Germany's Communist Past
State Parliamentarians to Be Checked for Stasi Affiliation
Bits of paper from torn up Stasi files. A new Brandenburg law now requires that all state parliamentarians be checked for past affiliation with the East German secret police.
It's no secret in Germany that there are tens of thousands of former informants for the East German secret police still around. After all, over the lifetime of the communist German state, more than 100,000 people provided information to the so-called Stasi on either an official or unofficial basis.
Concern remains high, however, that some of those who collaborated with the Stasi have ended up in positions of political influence. And on Thursday, the parliament for the German state of Brandenburg passed a law requiring all members of state parliament be checked for possible collaboration with the communist spies.
The law was a long time in coming. Brandenburg is the last of the five former East German states to enact such a regulation -- and it was only passed due to a series of revelations last fall that several members of the state parliament had cooperated with the Stasi prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"It is about time that the state parliament addresses this question," said parliamentarian Linda Teuteberg, a member of the business-friendly Free Democrats, in response to the vote.
Outed for Their Stasi Past
Brandenburg began making headlines not long after state voters went to the polls at the end of September to elect a new state parliament -- a poll that was held concurrently with national elections. Shortly after the votes were counted, Governor Matthias Platzeck, of the Social Democrats, entered into a coalition with the far-left Left Party, ending a long-time cross-aisle political alliance with the center-right Christian Democrats.
But the ink had hardly dried on the coalition agreement before Left Party parliamentarians began to be outed for their Stasi past. Ultimately, a total of seven Left Party parliamentarians were found to have provided information to the Stasi in communist East Germany. Many were forced to resign. Political cooperation with the Left Party has long been seen as suspect in Germany due to the fact that the eastern German branch of the party can trace its roots back to the SED, the Stalinist party which ruled East Germany with an iron fist.
Brandenburg had long been criticized for its failure to enact a law requiring representatives to submit to a check for possible Stasi connections. But critique became even more intense once Platzeck formed a coalition with the Left Party. Marianne Birthler, who heads up the agency responsible for maintaining and processing the mountains of files left behind by the Stasi, told SPIEGEL recently that "Platzeck has formed a coalition with a party whose predecessor was responsible for repression and for the lack of freedom, and he called it an act of conciliation. That is wrong."
More Exhaustive Look
Birthler continued, saying: "The necessary confrontation with the dictatorship and with those responsible was avoided for many, many years in Brandenburg. The fact that parliamentarians were not checked and that there is no state official charged with addressing issues related to the Stasi are clear indications."
Despite the new Brandenburg law, it is unlikely that the issue is going to go away anytime soon. Last summer, the Financial Times Deutschland reported that there were some 17,000 former Stasi informants working as civil servants in Germany, most of them in the former East. Since then, there have been numerous calls for a more exhaustive look into the pasts of high-ranking civil servants.
cgh -- with wire reports