Berlin-Hohenschönhausen-Ausstellung

Permanent exhibit in the former Stasi interrogation prison at Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, where 40,000 East Germans were held prisoner. Includes photos of the prisoners, descriptions of how they were treated (torture, solitary, permanent surveillance, silent shoes on the guards, and prisoner uniforms deliberately issued in the wrong sizes, in “a system designed to break people”), evidence found of prisoners’ courage and good humor (bronx cheers and Latin vocabulary exercises written on napkins using coffee as ink). Also, as director Hubertus Knabe pointed out, the museum has added a new section with information about the Stasi prison’s guards. “What kind of people worked here? How did they live? How were they held together ideologically and brought in line? You can find that out here too.”

(Bear LYNN   ho! en shin HOW’S en   ow! ss shtell OONG.)

Detekteien

Private detective agencies. A Spiegel.de article dated 2008 said this was an unregulated and unsupervised but burgeoning security industry in Germany, sometimes employing former Stasi cooperators. The authors estimated there were ~1500 private detective companies in Germany in 2008 and about a dozen key world players, including the New York-based Kroll and London-based Control Risks. Many of these companies earned game-changing amounts of money in Iraq after the second U.S. invasion. They could be hired via law firms protected by attorney-client privilege, and subcontract jobs to other firms, obscuring cause-and-effect. A new C.E.O. of Control Risks said they were also hiring journalists to spy on other journalists.

A Detektei called Network Deutschland was “involved” in the German rail company Deutsche Bahn’s data privacy scandal when it was caught spying on its employees in 2009, leading to the retirement of C.E.O. Hartmut Mehdorn. Network Deutschland was also involved in the former-monopoly phone company Deutsche Telekom’s so-called “Telekom data scandal,” which is confusing but included T-mobile’s years of archiving communications data of members of its own supervisory boards, such as the head of the German trade union association Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund. T-mobile was especially interested in any phone interactions with journalists. Deutsche Telekom was also accused of using private detectives to spy on journalists in other ways.

The 2013 Snowden revelations might provide some insight into the means private detective companies could have used to access these communications and banking data. Online ads and tech articles seem to be indicating that powerful N.S.A.-type tools are now trickling down into the regular economy, being sold to smaller and smaller entities.

N.B.: How early did the notoriously technophilic and well-funded U.S. National Football League know about some of these capabilities?

An English-language Spiegel.de article dated 2008 speculated about the separate huge data hoards controlled by the national rail (Deutsche Bahn), national airline (Lufthansa), post office (Deutsche Post) and phone company (Deutsche Telekom), all companies found to have made questionable investigations and hired detective agencies. The magazine couldn’t show that they had combined their data in 2008 though; they also only connected up e.g. that Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom hired the same detective agency but Lufthansa and (Telekom?) investigated the same journalist (Tasso Enzweiler from Financial Times Deutschland, which folded in 2012). The Spiegel article wanted to but could not show that the four big corporations also investigated each other, but it reminded us they were well positioned to investigate each other and anyone else in Germany. The Spiegel.de article didn’t want to feed conspiracy theorists but hoped the German government wasn’t asking these companies for access to their sensitive customer data. All four used to be state-owned and the German government still held large stakes in Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom.

(Day tect EYE en.)

Tag der deutschen Einheit

“German unity day.” Celebrated on June 17 for years in West Germany to remember the popular uprising against the East German government 60 years ago this week.

The German unity holiday was changed to October 3 when East and West Germany signed the agreement to reunify on Oct. 3, 1990.

Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, a regime-critical East German pastor who after the Wall fell led the so-called Gauck-Behörde, the agency created to figure out what to do with the Stasi files left behind by the secret police, said,

“Today it remains essential, everywhere around the world, to stand by / provide backup for those people who, though discriminated against and marginalized, courageously take a stand for freedom, democracy and justice.”

“Es gilt auch heute, überall auf der Welt, jenen beizustehen, die sich obwohl diskriminiert und ausgegrenzt mutig für Freiheit, Demokratie und Recht einsetzen.”

(TOG   dare   DEUTSCH en   EYE n h eye t.)

“Wissen, wie es war”

“To know what it was like.” Motto for the twentieth anniversary of the museum for the Stasi documents, the files and systems of the East German secret police, that were saved from destruction, reconstructed despite destruction, archived, read, evaluated, reread and shown to visitors from all over the world.

The decision to preserve the files was not as obvious now as it may seem in retrospect. Some well-meaning West German deciders wondered if finishing the Stasi’s destruction of the files might not be a benison to the Stasi’s victims, in the extremely short term. Fortunately for victims, for voters who in the decades since might otherwise have elected candidates with an “inoffizielle Mitarbeiter” (“unofficial coworker,” “unofficial employee”) past, for people living in police states who are making plans about what to do when the dictatorship falls, and for people living in potential police states, the documents were not destroyed, systems were developed to work with them while preserving privacy for the innocent, and the people at these archives are happy to share what they’ve learned with visitors.

(VISS en   vee   ess   vahr.)

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