Jigsaw puzzle of Stasi files stays unsolved

22nd October 2004, Comments 0 comments

22 October 2004 , BERLIN - An ambitious plan to solve the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle - re-assembling 16,000 sacks of torn-up communist secret police files - has made no progress almost a year after it was announced in Germany. A report said funding had again been denied for even a pilot version of the scheme. In its Friday edition the Tagesspiegel newspaper of Berlin was to report that members of the parliamentary committee on the interior said no funds could be spared in 2005. Scientists announced in N

22 October 2004

BERLIN - An ambitious plan to solve the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle - re-assembling 16,000 sacks of torn-up communist secret police files - has made no progress almost a year after it was announced in Germany.

A report said funding had again been denied for even a pilot version of the scheme. In its Friday edition the Tagesspiegel newspaper of Berlin was to report that members of the parliamentary committee on the interior said no funds could be spared in 2005.

Scientists announced in November 2003 that they had devised a way to create 1.2 billion images of the paper scraps and use computer power to match them up into the correct patterns and sequence. The papers contain explosive information about spies and informers.

German airline Lufthansa offered a low-cost method to scan the scraps: putting them through a machine that scans the coupons separated from airline tickets.

To date, the job has fallen on 15 federal employees sitting in an office near Nuremberg. Every Monday they empty a sack of fragments on a table, and spend the rest of the week solving the puzzle of which bit belongs where. Since 1995, they have worked through 260 sacks.

With 16,000 more sacks to go, brainpower would take 500 years to complete the job.

The mountain of "waste paper" was created when the East Berlin Ministry for State Security and its district offices tried to destroy the files they had kept on millions of East Germans.

As the communist state collapsed between the autumn of 1989 and January 1990, the secret police methodically cleared out the most incriminating documents. There was too much to burn, and many of the Stasi's paper shredders failed under the strain.

So Stasi staff began ripping up the files by hand and putting them in garbage sacks. About half the Stasi files were destroyed or damaged before the new democratic authorities could lock the Stasi staff out of their offices.

Some intact files, the so-called Rosenholz Archives, mysteriously vanished to Washington, and older files that fill 122 kilometres of shelving were gathered and made publicly accessible in Berlin. They are managed by a parliamentary commissioner, Marianne Birthler.

The pilot scheme would have required an appropriation of EUR 2.2 million to begin in 2005 but the federal government is currently trying to reduce spending wherever it can. The entire project has been budgeted at EUR 50 million.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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