Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police

Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police: "But some of it wasn't. And some of it ... Poppe doesn't know. No one does. Because before it was disbanded, the Stasi shredded or ripped up about 5 percent of its files. That might not sound like much, but the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There's a record for every time anyone drove across the border."

I am sure that my grandparents had files in there. My parents got out just before the wall went up so it is very likely they had files. We visited many times over the years, I wonder, in a slightly morbidly fascinated way, if I have a file in there somewhere and what our code names were.

But ultimately, it just doesn't mean much of anything. Trying to capture a minute-by-minute account of people's lives is crazy since most f our lives are filled with enormously boring stuff.

And the sheer waste of life that went into collating all of that material is staggering. Sadly, we are beginning to do the same thing to ourselves. Sometimes I think that we could build prisons next to dumps and let the prisoners sort all the trash for recycling. I would love to outsource trash sorting and cleaning.

Let's not forget all the loyalty card tracking we do to ourselves. At the moment I am not too worried as they always seem to spit out inappropriate coupons, heck even Google doesn't do all that good of a job matching ads to what I am looking for.

As to that 5% that was destroyed, I really wouldn't worry about it at best it was the most recent material because that was most handy. Really most of this should be released to the public in 100 years so we can look back and remember the stupidity of it all and not do it again.

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