Jennifer Miller Visits East Berlin Secret Police Archives

Last summer Jennifer Miller (Historical Studies) paid a visit to the Stasi (State Security Service) archives in Berlin. These archives contain extensive documentation collected by the East German secret police during the cold war and contains over fifty miles of shelves filled with information collected during that period. Since the fall of East Germany the archives have been made available to the individuals the information had been collected on.

Miller’s trip was funded by a STEP grant which allowed her to visit the archive and work with an archivist to study the history of Turkish migrant workers in East Berlin.

“Before when we were just corresponding via email I got maybe 57 pages,” shared Miller, “When I got to go to the archive I came home with over two thousand pages.”

Because many of the files contain personal information Miller had to request documents from an archivist who would then get the information redacted, removing all potentially harmful information.

A long time German history Scholar Miller’s recent research deals with the lives of Turkish migrant workers who lived in West Berlin and worked in East Berlin on special work visas made possible by a four power agreement in 1971. The research started when Miller noticed a large Turkish population that wasn’t really mentioned in German or Turkish history.

“They were caught in this historical no man’s land,” explained Miller.

The migrant workers during that period were treated with suspicion on both sides, however in East Berlin their access to western culture made the workers more desirable. A portion of Miller’s research focused on how eastern women were commonly marrying Turkish men and getting western citizenship. In general she found less xenophobia to be present in East Berlin during that era.

“It really changes the whole story of guest worker migration.” explained Miller, “I don’t know in the short term what it will mean, if it will become a piece of a larger book project.”

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