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Access Rights for Research and Media

Information for researchers, representatives of the press, radio, and film (media) and civic education agencies

The Federal Commissioner (BStU) - in accordance with his legal mandate - supports research and media (press, radio and film). It also supports civic education agencies in their political and historical reappraisal of the activities of the State Security Service, the power mechanisms in both the former GDR and Soviet zone of occupation and National Socialist past. Under certain specified legal prerequisites, when requested he will provide documents to be viewed and released as copies.

Prerequisites for Viewing Files

Your project must be limited in subject and serve the purpose of a political and historical reappraisal of the activities of the State Security Service, the control mechanisms of either the former GDR or the former Soviet zone of occupation, or the National Socialist past.

In addition you must demonstrate a discernible interest in publishing the research results or media reports. Findings may, for example, be presented in ongoing research projects at universities and equivalent facilities or presented in books, scholarly articles, dissertations, theses, teaching aids for school instruction, civic education projects, radio and television reports, or newspaper and magazine articles.

If these prerequisites are met, you may apply to view information in the records of the State Security Service that is relevant to your subject.

If you are using specific individuals to examine and represent the activities of the State Security Service, and its measures and influence, please specify these individuals as precisely as possible. Information such as date and place of birth, as well as addresses from the time in question will facilitate the search for relevant records. It is helpful when you accurately describe the relationship that existed between the persons involved and the State Security Service.

Difference between Research and Media Projects

Because access rights to the files of the State Security Service vary, the BStU makes a distinction between requests for research projects and requests for media projects. Depending on the focus and type of publication, projects from civic education agencies are treated either as research or media requests.

Everyone has the right to conduct research. Requests from established institutions such as universities, academies and institutes, as well as from researchers known for their scholarship, are approved without further examination.

You may also submit a research request as a private individual. You must, however, demonstrate the seriousness and significance of your project by presenting a concept, a synopsis or precise information on the project and its purpose.

Individuals as well as editorial teams, publishers and production companies can submit press, radio or film requests. Please include with your request a copy of the press card, project assignment or a letter from your employer. Or provide another form of accreditation for the journalistic or editorial project you are pursuing (for example references to previous media projects).

Fees

Fees apply to all requests in accordance with the Stasi Records Cost Ordinance Act. Exceptions apply only to federal and state public agencies.

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

Records without Personal Information

Records that do not contain personal information (for example on the structure of the State Security Service and on directives) or that were rendered anonymous can be released as copies. The same applies to information that is obvious.

Information on Persons Concerned and Third Parties

Information on persons concerned and third parties may only be used with their consent (for exceptions see "Information on the deceased" and "Extended viewing rights for universities and other research institutions.") To view this information, you must present to the BStU a written declaration of consent signed by the person concerned. The declaration should also specify the name of the person making the request on behalf of the research or media project, the topic and the individuals who will be conducting the research. The Office of the Federal Commissioner can help you obtain declarations of consent.

Information on Figures of Contemporary History, Holders of Political Office and Public Officials

The BStU provides records, which contain information on figures of contemporary history, holders of political office and public officials, when these are related to the respective contemporary role or the exercise of this position or office by the person in question. Always provided that the research interest prevails over the personal protected rights of the specified individual.

Personal information is available to research and media organisations when it is already publicly accessible at the time of the information enquiry. This includes information from public speeches. Statements concerning a third party whose silence cannot be counted on and information that was not acquired in violation of the private sphere or the right to the spoken word, or through spying, will also made accessible.

Moreover, in accordance with the careful consideration of legally protected interests, the researcher has access to information that the State Security Service acquired through spying. Or material which was derived from reports, statements, summaries of transcripts based on wiretapping operations, and violations of privacy. This kind of information, however, is subject to special rules of application, about which every researcher is expressly informed.

Statements that the State Security Service extorted through illegal interrogation methods are excluded from any application. Audio recordings and transcripts derived from wiretapping operations are also barred, as is information that was acquired through the breach of letter and telecommunications privacy or the breach of professional confidentiality (for example by attorneys, physicians, clergy).

As a rule, prior to the release of records, figures of contemporary history, office holders and public officials will be informed about what personal information is to be used by which applicant and for what research purpose.

Records about Employees and Beneficiaries of the State Security Service

Records about employees of the State Security Service, when they do not concern activities engaged in before the age of eighteen, and records about beneficiaries of the State Security Service, are available for viewing. The release of these documents must also honour the overriding legitimate interests of the individuals in question.

Information on the Deceased

The BStU makes relevant records available that contain information on deceased persons who have been dead for more than thirty years. Distinctions made on the basis of categories of persons are no longer valid, which means that in general records concerning deceased persons can be made available as well. The retention period can be shortened to ten years when this is necessary for a scholarly research project or to safeguard justified interests and when the overriding legitimate interests of the deceased are not affected.

Extended Viewing Rights for Universities and other Research Institutions

The StUG stipulates that for scholarly research projects conducted at universities and other research institutions or by State Commissioners for Stasi Records, information on individuals that is not rendered anonymous can be viewed without their consent or prior notice when the legitimate interests of that person are not affected.

The researchers of the specified institutions must convincingly demonstrate that viewing records that have not been rendered anonymous is necessary in order to carry out the research project and that records rendered anonymous would not be sufficient. If necessary the BStU can refrain from rendering certain information anonymous, when this would require a disproportionate amount of effort.

Before the records are made available for viewing, a formal agreement will be made in accordance with the Law Regarding the Formal Duties of Persons without Public Service Status Law. The researcher will be advised that he may neither pass on what he has read nor publicize it in a form that has not been rendered anonymous.

Please consult our staff in individual cases.

Viewing Files

You may view the prepared records in the Agency of the Federal Commissioner in Berlin or in any of the regional offices. After viewing the records, you may request to have copies released.

Hours of the Reading Room in Berlin:

  • Monday/Tuesday/Thursday from 8:30am to 4:30pm
  • Wednesday from 8:30am to 7:00pm
  • Friday from 8:30am to 3:00pm

Information on the Release of Copies and Publication

Upon receiving copies, all applicants will be notified that the copies they have received may not be used for purposes other than the one specified, nor may they be passed on to other parties. They will also be informed that the publication of personal information may not affect the overriding legitimate interests of the persons named or, in the case of deceased individuals, of other persons.

Citizen’s Counselling Office

Advice – submitting a request – telephone information – directions

The staff of the Counselling Office of the BStU offices on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse in Berlin can advise you in questions you may have about viewing files.

A personal consultation is possible during the following hours:

  • Monday to Thursday: 8am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm
  • Friday: 8am to 2pm.

Address:
Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 31/33
10178 Berlin
Telephone enquiries are possible during the following hours:
Monday to Thursday: 8am to 5pm
Friday 8am to 2pm
Phone: +49 (0)30 23 24-70 00
E-Mail: post@bstu.bund.de

Public Transportation:

  • Alexanderplatz:
    S-Bahn: S3 / S5 / S7 / S75
    Subway: U2 / U5 / U8
    Bus: 100 / 200 / 248 / M48 / JetExpressBus TXL
    Tram: M2 / M4 / M5 / M6
    Regional Express: RE1 / RE2 / RE7 / RB 14
  • Mollstraße/Prenzlauer Allee:
    Tram: M8
  • Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Station:
    Subway: U2

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