GDR, Stasi Files Opening Up to Documentation Center of Cambodia

The Documentation Center of Cambodia expects this week to receive its first shipment of archival records on Cambodia kept by the former German Democratic Republic, according to DC-Cam director Youk Chhang.

The initial consignment of records contains documents from the GDR Foreign Ministry and the feared Ministry for State Security, best known as the Stasi, concerning events before, during and after the Khmer Rouge government of 1975 to 1979.

Between 1949 and 1990, the communist German Democratic Republic controlled the eastern half of Germany, which formed part of the Soviet bloc of nations. The Chinese-aligned Khmer Rouge deeply distrusted the Soviet Union, which was an ally of Vietnam.

Despite the Sino-Soviet rivalry, a document list shows consistent GDR interest in Cambodia’s communist revolutionaries and the Democratic Kampuchea government.

The GDR Foreign Ministry’s December 1975 political assessment of the Cambodian revolutionaries said the new government had set itself “the unrealistic goal to create socialism immediately…. The lack of political maturity of the Cam Comrades will require patience.”

After war had already begun with Vietnam, GDR politburo chairman Erich Honecker sent New Years wishes to Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan on Dec 29, 1977 via the Cambodian Embassy in Hanoi.

Forty-eight hours later, Cambodia sent Honecker a message via the GDR Embassy in Beijing announcing that Cambodia had severed relations with Vietnam, a message Honecker refused to accept.

One record kept by the Stasi, the 68,000-member secret police organization that monitored the lives all East Germans, compiles 13 years “interrogations” of refugees, including Cambodians, up to 1977.

The records are being released to DC-Cam following an international appeal the organization began in 2005 for records held by foreign governments, according to Mr Chhang.

Mr Chhang said yesterday that DC-Cam was eager to ensure that the new records would be available for use at any future trials. Citing the closure of the previous case file, the tribunal in July refused to accept Vietnamese archival footage of Tuol Sleng.

Foreign records on the Khmer Rouge will help examine Khmer Rouge claims that outsiders were responsible for the tragedy that befell Cambodia, Mr Chhang said.

“They blamed others including the international community,” he said. “It seems like a reflection back on the Khmer Rouge themselves from the outside.”

 

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