Berlin exhibit uncovers once classified Stasi photos

Tue Aug 9, 2011 1:02pm EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - Spies from former communist East Germany demonstrate the art of disguise by donning fur wigs, fake mustaches and dark glasses in a Berlin exhibition of recently uncovered and once highly classified photographs.

German artist Simon Menner, who put together the exhibition "Pictures from the Secret Stasi Archives," said it should show how something that seems harmless, such as these images that could be shots from a spy film spoof, can harbor danger.

"These were used during courses on how to dress up and blend into society," the 33 year-old artist said. "They seem pretty absurd now, but it was meant seriously -- this is evil stuff."

Menner says he aims to fuel a debate about the problems inherent to the concept of surveillance, using evidence of the way the Stasi secret police functioned in the Cold War.

"These are once highly classified images taken by a secret service that were never meant to be published -- just imagine this was an exhibition of photographs from the CIA!," he said.

"Here in Germany we have this treasure, an archive that is pretty much open to everyone -- something worth so much, especially in a time when we are debating surveillance issues."

Germany has some of the toughest privacy laws in the world due to its experience with state surveillance systems once used by the Nazis and the Stasi.

Menner spent days combing through the vast archives once built by the Stasi using a network of informants numbering one in 90 East German citizens and open to the public since 1990.   Continued...