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Future of the Stasi records

The German Bundestag resolution of June 2016 to allow for the permanent use of the Stasi records was also a mandate to initiate the transformation process of the Stasi Records Agency. Information about the development of this process is presented here.

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Frequently asked questions about the future of the BStU

What is the current status of the process of transformation?

On 26 September 2019, the German Bundestag adopted the "Concept for the permanent preservation of the Stasi by transferring the Stasi Records Archive into the Federal Archives (PDF, 371 KB, File is barrier-free / accessible)" (in German).

The Stasi Records Archive will be a separate division with its own management within the Federal Archives and with its own archival locations at the historic sites in Berlin and the East German states. The transfer shall take place at the end of the term of office of the current Federal Commissioner in June 2021. The Bundestag has stipulated that the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records Act shall continue the transformation process and prepare the integration jointly with the Federal Archives. The Federal Commissioner shall report on the progress of the transformation process at the end of 2019 and 2020. The mandate is in particular to provide information on investment needs and personnel concepts.

Previously, on 26 June 2019, the Committee for Culture and Media of the German Bundestag passed with a majority of the coalition parliamentary group and the agreement of the FDP a Resolution on the future and permanent preservation of the Stasi records.

Does the "Transfer of the Stasi Records Archive to the Federal Archives" mean that the records will be moved to a new location?

No, the records will remain where they are: in Berlin at the historic site of the former Ministry for State Security and the five eastern federal states. The concept calls in the long-term for each federal state to have its own archival site according to the set criteria (archive-appropriate document storage and integration into the memorial landscape). Regional offices without documents will continue to exist, offering other services: consultation, filing requests for access and viewing records as well as providing information through exhibitions and events.

Background information: About 50 kilometres of a total of ca. 111 kilometres of Stasi records are in Berlin. The remaining 81 kilometres of records are distributed among the twelve archival sites in the eastern federal states. None of these federal state locations currently meets the criteria for archive-appropriate document storage. Feasibility studies were ordered for four federal states (Erfurt, Leipzig, Halle, Rostock) in fall 2019 to clarify if and how an archival building in cooperation with a memorial is possible. An assessment of a site in the federal state of Brandenburg is in the planning stage. Decisions on the locations will be made during the course of the transformation.

What are the central points of the concept paper on the future of the records?

The Stasi Records Archive will be a separate division within the Federal Archives, with its own archival locations at the historic sites in Berlin and the East German states. The visibility of the Stasi Records Archives’ independence as an international model will remain as will the Stasi Records Act as the basis for releasing the records. Legal conditions are provided that allow for the Stasi Records Act and Federal Archives Act to exist parallel to one other. The Federal Archives will also ensure access to the records as guaranteed by the Stasi Records Act.

The Stasi Records Archive is permanently secured through the consolidation of the technology, competence and resources of the BStU and the Federal Archives. Necessary investments into archival storage, digitisation and building construction can be approached as a joint effort. The current entity of all records that the Stasi had amassed by 1989 will stay completely intact as a testimony to the work of the GDR’s Ministry for State Security.

A new centre of excellence to support the conservation of records with restauration and digitisation workshops will be established at the site of the Stasi Records Archive in Berlin-Lichtenberg. The centre will be part of a future archive centre on the SED dictatorship which will also house the holdings of the central GDR authorities and the Foundation of Parties and Mass Organisations in the GDR (SAPMO) that are preserved in the Federal Archives. The centre additionally will serve to support the further development of the historic site "Stasi Headquarters. Campus for Democracy," a site on the history of German dictatorship and democracy with educational and information programs from various institutions.

The plan for the future regional structure of the Stasi Records Archive calls for the records to be consolidated at an archival building in each of the East German federal states that meets the criteria stipulated by the transformation concept. The regional offices that are unable to erect an archival building will continue to offer full services to citizens. These include information on the Stasi provided through exhibitions and events as well as consultation, filing requests for access and viewing records.

To improve research opportunities for researchers, educators and the media, and to meet the growing demands of a changing scientific landscape, the research department at the Stasi Records Archive will continue to be developed in the direction of target source research. Consultation and filing requests will be expanded to allow for a simpler parallel process of research in the holdings of the MfS and other GDR institutions.

What will become of the Office of the Federal Commissioner?

The Bundestag resolution states that as part of the transformation process, the "Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former GDR" will be further developed into a "Commissioner for the Victims of the SED Dictatorship at the German Bundestag."

Will access to the Stasi records change?

The Stasi Records Act (StUG) will remain the legal basis for access to the records in the future as well. The law allows for the Stasi Records Act and the Federal Archives Act (BArchG) to exist parallel to one another. The Federal Archives as a supreme federal authority must guarantee access to the records as regulated by the StUG. For this to happen amendments will have to be made to the StUG and BArchG.

What advantages do users have through the implementation of the future concept?

Over time the investment in the preservation of the records and the improved digitization will result in easier access. Work and services, in particular in regard to record cataloguing, archive-appropriate document storage and digitisation, will be further improved. This will also impact the effectiveness of handling requests to view the Stasi records. As part of the Federal Archives, the Stasi records will be more strongly integrated into the structures for the preservation of the national written heritage. Additionally, with the Stasi records more efficiently embedded in the context of all documentary holdings of GDR history, scholars and other users can more easily contribute to the reappraisal of the SED dictatorship.

What are the continuing plans for the Stasi headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg?

The resolution of the Bundestag states that "The site of the former Stasi headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg will be further developed as a ‘site on the history of German dictatorship and democracy’ with education and information programs offered by institutions at the site and established as an archive centre on the SED dictatorship." In this way the idea to further develop the historic site that was entered into the public discussion by the Federal Commissioner will be supported.

The Federal State of Berlin supports the development with its 2018 resolution "to set the course for the Campus for Democracy in Lichtenberg." Jointly with civil society partners such as the ASTAK that runs the Stasi Museum at the site, the Robert-Havemann-Society that in 2016 opened the permanent open-air exhibition “Revolution and Fall of the Wall” at the site and moved its archive of the East German opposition there, and victim organisations and other civil society groups, the Stasi Records Archive will contribute its part to the development of the site by distinguishing the archive as a place of learning.

What happens to the twelve regional offices?

The German Bundestag included the future structure of the regional offices in its resolution as "further supplementary decisions". During the course of discussions about the future of the agency, the BStU has been engaged in talks with the governments of the eastern federal states since 2015. State governments have signalled the huge importance of maintaining regional offices and regional holdings of the Stasi records as symbols of the Peaceful Revolution. They reiterated this point through a resolution in the Bundesrat in February of 2017. During development of the concept for the future, the BStU also conducted talks with representatives of victim organisations on the federal and state level.

The suitability of all the current locations of the regional offices were examined in advance. None of these sites met the expert demands for a permanent preservation of archival material, specifically the DIN-ISO-Norm 11799.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt first considerations have been made on how to embed the regional Stasi records into the landscape of memorial sites in these states. For a concrete implementation of these considerations, adequate properties have to be found. This is done through feasibility studies. In four locations in four federal states (Erfurt, Leipzig, Halle, Rostock) feasibility studies were ordered to find out if and how it would be possible to erect a new archival building in cooperation with a memorial site. An assessment is in the planning stages for a site in Brandenburg,

The long-term plan envisions establishing an archival site in each federal state in connection with a memorial site. All regional offices will continue to provide services such as information, consultation, filing requests for access and viewing records.  

Will there be continued vetting?

When the Stasi Records Archive is integrated into the Federal Archives, the records can still be used for the process of vetting. The Federal Archives as a supreme federal authority must also guarantee compliance with the Stasi Records Act. The 9th amendment of the Stasi Records Archive passed by the German Bundestag on 26.9.2019 allows for vetting to continue until 2030.

What are the next steps of the transformation?

The transferral of responsibility for the Stasi Records Archive to the Federal Archives will take place at the end of the term of office of the current Federal Commissioner in June 2021. The Bundestag has stipulated that the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records Act shall continue the transformation process and prepare the integration jointly with the Federal Archives. The Federal Commissioner shall report on the progress of the transformation process at the end of 2019 and 2020. The mandate is in particular to provide information on investment needs and personnel concepts.

Will there be less personnel at the BStU?

The Bundestag resolution states that "a transparent personnel concept will be developed for all BStU employees that does not envisage any dismissals, that limits transferals to a minimum, and that provides suitable compensation under consideration of employees’ concerns in the adjustment of renumeration structures."