Gaby Weber
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Lawsuit against Bundeskanzleramt for access to the records of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl  (initiated in 2017)


Like other German Chancellors, Helmut Kohl, when he left office, did not send the files he had created during his term of office to the Federal Archives but to the private archives of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Although this is illegal, as these files are not personal souvenirs, it is tolerated or encouraged by the Chancellery. Thus, the files are withdrawn from public view, transparency does not take place, the Federal Archives Act and the Freedom of Information Act are annulled.


After the verdict of the Federal Constitutional Court, it is clear that these files are still the property of the Federal Government. I therefore first asked Mrs. Maike Kohl-Richter to inspect these files stored in her cellar in Oggersheim, and after she failed to respond, I filed criminal charges against her. The public prosecutor's office refused to start the investigation, as "there is no initial suspicion" that Ms. Kohl-Richter possessed official files. The Kohl biographer, Dr. Heribert Schwan, had repeatedly stated that he had worked with these files in Oggersheim, and that the files had been sent by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. And the Federal Archives are not tired of demanding that these files should be transferred to them. But public prosecutors in Germany are not independent but bound by instructions from the Ministry of Justice, this means, by the government. Therefore, I was not surprised that they do not want to investigate this matter. My attorney, Raphael Thomas, has filed a complaint and initiated an enforcement procedure. This has been rejected by the Zweibrücken Higher Regional Court. Although the court has clarified the facts of the case - namely that Kohl's Chancellery files are indeed stored in Oggersheim, it has rejected criminal investigations, as these files would have to be claimed by the Chancellery (the legal owner) and not by journalists or citizens. Conclusion: It is indeed illegal that the files are hidden there, but Mrs. Kohl-Richter does not feel doing something wrong because the Chancellor's Office once voluntarily outsourced these files to private persons. I already filed a constitutional complaint for refusing to open criminal investigation against Mrs Kohl Richter.


The Federal Constitutional Court had formally dismissed my complaint at the time because I would have sued the wrong Government agency: the Federal Archives and not the owner of the files, the Chancellery. I made up for this and sued the BKAmt. On 26 May 2020, the Berlin Administrative Court rejected my complaint. That the files are the property of the BKAmt? It does not matter. That the Federal Constitutional Court demands the principle of equality? It does not matter. Does the Federal Chancellery, by omitting asking the widow for the files, grant her a right to see these files, but not to other citizens and researchers? No, one does not even know whether there are really official files there, argued the lawyer of Office's legal department in court, and the BKAmt never demands files that have never been lost, in this respect the principle of equality is granted.


The court even denied the right to see the finding aids. So, any researcher would be deprived of the opportunity to apply to the authorities for disclosure of a file that is still secret or to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court. No problem for the judge Xalter. The legislator is to blame, she argued, because the law does not force the office to recall the lost documents.


After the Karlsruhe decision, the Federal Archives Act was amended and an expert was summoned to the hearing in the Bundestag: the archivist of the conservative Konrad Adenauer Foundation. And he made it clear that he spoke for ALL parties, including the Left Party, the Greens and the liberal FDP, they all gave him a mandate. This is what the minute says. The archivist wanted to keep his files and said that the party's documents should not be separated from the official files. And so the parliament then did not write the obligation to recall the records into the new law. In other words: ALL parties agree restricting the freedom of information and transparency of historians, journalists and citizens.


I was seeking assistance in the court to put an end to an illegal situation - privatization of official records. The court has cemented this illegal situation. I have appealed.