An agency set up to oversee the voluminous files of communist East Germany's secret police, the Stasi has wrapped up its work after nearly three decades.
The files on Thursday became the responsibility of Germany's Federal Archives, headquartered in the western city of Koblenz, which also took over the agency's roughly 1,300 employees. The files themselves are staying put at the sprawling former headquarters of the Ministry for State Security, or Stasi for short, in Berlin and 13 other sites in eastern Germany.
The Stasi used a vast network of agents and informers to collect details on East German citizens to quash dissent. It compiled a huge catalogue of material ranging from the banal to the fictitious, and also placed thousands of agents to spy on top Western officials.
Germany's parliament decided in November to wind up the files agency and transfer oversight to the Federal Archives. One argument for the change was a need to combine resources, with many files still needing to be restored and digitized. A new post of ombudsperson for victims of the East German dictatorship was set up, and former opposition activist Evelyn Zupke was appointed to that job earlier this month.
Roland Jahn, the last of three former East German pro-democracy activists who led the files agency, said he was satisifed with the change, telling news agency dpa that “with the handover of the files, they will become part of the memory of the nation." Predecessor Marianne Birthler has criticized the move, expressing concern that agency's educational and research activities will come to an end.
Access to the files is unaffected by the change. So far, there have been some 7.3 million applications from people wanting to view files, from people on whom the Stasi compiled records but also from authorities, academics, journalists and others.