Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stasi terror still keeps Germans on edge -- former Stasi roam free, and today hold top political posts

More than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans still flock to the archive that stores the files compiled by the Stasi, East Germany's notorious secret police.

Around 1.8 million people have made requests to see Stasi files since 1990, with nearly 80,000 requests filed last year, Marianne Birthler, the long-time head of the federal agency designed to manage the Stasi documents, said this week in Berlin.

The Stasi was one of the world's largest spy services. When it collapsed in early 1990, it employed 91,000 people and had built up a network of more than 150,000 civilian informants who spied on anyone they were told to.

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in the East, was approached by the Stasi to become an informant. She said she refused. In 1990, after the regime collapsed and angry East German dissidents stormed the Stasi headquarters, the archives were put under federal control. (read more)