When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, the East German secret police (commonly referred to as the Stasi here) saw the writing on the rubble and began destroying their files as quickly as their clammy little Cold War fingers could. As fate would have it, however, they had so much information to shred (90,000 agents and 175,000 informants spying for decades on 17 million East Germans) that their shredding machines broke down in the process. No joke. An orderly group of folks, they continued shredding everything by hand anyway of course, and ended up sitting on a staggering mountain of 16,250 sacks containing some 45 million document fragments which were never incinerated as planned because the trucks needed to transport them couldn’t be organized anymore in all of the post-Wall chaos.

The reconstruction of all of this, by hand, began 12 years by a group of 24 people who have up until now been able to reassemble a grand total of 323 sacks. And boy, are their fingers tired.

So now E-Puzzler enters the picture. German researchers have now successfully introduced a system using computerized algorithms to reassemble all of this shredded secret stuff and are confident that they’ll be able to plough through the remaining 16,000 sacks by 2013 (estimates were that the team of 24 would have made it by 2395, but only after the reintroduction of the 40 hour work week).

Everyone is thoroughly excited about this prospect (not), especially all of those yet-to-be-named Stasi informants out there (especially not). They are everywhere out there of course, holier than thou von oben herab (nose in the air) guaranteed guilt-free democrats with impeccable pasts and hearts in the right places (absolutely not).

But nobody is on a witch hunt here or anything, of course. Right. Stay tuned. Hurt feelings are guaranteed for sure, now that the cat is out of the bag. Or was it the rat out of the sack?

Come visit me at Observing Hermann…

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