The Stasi headquarters in Berlin was stormed 30 years ago. The opening of the files was brave and correct, but it also narrowed the view of the functioning of the dictatorship.
Off into the fire or buried forever under a mountain of concrete: away, quickly away with it, were the first thoughts of the West German federal government on how to deal with the Stasi files. The civil rights activists had stormed the Stasi headquarters in Berlin on January 15, 1990 in order to secure the dossiers. But then they saw that not only the Stasi officers wanted to remove the whole thing, but also that Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wanted to destroy or at least lock the most toxic legacy of the GDR.
The storm on the Stasi was 30 years ago and, as is well known, things turned out very differently after the final of this German revolution. The files were saved; for the first time in political history, the complete archive of a secret police was later disclosed by law. Victims can still view their files and scientists can research the mechanisms of oppression. To this day, delegations from all over the world travel to the specially created Stasi documentation authority and seek advice on how to deal with the written legacies of a dictatorship.
All of this is not just a fascinating piece of contemporary history, one that you can be proud of, by the way. It also has important and valid teachings that are worth remembering. The dispute over the Stasi files refutes the popular narrative that the West imposed its rules and ideas on the East in all areas. Yes, that was too often true, but it was the other way around when it came to the crucial question of dealing with the past. For fear of murder and manslaughter, the West relied on repression. The East Germans defended themselves, initially in the only freely elected People's Chamber. Finally, members of the GDR civil movement occupied the former Stasi headquarters immediately before German unity. The citizens' movement in particular managed to free access to the files from Bonn. It is one of their great and lasting merits.
The Bundestag had a good hand in the election of the officers for the Stasi documents
These events also prove that it is always right and necessary to face the past. The Kohl government feared that those who had been tortured could attack their tormentors after reading the files. More than 3.3 million citizens have now read their files and not a single case is known. And yes, the Stasi files tell of terrible wickedness, of people who, as unofficial employees (IM), betrayed friends and sometimes their own families. But some of these dossiers also tell of courage and courage, they tell of those who refused to spy. Many did so by claiming they were too gossipy and unable to keep the confidentiality required by the Stasi. Angela Merkel, for example, says that she used this trick to avoid advertising by the Stasi.
It is also due to the officer responsible for the Stasi documents that the work-up was so successful. The Bundestag always had a good hand in their election. Today it is the former civil rights activist Roland Jahn who compares the occupation of the Stasi headquarters with the storm on the Bastille. The first representative was called Joachim Gauck and was already the man for the files in the freely elected GDR People's Chamber. He didn't really want to have anything to do with the topic, but he wasn't prominent enough for the German Unity Committee.
The SED largely got away with it
To this day, the files reveal spectacular things, as was the case recently with the new publisher of Berlin newspaper, Holger Friedrich. As a young soldier, he spied for the Stasi. In the first years after the archives were opened, he would have been unsustainable in this position. An IM registration was often enough for the end of a career. Today the view is more differentiated, more balanced, more understanding for the constraints of life in the dictatorship. Friedrich's arguments – that he only cooperated under pressure and only briefly and was otherwise a victim of the Stasi – are heard. It is a good thing. How enmeshed Friedrich really was has not yet been finally clarified and should be clarified. Because he made the mistake of not telling his past. But the calm in which such debates take place these days is pleasantly different from the sometimes too harsh judgments of the first few years.
This is a good prerequisite for looking back and starting to process the process. The opening of the files was brave and correct, but it also narrowed the view of the functioning of this dictatorship. You didn't have to be a Stasi IM to put guilt on yourself. The SED largely got away with it. For reasons of election tactics, the Kohl-CDU incorporated the entire Eastern CDU, a block party. 30 years after the storm on the Stasi headquarters, a second look is now worthwhile.
. (tagsToTranslate) History (t) GDR (t) Stasi (t) Stasi files (t) Politics (t) Süddeutsche Zeitung