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Stasi files on West German lawmakers released

Germany has for the first time released records on former West German politicians compiled by communist East Germany’s once-dreaded secret police, the state-held Stasi archives said on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

Germany has for the first time released records on former West German politicians compiled by communist East Germany’s once-dreaded secret police, the state-held Stasi archives said on Wednesday.

The former Stasi files on 16 members of West Germany’s parliament from 1969 to 1972 are expected to reveal details about the ties between East and West Germany and could even expose previously unknown spies.

The records, given to researchers and journalists who requested them, are likely to spark uncomfortable questions about how many West Germans cooperated with the now defunct Stasi.

“We are today publishing documents on 16 members of parliament which were filed with a code which means they may or may not have cooperated with the Stasi,” said Marianne Birthler, director of the state-held Stasi archives.

“These individuals could be informal collaborators, they could be people who the Stasi used or they could be people the Stasi collected information on,” she told broadcaster ZDF.

Web of betrayals
The period in question was at the height of the Cold War and shortly preceded West Germany’s biggest political scandal when Chancellor Willy Brandt was forced to resign in 1974 after a close aide was exposed as an East German spy.

Eleven of the 16 lawmakers are dead and the German media have named five who they say worked for the Stasi. They include two Conservatives, two Social Democrats and one Liberal.

Files on other lawmakers from that time could follow in the weeks to come, a spokeswoman for the Stasi archives said.

Even 15 years after German unification, such files are a sensitive topic. Anyone who thinks they might have been a victim of the secret police can access their file.

Researchers and journalists can also ask for access, which is granted on a case by case basis.

The opening of the archives has exposed a web of betrayals. Millions of Germans worked formally or informally for the Stasi and provided reports on friends, colleagues, husbands or wives.

The records released this week originated in the Stasi’s foreign department which ended up with American officials after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The United States is gradually returning the documents to Germany.