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Archivists piece together torn documents from East German secret police

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

An employee at the federal archives of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, sorts torn remains of documents and photographs to prepare them for digital reconstruction on January 23, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. The German government, in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute, is pursuing a pilot project to scan the torn documents and use computer software to piece them back together. Stasi members, in the final weeks before the communist government of East Germany collapsed in 1989, shredded and tore up thousands upon thousands of documents relating to their activities of spying on East German citizens. So far efforts relying on piecing the torn remains together by hand, which started in 1995, have allowed archivists to process only 500 of 16,000 sacks containing the torn documents. The pilot project, which is still in the software development stage, would greatly speed up a process that would otherwise take decades.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

An employee of the federal archive responsible for the files of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, guides a journalist among sacks containing the torn remains of Stasi documents at a federal archives warehouse on January 25, 2012 in Magdeburg, Germany.

From a story at bloomberg.com that describes the Stasi headquarters:

As an organ of state-sanctioned terror and repression, the Stasi had unlimited access to information about East German citizens. Suspected enemies of the communist state included churchgoers, environmentalists, punks and artists.

Yet anyone could become a target of the Stasi’s methods. Its operatives steamed open mail and resealed it, conducted secret apartment searches for incriminating evidence of dissent, planted listening devices and cameras and recruited acquaintances, friends and even family to report the most banal details and conversations.

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