Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records

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The Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic
- BStU -

State level Federation
position Higher federal authority
Supervisory authority Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media
founding 3rd October 1990
Headquarters Berlin
Authority management Roland Jahn
Servants 1319 (June 1, 2019)
Web presence www.bstu.bund.de

The Federal Commissioner for the Documents of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic ( BStU ), also known as the Gauck , Birthler and Jahn authorities for short after the acting Federal Commissioner , is a higher federal authority with a central office in Berlin and branch offices in the New States . She administers and researches the files and documents of the Ministry for State Security ( MfS or "Stasi" for short ) of the GDR . The establishment of the authoritywas obtained by members of the citizens' committees and volunteers of the civil rights movement in the course of the peaceful revolution of 1989. The term of office of the Federal Commissioner is five years; a one-time re-election is possible in accordance with Section 35 (4) of the Stasi Documentation Act (StUG). The StUG, which came into force in 1991, forms the legal basis of the authority. The authority is a member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience and belongs to the division of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media .


On October 4, 1990, the former Rostock pastor Joachim Gauck took over the office of special commissioner of the federal government for the Stasi files. When the Stasi Records Act came into force on December 29, 1991, he became the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records. Because of its long official title, the authority was then briefly called the Gauck authority .

When Marianne Birthler took over the management of the authority in October 2000, the authority was also called the Birthler authority in the media . It is known as the Federal Authority for Stasi Records (BStU) and is now subject to supervision by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM, better known as the Minister of State for Culture). There is no technical supervision by a ministry, the BStU reports regularly to the German Bundestag .

On presentation of the Federal Government, the German Bundestag decided in the context of updating the memorial concept that a commission of experts should be set up. This will analyze the tasks of the BStU and make suggestions to the German Bundestag for the future of the authority. The governing parties CDU / CSU and FDP decided that the BStU should remain active at least until 2019.

The memorial concept also states that the structure and number of the BStU branch offices in the regions will be changed promptly in order to be able to guarantee the ability to work despite the declining workforce. For this purpose, the first plans were available in 2009, which were discussed with the BKM, the German Bundestag and the federal states.

On January 28, 2011, the journalist Roland Jahn was elected by the German Bundestag as the new head of the agency. He took office in March 2011.

On April 1, 2020, the authority started the weekly podcast “111 Kilometers of Files”.

Stasi Records Act

On December 29, 1991, the Stasi Records Act (StUG) came into force; the German Bundestag passed it with a large majority. The central concern of this law is the opening of the files of the former State Security Service for processing, in particular the access of those affected to the information that the State Security Service has stored about them. For the first time, citizens were given the opportunity to inspect documents that a secret police had put on them. This is unprecedented in history. It is also a mandate of the law to protect the personal rights of the people over whom Stasi records exist. Access to files began four days after the law came into force, on January 2, 1992 .

The GDR Ministry for State Security collected material about millions of people - primarily about GDR citizens, but also about many citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany and citizens of other countries. Many CVs - not only in the GDR - have been decisively influenced by the state security over the years. The MfS organized professional success or failure, drew up thorough plans for so-called decomposition , invaded the privacy of its victims and also used intimate information for its purposes. The Stasi violated basic rights of the citizens such as medical confidentiality, banking and postal secrecy , the inviolability of the apartment , even if they were laid down in the constitution of the GDR .

By the end of 2011, a total of 6,680,934 requests to inspect files had been submitted, including:

  • 2,830,094 applications from citizens for information, inspection and surrender (initial and repeat applications, applications for code name decoding and applications for the surrender of copies),
  • 1,754,521 requests to review public service employees,
  • 483,145 requests on rehabilitation, redress and prosecution issues,
  • 1,148,201 requests on pension matters,
  • 26,300 applications from research and the media,
  • and 438,673 other reviews and requests.

Employment of former members of the MfS

In 2007 an “expert opinion on the employment of former MfS members at the BStU” was published, which was declared confidential and commissioned by the Minister of State for Culture Bernd Neumann from the former constitutional judge Hans Hugo Klein and the historian Klaus Schroeder . The report raises serious allegations against the authority under the leadership of primarily Joachim Gauck. In 1991 at least 79 former Stasi employees, including five former IMs, were reported to have worked in the agency. The report states: “Almost all former MfS employees had the possibility of abuse in the first years of the establishment of the authority. They could destroy, displace or smuggle files out because, as security guards, archivists, magazine employees or researchers, they had partially unhindered and unsupervised access to both developed and undeveloped material. ” Marianne Birthler welcomed the commissioning of the federal government to create one Expert opinion, but rejected the numbers of employees with an MfS past given in the expert opinion and criticized the fact that the expert opinion contained unassigned representations. In his inaugural speech on March 14, 2011, the current incumbent Roland Jahn described the employment of former MfS employees as "unbearable" and declared it to be his goal to have these employees transferred.

Importance of the BStU

After the dissolution of the MfS in 1990 and the subsequent disclosure of its working methods, the MfS became the subject of broad public interest and intensive research since 1991. The BStU's documentation of the structures, employees and methods of an intelligence service represents a unique special case and opportunity in German history The authority gave those affected the first and unique insight into the information stored about them.

Inspection of Stasi files

Granted inspection of the files by the BStU, with blackening of text passages by the authority (to protect data subjects)

The legal basis for inspecting the records of the State Security Service of the former GDR is the Stasi Records Act (StUG). The application form for inspection can be downloaded from the BStU website.

The private file inspection request

Each individual has the right to request information from the Federal Commissioner as to whether the documents that have been made available contain information about himself. If this is the case, he can receive information, inspection of documents and the issuance of copies.

The documents on missing or deceased close relatives are only accessible to a specified group of people and only for certain purposes (Section 15 StUG).

Requests from researchers and media representatives

The Federal Commissioner supports research, the press, radio and film (media) as well as institutions for political education in the historical and political reappraisal of the activities of the State Security Service, the mechanisms of rule of the former GDR and the former Soviet occupation zone, and in coming to terms with the National Socialist past. The documents of the State Security Service are made available as part of an admissible application.

Requests from public and private bodies

Checking people for previous full-time or unofficial work for the State Security Service is possible on the basis of a written request from public and private bodies. These are the state parliaments or governments, but also district assemblies or mayors. The group of verifiable persons was severely restricted by the Seventh Act to Change the Stasi Records Act of December 21, 2006.

Likewise, u. a. Requests for pensions, open property issues or religious affairs processed. The Federal Commissioner also provides documents for the purposes of criminal prosecution and hazard prevention as well as for rehabilitation and reparation.

In October 2012, citing the Freedom of Information Act , civil rights activist Heiko Stamer filed an application to inspect files relating to the use of the data collected by the MfS by national and international institutions. In February 2013 he received a 63-page list of those who had requested information from the BStU between 2000 and 2012. The list includes national institutions such as state criminal police offices (519), the Federal Public Prosecutor General (354), the Federal Criminal Police Office (349), the regional police authorities (311) and the regional public prosecutor's offices (233). The list also includes international institutions such as the US Department of Justice, the NSA , the British and American embassies and various departments of defense.

Rosewood files

The "Rosenholz" database has a special position among the public authorities' records. Political discussions and media coverage of the involvement of West Germans in the GDR's state security system certainly played their part. This database is kept in the index area of ​​the central office.

The "rosewood" documents are microfilmed files from the Enlightenment Headquarters (HV A) of the MfS, which was responsible for international espionage. The MfS made this film in 1988 as part of the general willingness to mobilize. These documents reached the USA in an unknown way in 1989/1990. In 1993 the American government made it possible for employees of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to look into these microfilmed index cards. The German authorities should be put in a position to expose spies and, if necessary, to bring them under indictment. This action by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, as a result of which thousands of West Germans were checked, ran under the code word “Rosenholz”. The name is now also used as a designation for the documents themselves.

After lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the responsible agencies in the USA , the documents with West German references were gradually returned to the Stasi records authority from summer 2000 to May 2003. Since June 2003, the documents can be used in accordance with the Stasi Records Act.

In numerous espionage trials and investigative proceedings that took place in the 1990s, the Federal Prosecutor General used information from the "Rosenholz" documents. Therefore, criminally relevant discoveries are hardly to be expected at the moment. In addition, the tradition of the "rosewood" database is not clear. Often both IM (unofficial employees), i.e. spies, as well as their sources, which were researched or skimmed off by the IM, are recorded under the same process. It is therefore often no longer possible to clearly identify who was the perpetrator and who was the victim. Since the HV A was able to destroy almost all important files in 1990, there are hardly any possibilities for cross-checking the Stasi files .

Reconstruction of torn documents

Manual reconstruction

Since 1995 the BStU has had a project group for the manual reconstruction of torn documents from the State Security Service. Mostly employees of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in Zirndorf near Nuremberg work in it. There are currently six full-time and two part-time employees headed by an archivist from the BStU. Since work began in 1995, records have been recovered from 400 bags with a volume of 105 running meters of shelving ; Around 75 percent of the documents indexed relate to events from the last five years in the GDR. In addition, there are considerable amounts of partial reconstructions (leaf fragments) that can only be completed when the associated parts have been found in other sacks.

The main focus of the work was, for example, the restoration of documents from Department XV (foreign intelligence) of the Leipzig district administration. Together with the earlier reconstructions that had been carried out since processing began in autumn 2004, it was thus possible to restore documents with a volume of around 8 running meters of shelving. These documents are of particular importance as in 1989/90 almost all documents relating to foreign espionage by the State Security Service were destroyed. The reconstructed documents therefore not only have a high information value , but are also characterized by their evidence value , because they belong to the few testimonies of the activity, structure and mode of operation of the foreign espionage of the State Security Service. The composite documents come mainly from the final phase of the GDR. Around half of the documents that were indexed could be assigned to processes that were still actively being carried out by the MfS in 1989. The reconstructed documents show that and how the State Security Service recruited unofficial employees from other service units of the MfS at all levels for the purposes of foreign espionage, especially in the old Federal Republic, in order to use them in addition to its own network of agents. In July 2008, it was decided to stop the manual reconstruction of the documents for Leipzig Department XV, because on the one hand the amount of work and time required to reconstruct the particularly small fragments and on the other hand there is a prospect of a computer-controlled assembly of the heavily destroyed documents. Therefore, the remaining materials - together with the torn files of the foreign intelligence from the other district administrations of the State Security - are brought into the pilot process for virtual reconstruction. The pilot process therefore also has positive effects on the work processes of manual reconstruction: For the first time, there is the prospect of being able to differentiate material into various work processes according to damage classes. With this new work organization option, the goal formulated by the German Bundestag of accelerating the reconstruction of torn Stasi documents is also met in the manual composition of the documents. In addition to the foreign intelligence materials, documents from the HA XX (state apparatus, culture, church, underground) of the MfS were put together.

A third focus of work since the end of 2006 has been the reconstruction of documents from the district administrations of Cottbus and Frankfurt (Oder). Both traditions are characterized by high losses of documents, but in some areas torn documents have been preserved to a significant extent. There is therefore the prospect of being able to compensate for gaps in the tradition by means of reconstruction.

Pilot process for virtual reconstruction

For the budget years 2007 and beyond, the German Bundestag approved up to 6.3 million euros for a pilot process for the virtual reconstruction of the state security service's torn documents. The pilot process is based on a feasibility study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology (IPK) from 2003. In the research contract concluded in spring 2007 between the procurement office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (for the BStU) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (for the IPK), the institute was given the option of subcontracting parts of the project. This applies in particular to the scanning and the so-called framework software for the actual reconstruction software. The security standards required for the safekeeping and handling of MfS documents are guaranteed by the IPK.

The pilot process is currently in the development phase. Since the development of the various modules was much more time-consuming than the IPK assumed at the start of the project, there has been a delay of over two years so far. Nevertheless, the process is still on the right track. There are no additional costs due to the delay, as the services of the IPK are remunerated at a fixed price based on success.

The reconstruction process has now been approved in the first executable version, which contains the basic modules. In the subsequent test phase (test run in real operation) with the remaining bags, the various work steps should be checked for reliability and refined. BStU employees will also be deployed at the IPK during the planned test run.

The pilot process consists of two main components. The first main component comprises the development and test phase to be implemented by the IPK, in which the snippets from some "test bags" from a total of 400 bags with torn documents selected according to archiving criteria are scanned in the IPK and automatically or interactively reconstructed (by employees on the screen) become. The experience gained in this way is used to further develop the software and optimize the process design. BStU employees support and accompany the work preparation of the scanning process as well as quality assurance for the assembly and the interactive virtual reconstruction.

The second main module is to be implemented by the BStU and follows on from the pilot process, which has been successfully completed from a technical perspective. In the archiving processing phase, the virtually reconstructed individual pages supplied by the IPK are formed into documents or processes and made accessible according to archive standards. The result of the subsequent evaluation phase will be a report to the German Bundestag. Reliable statements on feasibility and process modeling in real operation as well as on the costs of a possible main process are required. In addition, the knowledge gained in the pilot process on the added value of the reconstructed documents in comparison to the existing documents should be presented in relation to the respective processed sub-collections. On the basis of these statements, Parliament should be able to decide how to deal with the torn documents.

The Federal Court of Auditors criticized in its annual report 2016, the cost of reconstruction of shredded Stasi files with the Stasi snippets machine. In eight years it was only possible to digitize snippets from 23 sacks and reconstruct the contents of 11 sacks. Around 15,000 bags of snippets are stored in the authority. The Federal Audit Office found that the project at the BStU had incurred expenses of more than 14 million euros, “without it being foreseeable when and how a relevant higher number of sacks could be processed” and asked the BStU “in a new -Conception to present the professional, technical and financial prerequisites for a continuation of the project ”and recommended a cost-benefit analysis because the expert commission set up by the Bundestag for the future of the BStU in 2014 was“ skeptical about the feasibility of the virtual reconstruction ”.

The "Kohl Case"

The trigger for the file dispute were different views on the authorization of the BStU to release Stasi files concerning Helmut Kohl to journalists. The dispute began at the end of 1999 in the course of the CDU donation affair , when it became known that tapping logs and verbatim logs of the GDR secret service were available on this subject. After decisions by the Federal Administrative Court , the BStU is only allowed to issue documents on Helmut Kohl to a limited extent.

The authority organization

The Federal Commissioner is Roland Jahn , the Director at the Federal Commissioner Björn Deicke . You have a staff area to which the press officer, the officer of the Federal Commissioner, the office manager and the internal auditor belong. The authority is divided into four departments and these again into units ; there are also twelve branch offices. The BStU has an advisory board and a scientific advisory body for coordination and advice.

ZV department (central and administrative tasks)

This department is responsible for personnel matters and training (Section ZV 1), organization (Section ZV 3), budget and procurement (Section ZV 4), information and telecommunications technology (Section ZV 5) as well as internal services and real estate (Section ZV 6). Head of department is Alexandra Titze.

Department AR (archive)

The department is divided into the basic section (AR 1), the index section (AR 2), the magazine service (section AR 3), the indexing sections AR 4, AR 5 and AR 6, the section for the indexing and technical processing of audiovisual media and machine-readable data (AR 7) and the Department for Communication and Public Relations (AR K). The department head of AR is Birgit Salamon.

Department AU (information)

The department consists of a basic unit (AU G) and various information units (AU 1–6). The information department processes requests for public inspection of files, but also requests for review (security, parliamentarians, etc., religious affairs) for pension, rehabilitation and reparation issues. Applications from research and the media are processed in sections AU 5 and AU 6. The department head is carried out by the director.

Department BF (Education and Research)

The department consists of the scientific research area (BF 1), the service area (BF 2), etc. a. responsible for the in-house library and publications as well as the political education department (BF 3), which is responsible for informing the public through exhibitions and events. The department head is carried out by the director.

Department R (Regional Tasks)

The twelve branch offices of the Stasi records authority are combined in Department R. They are located in the former district towns of the GDR and keep the records of the district administrations of the State Security Service. Jens Boltze is the department head. There are BStU branch offices in the following cities:

Advisory board of the BStU

In accordance with Section 39 of the StUG, the Advisory Board accompanies the content-related work of the Federal Commissioner in an advisory capacity. The Federal Commissioner informs the Advisory Board about fundamental and other important matters and discusses them with him. The advisory board has eight members who are elected by the German Bundestag and nine members who are elected by the respective state parliaments in the new federal states or appointed by the respective state governments. In view of the professional independence of the Federal Commissioner, this enables additional support for their work and takes the special interests of the new federal states into account.

Members of the advisory board are the following persons elected by the German Bundestag:

From the new federal states were

  • Jörn Mothes (Chairman of the Advisory Board) from the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania,
  • Uwe Schwabe (First Deputy Chairman) from the Free State of Saxony,
  • Iris Gleicke (Second Deputy Chairman) from the Free State of Thuringia,
  • Nancy Aris from the Free State of Saxony,
  • Kai Langer from the state of Saxony-Anhalt,
  • Maria Nooke from the State of Brandenburg,
  • Astrid Rothe-Beinlich from the Free State of Thuringia,
  • Florian Steger from the state of Saxony-Anhalt,
  • Tom Sello from the State of Berlin


Future of the authority

As early as 1991 when the Stasi Records Act (StUG) came into force, it was clear that the federal agency for the Stasi records established with it would eventually transfer its files to the Federal Archives . However, since the Stasi Records Act makes a difference in access to the perpetrator's records that does not exist in the Federal Archives Act , and because the files of the Stasi victims are subject to greater data protection than in the Federal Archives, this transfer is not easily possible.

A change to the StUG and the possible dissolution and integration of the BStU into the Federal Archives were publicly discussed in 2006 and 2007. The German Bundestag decided to set up a commission of experts by the 17th German Bundestag as part of the update of the memorial site concept in 2008 on a presentation by the Federal Government . This should analyze the legally assigned tasks of the BStU and make suggestions for the future of the authority. In principle, the governing parties CDU / CSU and FDP have decided that the BStU should continue to work at least until 2019. The SPD had already called for this in the previous legislative period. On November 27, 2014, the expert commission on the future of the BStU authority was officially set up.

In the update of the memorial concept, decisions about the future of the branch offices and the work in the area were also recorded:

"The structure of the branch offices will be changed promptly in order to be able to guarantee more efficient work despite the declining workforce."

Initial plans have now been made. Since the Rostock, Magdeburg, Gera and Suhl branch offices are to be closed, an intensive discussion has already started. The closure affects the archive locations, on-site citizen offices are to continue to offer services for citizens - inspection of files, political education work, information events, etc.

On August 1, 2019, the Committee for Culture and Media of the German Bundestag discussed the concept of the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records and the Federal Archives of March 13, 2019 and voted on a recommendation for a resolution. This was adopted in the plenary session on September 26, 2019.

Criticism of overtime costs

At the beginning of 2016 there was criticism from the Federal Audit Office for an inadmissible number of overtime hours by the authority's press spokeswoman, Dagmar Hovestädt. According to the authorities, the overtime was necessary for work. A legal review has taken place. In the administration, however, there were various errors. The agency then corrected the deficiencies and introduced an improved audit methodology for financial decisions.


The BStU has published numerous documents and analyzes on all possible aspects relating to the GDR and its Ministry for State Security - information on this can be found on the website and in the German National Library.

Broadcast reports

Web links

Commons : Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Draft of a law on the establishment of the federal budget for the budget year 2020. In: http://dipbt.bundestag.de/ . Federal Council, August 9, 2019, accessed on September 4, 2019 .
  2. ^ History of the BStU. In: bstu.bund.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  3. ^ Tasks of the BStU ( Memento from March 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  4. a b BT-Drs. 16/9875 ( PDF )
  5. Matthias Schlegel: 30 years for processing. In: pnn.de. March 30, 2010, accessed January 22, 2017 .
  6. ^ Federal Government - Minister of State for Culture and Media. In: bundesregierung.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  7. Federal Commissioner Roland Jahn. In: bstu.bund.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  8. The official podcast for the Stasi records archive (overview page). Retrieved April 29, 2020 .
  9. History of the BStU: Chronology of the Stasi Records Act (StUG)
  10. Directive No. 1/76. In: www.ddr-wissen.de. Retrieved May 7, 2019 .
  11. BStU application numbers
  12. Joachim Gauck: Light figure with shadow side. tagesspiegel.de, December 27, 2012, accessed June 6, 2013 .
  13. Birthler Authority: Controversy over explosive expert opinion. Welt Online , June 15, 2007, accessed June 6, 2013 .
  14. Birthler: The report falls short of expectations. bstu.bund.de, June 13, 2007, accessed June 6, 2013 .
  15. Inaugural address by Roland Jahn on March 14, 2011: Lying must not be rewarded ( Memento from June 19, 2013 in the web archive archive.today )
  16. ^ BStU - Personal inspection of files. Retrieved January 5, 2018 .
  17. Requests from public and private bodies. In: bstu.bund.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  18. https://fragdenstaat.de/files/foi/7952/bstu20130218_anlage.pdf https://fragdenstaat.de/files/foi/7952/bstu20130218_anlage.pdf
  19. Guest article: Terrifying statistics: secret services and police use Stasi files, American authorities like the NSA too. In: netzpolitik.org. June 19, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  20. Journal der Juristische Zeitgeschichte 2/2009, p. 68 "What makes the 'Rosenholz' database so interesting for the public?"
  21. (Bundestag printed papers 14/4885 and 15/3718)
  22. a b Reconstruction of torn Stasi documents. In the early 1990s, the BStU began to reconstruct documents that had been torn up by hand by employees of the Ministry for State Security. In total, this material was found in 16,000 bags. BStU, accessed on May 7, 2019 .
  23. Federal Chancellor and Federal Chancellery (Section 04). (pdf) In: 2016 Annual Report of the Federal Audit Office. Retrieved May 7, 2019 .
  24. The provisions of the Stasi Records Act on the admissibility of making records on public officials and persons of contemporary history available to research and the press are to be interpreted in accordance with the constitution (Kohl II case) (BVerwG) ( Memento from November 5, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  25. a b c d e f BStU: Organigram BStU. (PDF 51 kB) In: bstu.de. Authority of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic (BStU), accessed on December 20, 2019 .
  26. ^ BStU: The Stasi records archive in the region. In: bstu.de. Authority of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic (BStU), accessed on May 7, 2019 .
  27. Law on the Commissioner or Commissioner to Process the SED Dictatorship in the State of Berlin, Section 5. Accessed on April 6, 2020 .
  28. Advisory Board of the BStU. Retrieved January 10, 2020 .
  29. Federal Archives. In: bundesarchiv.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  30. ^ German Bundestag, 16th electoral period - printed matter 16/11597.
  31. BIRTHLER AUTHORITY: Processing with a future . In: Der Spiegel . No. 13 , 2010 ( online ).
  32. Plan to relocate the Rostock Stasi archive surprises employees ( memento from July 16, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  33.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.mdr.de
  34. ^ German Bundestag: briefing (printed matter 19/8201). Retrieved August 8, 2019 .
  35. German Bundestag: Recommended resolution and report (printed matter 19/12115). Retrieved August 8, 2019 .
  36. German Bundestag plenary proceedings 19/115. Retrieved November 26, 2019 .
  37. Stasi documents: Waste? In: Der Spiegel . No. 5 , 2016 ( online - Jan. 30, 2016 ).
  38. ^ Publications of the Stasi records authority. In: bstu.bund.de. Retrieved January 22, 2017 .
  39. GND 5078273-3

Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '32.7 "  N , 13 ° 24' 48.8"  E