Plans to extend Stasi checks don't satisfy victims

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - The German government plans to extend its screening of civil servants for any involvement with the East German Stasi security police until 2019 but victims groups said on Friday that is not long enough.

Arnold Vaatz, chair of the CDU/CSU delegation to the German parliament said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition had agreed to extend Stasi checks beyond 2011 -- when they were originally scheduled to end -- to 2019.

“We will set about getting this law passed soon,” he told the “Mitteldeutsche Zeitung” newspaper on Friday.

But Andre Kockisch, spokesman for Berlin’s Hohenschoenhausen Stasi prison, now a memorial, told Reuters it would be wrong to end the investigations, even in 2019, or 30 years after East Germany’s Communist regime collapsed.

“Everybody must have the right to know who has spied on them and who violated their trust,” Kockisch said. “To make that possible we need systematic investigations.”

He said continued investigations were “necessary so we can discover the truth,” especially because many former Stasi workers were still alive and yet to be brought to justice.

“We are continuing to discover cases 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell so it is quite likely we will still be discovering cases in 2019 and beyond,” he said.

He added that ending the investigations risked drawing a line under the past.

“We cannot stop trying to come to terms with history -- we have a long way to go yet and we are still uncovering former Stasi employees -- we can’t just draw a line under this.”

It is estimated that as many as 15,000 former Stasi workers are now civil servants in Germany.

In 2009 it emerged that of about 700 police in the eastern state Brandenburg, 58 had previously been Stasi officers.

The government office which looks after the Stasi documents has received more than 6.5 million requests for information since it was founded in 1990, of which 1.7 million were for examining the involvement of civil servants in the Stasi.

Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato