It was discovered that the Stasi had generated enough paper to fill 100 miles of shelves, and it indexed and cross-referenced 5.6 million names in its central card catalog. In the Stasi’s final days, officials destroyed about 5 percent of its records before citizens stopped them. Truckloads of paper were taken to industrial shredders, and as the end neared, agents began ripping files by hand. They stored the scraps in paper bags in the archive.
In the mid ’90s, a team started piecing the 45 million torn pages together manually, at a rate that would have led to completion in about 700 years. But a new scanning project looks like it will lead to the files being recreatedand shared with the publicmuch sooner.
Funded by the German government, the Fraunhofer Institute has created a method for double-sided scanning of the scraps and sorting the images by color of paper, type of paper and method of writing. If the pilot project for 400 bags of scraps is successful, it will get the go ahead for tackling the remaining 16,000 bags of paper. It’s estimated to cost about $300 million, but the archivists say it’s worth it. Wired reports:
Günter Bormann, the BStU’s senior legal expert, says there’s an overwhelming public demand for the catharsis people find in their files. “When we started in 1992, I thought we’d need five years and then close the office,” Bormann says. Instead, the Records Office was flooded with half a million requests in the first year alone. Even in cases where files hadn’t been destroyed, waiting times stretched to three years. In the past 15 years, 1.7 million people have asked to see what the Stasi knew about them.
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