File Theft

In early 1927, it was discovered that more than 147 files had disappeared from the Moabit Criminal Court. It was presumed that the criminals had bribed officials, as this was considered a reliable way of avoiding prosecution at the time.

File Theft

In early 1927, it was discovered that more than 147 files had disappeared from the Moabit Criminal Court. It was presumed that the criminals had bribed officials, as this was considered a reliable way of avoiding prosecution at the time.

The first notable instance of file theft in the Weimar Republic occurred in 1919 after Matthias Erzberger (from the German Center Party) was appointed Finance Minister of the Reich. Erzberger had signed the Armistice Agreement of Compiègne on November 11, 1918 as represantative of the Reich government.

The Reich archive in Potsdam, 1930
Foto: Georg Pahl. © Bundesarchiv

In response to Erzberger’s appointment, Karl Helffrich, a member of Parliament for German National People’s Party (DNVP), had a tax official steal and publish Erzberger’s tax files to prove that Erzberger had an “unclean mixture of political activity and personal financial interests.” Although Erzberger’s alleged tax evasion could never conclusively be proven, the allegations tarnished his reputation. He resigned as Finance Minister on March 12, 1921. On August 26, 1921, he was shot and killed by two members of the right-wing Organisation Consul.

Office Discussions

“The people are constantly complaining about how many files we have, but the second some are moved, all hell breaks loose!”

Duwdiwani characterizes the theft of files as a commonly practiced crime in the Weimar Republic for a variety of
reasons and motives.

ULK, vol. 56 / n. 9, 4.3.1927, p. 66
Print of a propaganda postcard in the "Vorwärts", 3.5.1924. © Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Hang Lower!

Matthias Erzberger (Center) and Philipp Scheidemann (1865–1939) from the SPD were subject to constant attacks by nationalists while the 1918 armistice was being signed. These attacks helped spread the “stab in the back legend”, according to which democratic politicians – allegedly driven by the interests of Jewish businessmen – had stabbed undefeated front-line soldiers in the back by agreeing to an armistice.

Movie Poster: »Dr. Marbuse, the Gambler« (1922)

In 1922, film director Fritz Lang made the theft of files the basis for his very successful film “Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler,” based on the novel by Norbert Jaques. In the film, Dr. Mabuse steals trading contracts in order to manipulate the stock market with false information and gain enormous profits.

Art work: Theo Matejko (1893–1946). Wikimedia Public Domain

Andreas Blödorn: Dr. Mabuse – oder der ›beobachtete Beobachter‹. Zu einer intermedialen Reflexionsfigur zwischen Film und Roman in der Frühen Moderne. In: Andreas Blödorn / Christof Hamann / Christoph Jürgensen (Hg.): Erzählte Moderne. Fiktionale Welten in den 1920er Jahren. Göttingen 2018, S. 408–426.

Datendiebstahl – mit Liste aktueller Fälle seit 2003.
Online: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datendiebstahl

Erzbergers Ende. 100 Jahre Thüringen. Ein Projekt des Weimarer Republik e. V.
Online: https://www.thueringen100.de/blog/feb-1920/erzbergers-ende/