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History made of paper

Two projects throw light on the many documents guarded in the depths of the Deops/SP (Political Police) from 1940 until 1983

reproductionThe archived repression in the name of the ideals of the military takeover of 1964: mapping the terror in a thematic mannerreproduction

The picture of thousands of files containing an infinity of reports, memos, official correspondence, telegrams, terms of declaration, communications and notes, yellowed and ordered following criteria initially unknown, provides an exact idea of the intense work carried out by researchers financially supported by FAPESP into the archives of the Deops/SP (Delegacia Estadual de Ordem Política e Social [State Police for Political and Social Order]), one of the most important organs of the repressive apparatus of Brazilian Republican History.

During fifty nine years, between 1924 and 1983, a political police, concerned exclusively in persecuting ideas, had a strong influence on Brazil, even during the moments in which the country lived far from the exceptional states registered between 1930-1945 (Getúlio Vargas Dictatorship) and between 1964-1985 (Military Regime). Simultaneously exercising the prevention and the repression of crime, this police force became noted for its use of illegal and violent methods.

“Dangerous” people
The enormous quantity of unedited documents of the Deops/SP archive has been systematized, decoded, analyzed and interpreted since 1994, when finally the documents pile was opened up for consultation by researchers and transferred to the São Paulo State Archive. There are 150,000 records on people and institutions that were considered to be “dangerous” to the security of the State, as well as the 6,500 dossiers – these with an even greater document variety, summing two million different types of registers, 1.1 million reference files and 9,636 folders codified with letters and numbers.

Two projects financially supported by FAPESP, involving numerous researchers, from undergraduate students with science scholarships to masters and doctorate graduates, under the coordination of doctor professors, are adding to knowledge and are stimulating the construction of a new version of the contemporary history of Brazil. The Integrated Archive Project (Proin)/ University and The Mapping and Systemization Project of the Deops/SP Archives: Dossier Series (1940-1983) involves two institutions: the São Paulo University (USP) and the São Paulo State Archive.

The ambitious Proin project is mapping the records and has already published seven volumes of the Coleção Inventário Deops [Deops Inventory Collection], with different thematic modules, as a result. By the end of 2004, while it is being financially assisted by FAPESP, it will publish twenty more books. The project also covers the Coleção Teses & Monografias [Theses and Monographic Collection], with one volume already published and another two at the printing press. The editions are fruits of a partnership between the Archive and the Official Press of the State of São Paulo.

The Série Dossiês [Dossier series] has just launched its first volume: No Coração das Trevas: O Deops/SP Visto por Dentro [In the Heart of Darkness: the Deops/SP Seen from Within]. On the 31st of March, the anniversary of the 1964 military takeover, the Mapping and Systematization Project of the Deops/SP Archive will give to society a data bank through which it will be possible to establish various cross-references between information desired by the researchers. In September, at the regional Meeting in São Paulo of the National History Association (Anpuh in the Portuguese acronym) – which will take place in the town of Franca – four other books will be launched, along with all the topic list in the data bank and project conclusions.

The Proin Archive/University or Deops/SP Inventory Collection and Theses and Monographic Collection was under the coordination of Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro, of the History Department of the Philosophy, Sciences and Arts School of the São Paulo University (FFLCH-USP), who was responsible for the inventories; and also Boris Kossoy, of the Journalism and Editorial Department of the School of Communication and Arts (ECA/USP), responding for the iconographic part of the project; and responsible for the Deops/SP archive there was Fausto Couto Sobrinho, the director of the State Archive.

This year, the ambitious Proin project will launch a further six volumes. By 2004 there will be twenty volumes of the Deops Inventory Collection divided into thematic modules that will cover communists, Japanese, anarchists, political police, control geopolitics, means of communication and political propaganda, iconography, religion, ethnic and working class groups. Sixteen undergraduate scholarship winners are involved as well as six masters and four doctorate graduates.

“In 1997, the start of the collection sprung from an invitation by the Goethe Institute to participate in an exposition that was to be organized at the São Paulo Cultural Center and whose theme was the Germans refugees in Brazil”, professor Maria Luiza tells. “Through the need to locate documents about Germany, in that enormity of records, we felt the lack of a data bank that would make the location of the documents by theme much easier. From there came the idea of the project.”

The opening volume of the Deops Inventory series, entitledGermany , was published in 1997. Ana Maria Dietrich, Elaine Bisan Alves and Priscila Ferreira Perazzo were the authors of the research, which had great repercussions earning a few pages in a story by the German magazine Der Spiegel. Priscila went on researching the unfolding of the theme in her masters’ thesis (The German Danger and the Repression , published in the Theses and Monographic Collection) and in her doctorate, to be defended in April, which is called Prisoners of War – The Axis Citizens in the Brazilian Concentration Camps (1942-1946). This thesis will also be published by Theses and Monographic Collection, a collection put forward for post graduate stricto sensu work, while the work originating from the undergraduates integrated into theDeops Inventory .

“We were the first group to work with the Germans, we didn’t know the internal organization of the Deops/ SP, but we managed to come up with data about spying organizations and Nazi ideologists, which began in 1940 and were dissipated in 1942”, explains the researcher Priscila. “It’s estimated that there were around two hundred of these organizations spread throughout São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife and through all of the southern region of Brazil.”

Professor Maria Luiza speaks about the success of the series inaugurated by the volume Germany and the results they have reached so far: “Today we have a research project model, suggested by FAPESP, which has become official. We have reached a proposal for a photo bank and data bank of written documents, which has already been available to the general public for some two years”, says the researcher. “In the State Archive we have a fully equipped information technology room. Those who consult can have access to the data banks with the iconographic part, or that is to say, it is possible to call up the desired item via a key word. If we want Nazism photographs , not only will only the photographs come up on the screen, but also the identification and other reference details linked to them” This data bank is being continually fed with written texts and iconographic material, says Maria Luiza.

For professor Boris Kossoy, the innovation of the methodology of the project, which takes the students to lessons in the State Archive, is that for the first time the students get to work with real documents. They are historians that have in their hands unedited documents that have to be described and interpreted. “As a consequence, the document, from being a mere abstract entity, becomes something real. This has awoken lots of interest and the classes have been renewing themselves since 1996. This is the seventh year of the work and each day the enthusiasm demonstrated by the students is greater”, says Kossoy.

During this year other pieces of work will be launched. Cultura Amordaçada: artistas, intelectuais e músicos sob a vigilância do Deops [Silenced Culture: Artists, intellectuals and musicians under the watchful eye of the Deops] (1930-1945), by Álvaro G. Antunes Andreucci and Valéria Garcia de Oliveira, within the module of communists, the “Perigo Amarelo” segundo a lógica da desconfiança [The “Yellow Peril” according to the logic of suspicion] (1938-1945), which brings together the modules of the Japanese and also Na boca do sertão: o perigo no interior do Estado [In the mouth of the backwoods: danger in the interior of the State], by Beatriz de M. Brusantin, which inaugurates the geopolitical control module.

The Mapping and Systematization Project of the Deops/SP Archive (1940-1983) was organized by the researchers Maria Aparecida de Aquino, Marco Aurélio Vannuchi Leme de Matos and Walter Cruz Swensson Jr., all from the History Department of the Philosophy, Science and Arts School of USP. Besides analyzing in detail those responsible for the creation and establishment of this repressive organ which “didn’t look for the criminal based upon a crime, but the crime through the (supposed criminal)”, the researchers involved worked for four years decoding the dossiers that had received letter/number codes whose significance needed to be clarified.

“There were two teams with ten people in each, composed of undergraduates, and recent history graduates working with perseverance and dedication. In the end, we could say something like ‘Open Sesame!’ in front of the deciphering of the codes”, affirmed Maria Aparecida. “São much so as Dossier series was produced by the secret service of the Deops/SP, who occupied strategic positions within the administrative structure of the police headquarters.”

In Maria Aparecida’s opinion, the records had more weight in the 30s and the dossiers during the military period. Between 1945 and 1964, a period of democracy and a lawfulness, the Deops/SP did not quit working. The repressive apparatus didn’t close down. “All of this work means that it’s not enough just to end a dictatorship, but that the limits of democracy are better understood by studying these archives and the stories that they bring to us”, explains the researcher. “Today we can better understand the meaning of authoritarianism in the Brazilian State, what the thinking of a repressive and authoritarian State is. One better understands the heart of darkness through this mapped and systematized documentation.”

Data bank
The four volumes of theDeops/SP Dossier series that will be published in September, besides the explanations on the data banks that have been constructed, will demonstrate “vertical and in-depth research” into some of the possibilities of research inaugurated through the archive. One of the volumes will deal with the late São Paulo Governor Ademar de Barros, another with respect to the 2nd Army and the set up of the DOI/ Codi, a third into the secret archives of the National Intelligence Service (SNI) and the final one about the reports of the agents infiltrated into clandestine organizations.