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Germany

The Kohl Files

A German court decided to keep a lid on ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s secret service files. Much to the dismay of many who were hoping to find out who was responsible for their torment during the Stasi years.

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Burying the past

Helmut Kohl was the chancellor of unification. He was the brains behind the policy that made Germany the driving force of European integration.

A great chancellor, of the same mould as, say Conrad Adenauer, who had navigated a path through the minefield of post-war German diplomacy which gave the devastated country a second chance in international affairs.

That’s how Helmut Kohl would like people to think of him anyway.

The secret files on him compiled by the former East German secret police were threatening to shed light on the way he went about his business.

Particularly his role in a party funding scandal is what researchers and journalists were hoping to learn from the files.

Kohl accepted one million dollars of undeclared and thus illegal party donations and he has repeatedly refused to reveal the donor’s names.

He fell from grace because of the scandal, which has shaken his party, the Christian Democrats to the core and ended the myth of a chancellor who could do no wrong.

The question on many people’s lips is: if he has nothing to hide, why does he want to conceal the contents of his files so badly?

Burying the past

Germany’s Federal Administrative Court now has decided that the secret service files on the ex-Chancellor cannot be published.

Kohl argued that opening the files infringed his right to privacy. And he had already won the first case before the administrative court on those grounds.

But more than a one-off decision in the case of Kohl was at stake. Others will now also refuse access to their files, in effect drawing research into a dark chapter of Germany’s past to a close.

As a result of this trial, the information buried in the archives will probably never see the light of day.

The extent to which East German spies managed to intercept information they gained in West Germany, which ministries they infiltrated, how close they got, will never be known.

Now that Kohl has won, the ministry responsible for the administration of the Stasi files has nowhere else to go.

Kohl was the nation’s longest-serving post-war leader and ironically, it was a law drafted by his government that gave experts the go-ahead to examine the files when they deal with personalities of historic significance.

But hey, what Kohl gave, he can take back again as well.