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Information for Private Individuals

Requesting to View One’s Own File

Every individual has the right to view the records that the Ministry of State Security collected about him.

Requests to view one’s file can be submitted to the Federal Commissioner in Berlin or to the regional offices. Request forms are available at all of our offices. You can request by telephone to have a form sent to you. The form can also be downloaded and printed out.

To assure that unauthorised persons do not gain access to your files, you must submit both your signature and a certificate of identity. If you send your request by mail, please have your proof of identity confirmed by your local authority (local registry office). If you bring your request to the BStU offices personally, a certificate of identity will be provided there when you present your ID. All foreign documents must be accompanied by a German translation.

In many cases an individual file on a person does not exist in the archives. If you have reason to believe that you are mentioned in someone else’s file, you may also request to view those records. Please provide this person’s family name, first name, date of birth and place of residency. You must also explain why you believe you may be mentioned in this person’s file. Please let us advise you in these matters (assistance hotline for private individuals: +49 (0)30 23 24-70 00).

Please note on the request form whether you would like to view the files in Berlin or in one of our agency’s regional offices. If, for reasons of health or otherwise, you are unable to come to one of our reading rooms to view the files, we can also have copies sent to you. This should also be noted on the request form. You will find information about the charges for these services on our List of Fees found under the Cost Ordinance (in German only).

We are able to conduct research more efficiently and quickly when you provide information regarding experiences, incidents or observations which led you to believe that the Stasi took an interest in you. Even seemingly minor events, such as the disappearance of letters, may contain important clues. Information about your past job or correspondences can also be useful to the research. The card index of Department "M" (Post Inspection) contains many copies of letters as well as originals that never reached their intended recipient. The correspondences between citizens of the GDR and residents of the western districts of Berlin, West Germany and other countries were monitored by the State Security Service.

In the so-called local card index, the Stasi recorded broad information about GDR citizens as well as information about company representatives, diplomats, journalists and correspondents in the GDR. They also recorded individuals holding important positions in public service, parties, organisations and commerce; who travelled to the GDR privately or on business. And those who were suspected of engaging in activities against the GDR.

In some cases citizens of the old federal states (West Germany) or other countries may also have reasons for wanting to view records. The Intelligence Department, whose records were largely destroyed, was not the only division to operate in the "area of operations", which is how the Stasi referred to "non-Socialist foreign countries." In addition to their tasks in the GDR, almost all departments of the State Security Service conducted mirror investigations in the Federal Republic.

Approximately one million West Germans and residents of West Berlin are registered in the Central Name Card Index (F 16), which is the largest existing file index. There are more than five million file cards.

Viewing Files for Near Relatives of Missing or Deceased Persons

The files of missing or deceased persons are generally not accessible. However exceptions do apply to near relatives of missing or deceased persons. Near relatives of missing or deceased persons include spouses, children, grandchildren and siblings; under certain circumstances adopted children and their biological parents qualify as well. In cases where near relatives no longer exist, third-degree relatives (grandparents, great grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews) may also submit a request to view files.

The near relatives must present a credible and justified interest and be able to coherently show that they intend to use the available Stasi records to examine events or state measures related to the GDR regime.

When near relatives do not exist, third-degree relatives can request to view files only in matters of:

  • rehabilitation
  • the protection of privacy, specifically to clarify whether collaboration with the Stasi took place
  • clarifying the fate of a missing or deceased person.

The request should include proof that the relative is missing or deceased and proof of the family relationship. Third-degree relatives must also include proof that no near relatives exist.

The records may only be used in the context pertaining to the credible and justified interest or to the credible purpose and in so far as no overriding legitimate interests of the missing or deceased person or other persons (for example other relatives) are affected.

Clarification of current property issues, other family conflicts as well as the clarification of one’s own family origins or the search for biological parents does not warrant a right to receive access to possible records. In these cases, the purpose of reappraising the past, as prescribed by the Stasi Records Act, does not exist.

If you have questions please contact our assistance hotline for private individuals.

Length of Processing

Within six months you will receive the first information about whether documents about you were compiled by the State Security Service. If no reference to you was found during research, the search process will be concluded and you will be notified.

We often find that no more than a file card was created on a person. In this case we will send you final information with a copy of this card. Should evidence be found to suggest that other documents exist, the research in the archives will be continued and you will be sent an interim notice. Due to the high number of requests we receive and the time-consuming preliminary research, there may be a long waiting period.

Requests are given priority in cases of rehabilitation and compensation proceedings, or when accusations of collaboration with the State Security Service need to be refuted. Requests from the elderly and people in very poor health will also be expedited.

Preparing the Records

The research is always conducted in the Berlin central archive or, when relevant information exists (for example a former address), in the archives of the regional offices. Records found concerning you will be compiled and prepared for you to view. Your right to view files refers only to the information that concerns you personally. If necessary, text passages will be blackened out to protect the personal rights of other persons concerned and of third parties.

Persons concerned refers to individuals about whom the State Security Service collected information through deliberate investigations or surveillance that may be contained in records about you.

Third parties are other individuals about whom the State Security Service collected information that may also be contained in the records about you.

The names or aliases of employees of the State Security Service (official and unofficial employees) will not be rendered anonymous.

Small amounts of records will be sent to you as a copy free of charge.

Viewing Files in the Reading Room

You will be invited to come to the BStU office where you requested to view your personal files. Our employees are available to answer your questions and provide assistance. You may ask to have copies made of the documents you have been given.

Please understand that the invitation to view your files applies to you alone. Please let us know in advance if you intend to bring a legal advisor with you or if, for health reasons, you will be accompanied by another person.

Real Names of Unofficial Collaborators (alias decoding)

Reports from unofficial collaborators were usually presented with aliases. You have the right to learn the name of the person who reported on you when the name could be ascertained without a doubt from the records. A separate request for this must be submitted after you have viewed the records or received the documents.

Fees

Persons concerned, third parties and near relatives are exempted from fees charged for viewing files. There is a basic charge of €5.11 for the production of copies. Charges are also issued based on the number of copies made when the sum is more than €2.56. A standard A4-copy costs 3 cents.

Former employees and beneficiaries of the State Security Service are charged €76.69 for information or to view records. They are charged 10 cents for each A4 copy.

More information is available in our Cost Ordinance (in German only) and the List of Fees.

Follow-up Request

Making the records of the State Security Service accessible and usable is an ongoing process. After viewing files or if no records were found, you may wish to submit a follow-up request a few years later to see if there are new results. To do this you need only submit an informal written request - preferably with reference to the first application.

Access assistance for individuals

Our employees are always available to answer your questions. A personal consultation is also possible during office hours in the Berlin headquarters (Phone: +49 (0)30 23 24-70 00) as well as in our regional offices. Please note that German is the official language.

Application Form for Private Individuals

Download and print out the application form.

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