Agency releases Stasi files on ex-chancellor Kohl
24 March 2005, BERLIN - Germany's agency handling the former communist East German spy files on Thursday released over 1,000 pages of material on former Chancellor Helmut Kohl but warned the public not to expect anything sensational in the selected documents.
24 March 2005
BERLIN - Germany's agency handling the former communist East German spy files on Thursday released over 1,000 pages of material on former Chancellor Helmut Kohl but warned the public not to expect anything sensational in the selected documents.
Marianne Birthler, head of the agency in charge of the massive volumes of files of the erstwhile State Security (Stasi) apparatus of East Germany officially released two dossiers of documents on Kohl, ending a five-year legal battle.
As journalists began poring over the files released on Thursday, officials noted that the documents released were only a small part of the files kept by the Stasi on Kohl. They said that the communists watched Kohl over decades, collecting several thousand documents.
"There were clearly more materials collected than we are now releasing," Birthler said.
The files released on Thursday amounted to something over 1,000 pages, with Birthler cautioning that people might be "disappointed".
She noted that the files contain no information, for example, about a funding scandal in Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, one of the topics which originally motivated researchers' quest to gain a look into the documents.
She said the files will tell more about how the Stasi operated than they do about Kohl, who was chancellor from 1982 to 1998. The Stasi apparatus had several departments involved in collecting information on Kohl.
"Those who want to see the documents in hopes of learning about the activities and work methods of the former chancellor will likely be disappointed," she said.
Asked about whether the documents now being released might point to recognisable punishable wrongdoing on Kohl's part, she said: "If we had found something like that, I wouldn't say it".
An initial glance at the files showed how the East German spy apparatus assigned 31 persons to shadow Kohl during his 23- 25 October 1987 visit to the cities of Erfurt, Gera and Dresden.
Going back even earlier, some documents date to Kohl's 1979 visit to Leipzig and Dresden when he was still prime minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
The files also contain numerous newspaper clippings about Kohl which were sourced on information by the former East German news agency ADN.
The release of the documents on Thursday ended five years of legal wrangling which began in early 2000 when journalists sought access to the Stasi files to see whether they might link Kohl to alleged donations and financing irregularities in the CDU in the 1980s.
The Kohl case went back and forth through the administrative and appeals courts, with the Bundestag, the federal parliament, passing a law in July 2002 to refine the rules on how such files may be made available to the public.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig in June, 2004, ruled that part of the Kohl files could be published. But it upheld Kohl's privacy rights by saying that no documents derived from surveillance of his private home or his public office could be published.
Lawyers for Kohl sought to challenge that ruling, but on Wednesday the 74-year-old former chancellor in a surprise move withdrew the challenge, sparing the authorities the prospect of further legal battles. Kohl himself had seen the files which were to be published.
Subject: German news