Historian warns Germany risks backslide to 'Stasi era' with new whistleblower protection law

In July, Germany's Whistleblower Protection Act came into effect, bringing with it extensive safeguards against employees who sound the alarm over potential violations of the law committed by those in their workplace. While the act has been lauded by some, others have cautioned against such measures given the country's past, where similar legislation was abused both out of fear and malice.

Among those calling for reconsideration is historian Hubertus Knabe, who has warned that the law is eerily reminiscent of policies enacted by East Germany's Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, better known as the Stasi.

In both Nazi Germany and the communist-controlled DDR (East Germany) that came after it, residents often snitched on one another "for personal advantage or for revenge."

Knabe, who ran the Hohenschönhausen Memorial at the site of the Stasi's political prison in Berlin for nearly twenty years, suggested that the law could foster "an atmosphere of fear similar to those seen in dictatorships."

Under the new regulations, companies with 50 or more employees must set up "reporting channels" where employees can report their colleagues or bosses. Firms with less than 250 workers have until December 17 to comply, while those with more must do so immediately, or face a fine of up to 20,000 euros.

Those wishing to report an alleged violation can choose from internal or external channels, with the former remaining inside the company and the latter going directly to the government.

Whistleblowers are protected against retaliation or threats to retaliate, and the burden of proof lies, in all cases, with the company. Violations of the policy are punishable by fines of up to 50,000 euros.
 

"The tip-off points won't only pursue suspicions of criminality, they will also deal with misdemeanours subject to fines," he wrote in Die Welt. "They will even be responsible for statements by officials that 'constitute a violation of the obligation of loyalty to the constitution'."


Image: Title: Stasi
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