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Germany unshreds Stasi spy history

Piecing together torn documents

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In the final days of the DDR, employees of the STASI tried to destroy decades worth of files.

What could not be burned was torn up into little pieces - by hand.

Today a crew of about 30 civil servants are locating, collating, and pasting together those bits of paper in a time-consuming reconstruction project.

Officials could bring to light some hidden corners of history, such as financial transactions of certain politicians, or how Red Army Faction leader Silke Maier Witt went underground in East Germany.

Not long ago, it was reported in the German press that the STASI was well aware that ex-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had bank accounts in Switzerland.

On the average, a worker can puzzle together about ten pages a day. At this pace, it will take about 375 years to complete the project. Software from Berlin's Fraunhofer Institue, SER Systeme, and Siemens could do it faster, much faster. All three were asked to participate in a pilot project more than two years ago to test out their technologies.

SER's software - called Brainware - fitted the bill best, according to SER product manager Werner Voegeli. However, the software is not installed yet, as the government has yet to approve funding for the giant paper puzzle project.

In the meantime, Voegeli is finding a number of interesting applications for Brainware, which exploits 3D and neural network technology. For example, police departments and tax inspectors are interested in the product, as they often comes across torn documents in searches. ®

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