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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall Paperback – September 20, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Through personal stories of former East Germans, Anna tries to put together a mental pictures of what life in former GDR was like. And this mental picture is a stark, dark, oppressive, and paranoid collage of people's lives' stories.
One will learn that East Germany was 'the most perfected surveillance state of all time,' where there was one Stasi officer or informant for every 63 people. The book covers the national formation of the GDR regime and also discuss the cultural background of why Germans were willingly subjecting themselves to authority. The best torture method devised by the Stasi was sleep deprivation. With all this and more, the author makes the point that the regime would not have survived without the Soviet military muscle and presence.
The book also presents some light and funny trivia: the quasi-scientific method of 'smell sampling' used by the 'Firm' (Stasi), the East German silly dance style called 'Lipsi' and the corny or mind-numbing propaganda TV shows.
Interviewing people who lost loved ones in the evil regime's prisons, persons who taught counterintelligence classes for the Stasi, who worked as informants or undercover policeman, students who tried to escape across the Berlin Wall, and persons who are still believers in the 'proletarian' revolution and are nostalgic about the values of the former Socialist republic.
By reading this ecclectic biography collage you will learn about German cultural values, GDR political and idiological history, the Stasi (one of the most feared secret police organizations).Read more ›
The Berlin of Funder's book is post-Wall Berlin, but it is as gray and paranoid as the Berlin of John le Carre's spy novels. Funder seems depressed throughout, and it is no wonder. She spends all her time interviewing former "Ossis," East Germans who were victims of the Stasi or who were former Stasi themselves. Even her irrepresible rock musician friend reveals that his band was declared "non-existent" by the Stasi. The secret police were so thorough that he cannot find any evidence that his group, which recorded several albums and was quite popular in the East, ever existed.
Through Funder, we hear from Miriam, who nearly made it over the Wall at age sixteen, but was caught, jailed, and blacklisted. Shortly after she married, her husband was arrested, then the Stasi showed up at Miriam's door to tell her that her husband had killed himself. She refused to believe the obvious lie and the subsequent funeral was a bizarre farce. Decades later, Miriam is still trying to make sense of it all, still searching for clues to explain what really happened.
Frau Paul tells of her newborn son whose East German doctors risked their careers by smuggling the infant to the West because it was his only chance to survive a life-threatening condition. Frau Paul was denied permission to visit her baby unless she agreed to help the Stasi trap an acquaintance of hers.Read more ›
Berlin in the 1990s. Working in the media she takes a professional interest in gathering stories about East German and its all-pervasive security apparatus - The Stasi. She visits museums filled with Stasi memorabilia, seeks interviews with former agents and victims. The book is well written and evocative, it paints a realistic picture of everyday cruelty of the former regime - a wife put to her wits end trying to bury her husband who died in custody, families pressured to spy on each other and on friends - Funder quotes statistics which reveal that there was one Stasi officer for every 63 East Germans; Hitler's Gestapo had one agent for every 2,000. The cases of the victims are heartbreaking, the effects on their personalities of the harassment, surveillance and torture they endured lasts beyond the reach of the old regime, through the supposed liberation.
She is quite effective on the attitude of today's German society to Ossies (former East Germans), most former West Germans (Wessies) now feel that "they were Germans who had Communism for forty years and went backwards, and all they want now is money to have big TV sets and holidays... It was an experiment and it failed". Ossies on the other hand feel an amount of resentment that they now live in a society which is so unequal and relatively unsafe. This resentment has spawned a cynical nostalgia for the old East Germany - Ostalgia. This outcome is astonishing to the outsider, but Funder's book carefully outlines how this has come to pass, since the optimism of the day's when the Berlin wall collapsed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In places hard to figure out where the story line was leading but - in the end, a GREAT read. To make it more realistic, having similar experience or being able to ask someone with... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Juergen Riedel
I have been interested in history involving the Soviet Union for a long while, Wanted to know the other side of the story and this book is a great source for that. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Natalia Kozyakova
Almost therapeutical book for someone who was growing up close to GDR border in the eighties, like me. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jadwiga
Well written and compelling look into the lives of those living behind the iron curtainPublished 3 months ago by Karen Feder
On the cover of Stasiland, it is described as being a “masterpiece of investigative analysis”, a gushing review intended to mask the deficiencies this book presents when taking... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
If you are interested in life in East Germany, these are engaging stories of those oppressed by that system and those who were a part of that system. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ann Sutton
With my interest in the former East Germany, this book, published over a decade after the fall of the Wall, seemed promising. Read morePublished 5 months ago by John L Murphy
Fascinating book about life in a very different society than the one I live in. I wish it were a bit longer, but it was a very easy, enjoyable read about a dreary society.Published 7 months ago by HomeTekkie
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a big fan of cold war nonfiction and I read an article that listed Stasiland among the top five best books about the cold war. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Nick