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Hoard of Nazi Files from East Germany Brought to Light

May 22, 1991

BERLIN (AP) _ An immense new hoard of files from the Nazi era has come to light in former East Germany, where the hated secret police once used the documents for blackmail and propaganda.

Originally in Soviet hands after World War II, the files were transferred to the former Communist government of East Germany, which put them under control of the Ministry of State Security’s secret police, the Stasi.

After German unification last October, the Federal Archive took custody. The files fill most of a four-story building in eastern Berlin.

Der Spiegel newsmagazine said in its latest issue Wednesday that the files equal, in historical terms, the U.S.-administered archive of Nazi Party records held in the Berlin Document Center, on the west side of the formerly divided city.

A Federal Archive spokesman, Tilman Koops, said the hoard differs markedly in content, ″but the value of the information is as great as in the BDC.″

He said the U.S.-run center, to be handed over to the Germans by 1994 after microfilming, is a ″pure archive″ of genuine Nazi Party records. The new hoard includes both Nazi records and material added later by the East Germans.

The Stasi ″had these files brought together to put them to political use, or propaganda use or secret police use,″ Koops said in a telephone interview from Koblenz. Some files were removed, he said.

Der Spiegel said the Stasi used Nazi records to blackmail people in West Germany into collaborating with the Communist East. It said evidence of some Nazi war crimes was covered up, letting criminals resume careers useful to East Germany - for instance, doctors who had taken part in medical experiments on live prisoners.

Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal said from his Vienna home he doubted the files would reveal much new. What the find showed was how Communist East Germany used them - or withheld them - for its own purposes, he said in a telephone interview.

One well-known case in the files was a massacre late in World War II of inmates of Dora concentration camp near Nordhausen, about 120 miles southwest of Berlin, Wiesenthal said. Inmates were herded into a barn that was set afire, killing about 1,000 people. The Nazi commander was Gerhard Thiele, whose fate is unknown.

″We looked into this starting in 1950 and could find nothing. Then the Cold War began, and ... (East Germany) never responded to one letter from us,″ Wiesenthal said.

″Now we don’t know if this man Thiele is alive or not. If he is alive, he would be 81.″ If the information is in the files, it hasn’t been found yet.

Wiesenthal said it was known since the mid-1960s that the Stasi used Nazi records to blackmail people, including those in other countries who had collaborated with the Nazis.

The files, however, are expected to reveal new details of Stasi operations and to provide new information on the brutal Nazi People’s Court, presided over by Roland Freisler, killed in 1945 when a U.S. bomb hit his court. The court was known for grinding out death sentences to foes of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship.

The files cover investigations of anti-Nazi resistance groups such as the Rote Kapelle, or Red Orchestra; euthanasia experiments and reports on shipping the mentally ill to death camps, Der Spiegel reported.