The Federal Commission for the Stasi Archives – the East German secret police – was born shortly after German reunification. The agency’s employment of ex-Stasi members is fuelling fear that records of its wrongs will be lost in the annals of history.
The commissioner in charge of the agency admitted in a recent interview that 37 ex-Stasi staffers remain.
“There are still 37 of them here. Five [out of an original 48] have been moved on, five have left for age reasons, and one of them has died,” former dissident journalist and current commissioner Roland Jahn told Germany’s Tagesspiegel newspaper on Friday.
He admitted that the issue was harder to resolve than originally anticipated. Under German employment law, public servants can only be moved to “comparable” posts in other state agencies.
“Only alternative jobs are organized in other federal administrations,” he said. “But many employees say, ‘I do not think about changing.’ And so the whole affair is delayed.” The agency has some 1,600 members of staff.
The Federal Commission for the Stasi Archives (BStU) was established by the German government in 1991. Joachim Gauck – now President of Germany – became Federal Commissioner for the agency in 1990, heading up the new service. Its role was essentially to investigate Stasi crimes and manage the archiving of those offenses, as well as to protect the files so that people could access those which concerned them. “They can then clarify what influence the Stasi had on their destiny,” the BStU said
However, many have raised fears that ex-Stasi agents could easily destroy the records while working for the agency.
The Stasi had approximately 5.1 million data cards in its enormous archive, which also included samples of sweat – “jars with body odor samples taken from people who had been examined and arrested,” according to German History in Documents and Images (GHDI).
The association also reported the widescale destruction of documents in order to conceal crimes of the government in 1990. “During the final days of the GDR regime, the Stasi desperately tried to destroy the archive before it could be seized by opponents,” WikiLeaks stated during the release of a report in 2007.
Gauck gave permanent contracts to ex-Stasi workers around 1997. In his 1991 book ‘The Stasi Files,’ he defended their re-hiring. “We couldn’t have done without their specialist knowledge of certain branches and the Stasi’s archiving system,” he said…