Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reassembling the Stasi files

These are some of the bags containing the ripped up Stasi files. There are 16,000 bags. Each sack contains about 40,000 fragments, for a total of 600 million pieces of paper. At the moment they are assembled by hand. They have done 327 bags so far, which works out to one bag per worker per year. They are help by the fact that the torn pieces tend to cluster in a bag. If the Stasi could have stirred all 600 million pieces things would have been a lot harder. Some people are trying to use computers to speed this up. Note that these are only the torn up files. Some files were mangled by Papierwolfs and Reisswolfs — literally "paper-wolves" and "rip-wolves," German for shredders. No-one is attempting to assemble these, though presumably they are the most interesting. Wikipedia has a section on unshredding which says:

... there is a huge demand for document reconstruction. Several companies offer commercial document reconstruction services. For maximum security, documents should be shredded so that the words of the document go through the shredder horizontally (i.e. perpendicular to the blades). Many of the documents in the Enron accountancy scandal were fed through the shredder the wrong way, making them easier to reassemble.

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