The former East German Secret Police amassed an immense and intricately designed system of surveillance on its population, and those visitng East Germany. There where a total of 111km of files, archived all over East Germany. Just under half of the total is still located in the archive in the former Stasi HQ today.
We had access to to the high security area where the actual files have been stored, all very exciting. Still, today on average 40,000 people request to see their file annually, and since 1992 there have been over 7 million applications to view individual files.
The former archive still has a functioning Paternoster elevator, which is not supposed to be used.....aber Spaß muss sein!
Below, the filing cabinets found in the archives across East Germany with the index cards in them. These were also known as pasternoster search devices. There were over 5000 different ways to register a person, either by last name, or address, or area code where that person was registered. There were 43 million cards in these cabinets!
We also saw a reconstruction how the archive was actually found. It wasn’t in a good state with files not properly filed, and the quality of the paper was so bad that it has a shelf life of 50—70 years, so it is very important to preserve these deteriorating files today. The archive is now digitising the files, but with so many to be digitally copied this will take some time!
Our excellent guide there, Linda, informed us how and why people were investigated, and why files would be opened on individuals, and how complex the system was. The files have been opened to the public for many reasons, some wanted to just to find out why they were spied on, others wanted to find out if their paranoia was justified, were they bugged, watched, and who was informing on them.
Anyone interested in the Cold War, and in particular the methods of East German's Secret Police, will find a visit here fascinating! For more info, see: https://www.bstu.de/en/