul><li>Massive bureaucracy 100 miles of shelves with over 5.6 million names indexed in the central card catalog. </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Beginning of the End <ul><li>August 1989-Hungary and Czechoslovakia open their borders-thousands flee to the west. </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrations increase (ex. Leipzig 300,000). </li></ul><ul><li>November 1989-record destruction starts. </li></ul><ul><li>Documents were sent to Papierwolfs and Reisswolfs (shredders). </li></ul><ul><li>Once the equipment started to fail agents ripped documents by hand. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Hiding the Evidence <ul><li>Over 2 months the Stasi managed to destroy 5% of the recrords-45 million pages/ 600 million scraps. </li></ul><ul><li>Stasi tried to hide records in the “copper kettle” a copper lined basement designed to be surveillance proof. </li></ul><ul><li>January 15, 1990 protesters broke into the Berlin compound and demanded access to the records. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Stasi Records Office <ul><li>Created by the Stasi Records Act (December 20,1991). Prevents destruction of records. </li></ul><ul><li>The Stasi Records Office (BStU) was created to be the custodian of the GDR records and was placed in charge of reconstituting shredded records. </li></ul><ul><li>Records included espionage reports, Olympic doping, a list of Stasi informants and surveillance tactics. </li></ul><ul><li>Manually reconstructed 620,500 pages in 13 years. </li></ul><ul><li>One bag per worker per year (700 years to finish). </li></ul>
    7. 7. Automation <ul><li>In 1996 Betram Nikolay, CEO of Frauehoffer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology offered to help reconstruct the records. </li></ul><ul><li>The BStU offered a challenge-anyone who could digitally turn 12 fragments into legible documents would get a grant for 2 yrs (400 bags). </li></ul>
    8. 8. Putting the Puzzle Together <ul><li>600 million two-sided fragments. </li></ul><ul><li>Date range 1949-1989. </li></ul><ul><li>Type of document- carbon paper, newsprint, Polaroid's, file folders (variety of textures and weights). </li></ul><ul><li>Method of disposal-hand ripping (created a third edge which confused computers looking for 2-D clues). </li></ul><ul><li>The E-Puzzler-Flat screen hooked up to four computers. Two camera imaging system. </li></ul><ul><li>Drop down tabs with various choices for physical descriptions-computer removes scraps that don’t fit the description. </li></ul><ul><li>Scraps are then transferred to another processor. </li></ul><ul><li>Processing Issues </li></ul><ul><li>Solution </li></ul>
    9. 9. Privacy Issues? <ul><li>The files offer a way to reconstruct personal history but the issue of third party privacy rights have been raised. </li></ul><ul><li>Reports of suicides. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Today <ul><li>In 15 years the SRO has seen 1.7 million request. </li></ul><ul><li>The SRO employs 2,000 people and cost $175 million a year to maintain. Est. 130 million Euros to complete the project. </li></ul><ul><li>The Lives of Others (2006 Oscar Best Foreign Film) led to a resurgence of interest. </li></ul><ul><li>Latvia, Poland, Argentina and Chile have requested use of the E-puzzler in order to reconstruct documents. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Questions <ul><li>What issues do you think arise when private companies enter the archives? </li></ul><ul><li>Protesters threw out some of the shredded records- what impact might this have on document retrieval and provenance? </li></ul>
    12. 12. Sources <ul><li>Cohen, Stanley. “State Crimes of Previous Regimes: Knowledge, Accountability, and the Policing of the Past.” Law and Social Inquiry 20, no 1. . (Accessed July 7, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Connolly, Kate. “The machine that is putting together the Stasi's 600m-piece spy jigsaw:'E-Puzzler' ends painstaking manual restoration of torn secret police documents.” The Guardian . 10 May 2007. . (Accessed July 7, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Curry, Andrew. “Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany’s Secret Police.” Wired . . (Accessed July 7, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Kinzer, Stephen. “Germany’s Anguish over Police Files.” New York Times . 20 February 1992. . (Accessed July 7, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Olick, Jeffrey K. “What Does it Mean to Normalize the Past?” Official Memory in German Politics since 1989. Social Science History 22, no. 4. . (Accessed July 7, 2010). </li></ul><ul><li>Quintana, Antonio Gonzalez. Archives of the Security Services of Former Repressive Regimes. Paris: UNESCO, 1997. </li></ul>