Burg Altena, Germany
Museum in der "Runden Ecke"
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Postal surveillance
This picture shows faked stamps and opened letters

The Ministry of State Security examined 1,500–2,000 suspicious letters every day which were posted or arrived in the Leipzig district; it also actively searched for conspicuous items of mail. Violation of the privacy of the post was hence not just limited to a few isolated cases but practised in a thoroughly institutionalised form. Department M built up a storehouse and tried to collect a sample of the handwriting of everyone from the Leipzig area who sent letters abroad. In order to be able to accurately classify personal data, a copy of their ID card was ‘obtained’ and the police and also filed. In Leipzig this file comprised some 100,000 addresses. Department M was especially painstaking in its examination of correspondence with non-Communist countries and for example extracted cash from envelopes. About 3–5% of the letters opened never reached the recipient because they were retained by the Stasi. Several pieces of equipment used for postal surveillance, including for opening, examining, copying, gluing and flattening letters, have been preserved for the museum. All relevant letters (photocopies or originals) were sent to the responsible department for further processing. A copy of every telegram received in the Leipzig district was also printed at the Stasi’s district headquarters.





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