Are you looking for employment? Do you like to do jigsaw puzzles? No, I mean do you REALLY like to do jigsaw puzzles, like REALLY, REALLY? For instance, do you have just incredible patience, to keep trying to plow ahead even as the task seems gigantic? Oh, and perhaps a sense of pleasure in setting injustice right could help here, too.
Finally, can you read German? Then maybe Germany’s federal government has a job for you! Die Zeit now has a piece about it, called Those who glue together the Stasi files. The former East German State Secret Police (formally the “Ministry for State Security”) got really busy with their shredding-machines in October and November of 1989 as it became increasingly obvious that the regime was tottering and probably about to fall. They had a just incredible amount of incriminating documentation to worry about, miles & miles of files & files (the vast majority in traditional paper). After all, the former East Germany might have set some sort of record for percent of the population informing for the government – spouse spying on spouse was hardly unheard-of – and the Stasi were interested in almost everything.
Unfortunately, those shredders were given the time and lack of interruption to do a pretty good job, resulting in 16,000 sacks of . . . confetti, basically, the shredding machines’ output, each sack containing 50,000 to 80,000 little bits of document.
Nevertheless, the re-unified German government wants to recover as many of those as it can, and has already had people at work since 1995 trying to piece them together. Soon – thank Heavens! – they will be assisted by computer software developed by Germany’s renowned Fraunhofer Research Institute, designed first to scan all the little pieces electronically and then to use automatic algorithms to fit them together.
Until then – and, surely, afterwards as well – there will be a continuing need for human application. This Die Zeit piece is really not any sort of article but a brief photo-series. Yes, the first few are of some unexciting paper-shreds, but then there follow a couple shots showing the puzzle-workers on the job, contemplating the pieces before them, with yet more available in a seemingly-endless procession of sacks. They look stoic; what could be going through their heads? Anything more interesting than a yearning for that next cigarette/chocolate break?