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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall [Kindle Edition]

Anna Funder
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Anna Funder's penetrating and dispassionate Stasiland really begins with one significant date: the year 1989. The Berlin Wall falls and the history of a country that had become a microcosm of the Cold War is changed irrevocably. With the hated symbol of the enforced division between East and West reduced to rubble, the two Germanys--East and West--are able to reunite; grey, depressed East Germany becomes a memory.

After the initial euphoria, the change was hard for the world to accept, but it was both exhilarating and unsettling for the denizens of the Soviet bloc state, who had lived under the brutal, paranoid regime of the secret police, the dreaded Stasi of the title. For the inhabitants of East Germany, there were some stark statistics: one in 50 East Germans had informed on a fellow citizen, and human beings behaved in fashions unthinkable just the space of a wall away.

The amazing stories that Anna Funder tells in Stasiland bring to life with extraordinary vividness both the dark and the more human sides of life in the former East Germany: a young girl who could have started World War III, the man who laid down the line that became the Wall. These and a hundred other tales (from both the recent past and the present, as Berlin still struggles with the legacy of history) make for a highly unusual book, the final effect of which is as life-affirming and positive as the destruction of the Wall must have been for those who watched. --Barry Forshaw

From Booklist

During its 40-year history, the German Democratic Republic--East Germany--was, with Soviet assistance, the perfect police state. The organ of surveillance within the GDR (as well as foreign intelligence activities) was the Stasi, which, better than any other modern secret police, had organized a large army of citizen informers. Australian writer Funder thoroughly documents that culture of domestic spying and its effects on a cross-section of East German society. To call the stories that she relates as Orwellian is rather an understatement; the fact that they are true alone goes beyond Orwell: the mysterious death of a husband while in detention, the sudden "nonexistence" of a rock star, a mother's separation from her critically ill infant. What the reader learns from these stories is that evil swings like a pendulum, from the banal to the surreal, but no matter where it is in the spectrum, it always leaves pain behind. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 800 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 307 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0062077325
  • Verlag: Harper Perennial; Auflage: Reprint (20. September 2011)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B004U6WXZ0
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.8 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (4 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #80.899 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A brilliant book written by a brilliant author! 12. September 2004
Von Perseus
Stasiland deals with one of the darker chapters of Germany's history: The German Democratic Republic. Funder (who is also the book's protagonist) visits normal people who lived under the Communist Regime. She tells their tales and their sufferings without judging too fast (this contributes to a very 'live' image of the action).
Her book is not only very convincing, but also very interesting and fascinating - even Germans learn many new (and horrible) things about the GDR. This book is definitely worth a look because you can (thanks to Ann Funder) easily identify with the people mentioned here. You will feel their despair but also their hopes and that makes this book really great!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Written with much enthusiasm 10. April 2009
Von D. Rogers
This book is a ground breaking publication of research; it makes the english speaking world aware of the life experiences of ordinary citizens in the Stazi controlled East germany. This is not a dry accademic treatment, its a sort of travellers guide to the Stazi and GDR. It contains a mine of hard information, intersperssed with the authors own experiences while collecting it. I am glad that I read it.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Tolles Buch!! 29. Juni 2013
Von Eiskaffee
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Ich habe das Buch vor Jahren auf Englisch gelesen: gerade für Personen, die aufgrund ihres Geburtsjahres/ Alters oder ihrer Herkunft nicht übertrieben viel über die DDR wissen, ist dieses Buch SEHR spannend zu lesen!! Dieses Exemplar habe ich nun für nordamerikanische Freunde (Mitbringsel) bestellt.
Das Buch setzt wenig Vorkenntnisse (Historie) voraus, ist spannend und bewegend geschrieben, vermittelt interessante und sehr emotionale Einblicke in das Berlin vor und nach dem Mauerfall. -Ideal auch für deutsche Jugendliche, die nach 1989 geboren wurden oder zum Zeitpunkt der Wiedervereinigung noch sehr jung waren. Englisch-Level: in "Schulenglisch-Dimensionen" würde ich sagen, dass man es ab Klasse 10 gut lesen können müsste.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Unter den Teppich gekehrt 24. November 2003
Anna Funder beantwortete die Zuschauerpost beim deutschen Auslandssender in Berlin. Eines Tages bekam sie einen Brief, in dem gefragt wurde, warum berichtet Ihr sowenig über Ostdeutschland und das Leben der Menschen dort, nach alldem was passiert ist?
Ihrem Vorgesetzten ist die Frage peinlich... nach dem Motto: "Das interessiert nicht mehr. Wer will sich das Jaulen dieser Ossi-Loser jetzt noch anhören?" Die junge Australierin gibt sich mit dieser Antwort nicht zufrieden und macht sich auf die Suche nach Stasiopfer und -täter, die sie interviewt und zum Teil gut kennenlernt. Sie erzählt ihre Geschichten - und zeigt damit, dass die "Ossis" durchaus Faszinierendes zu erzählen haben.
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37 von 39 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Learning about life in former Stasi-controlled GDR (DDR) through many different eye-glasses 8. Januar 2006
Von book worm - Veröffentlicht auf
Anna Funder is an Australian writter who found herself in Berlin several years after the Berlin wall and Communism in former GDR (German Democratic Republic; or DDR in the German language) collapsed.

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). Stasiland also shows how much the Stasi archives ruined many lives in former East Germany.

A recommended counter-balance to the gloomy and depressing theme of this non-fiction is the romance/drama/comedy movie "Good Bye Lenin (2003)."
28 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Puzzle People 13. August 2004
Von takingadayoff - Veröffentlicht auf
Stasiland is the former East Germany, a country where the Stasi, the secret police, spied on every inhabitant, kept files on everybody, and seemed all-powerful. Anna Funder has written about the Stasi in a way that sometimes seems like fiction, other times like memoir, and ultimately like an exceptionally readable history.

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. She desperately wanted to see her son, whose condition kept him in hospital for years, but knew that if she agreed to help the Stasi just once, she would be theirs for life. The child was well-cared for, but was growing up with only the hospital staff as his family. When he left the hospital at age six and returned to his family in the East, he was polite but distant with the parents who were strangers to him. Forty years later, Frau Paul still considers herself the traitor to her country and failure as a parent that the Stasi told her she was.

Not all of the stories are tragic. Funder learns of a woman the Stasi tried to recruit to spy on her co-workers. The woman agreed, then went to work and cheerfully told everyone that the Stasi had recruited her to be a spy. Since her cover had been blown, she was no longer useful to the Stasi. They never bothered her again.

Funder visits the office of the "puzzle people," workers who put shredded documents from Stasi files back together. The papers reveal who the Stasi was watching, what they discovered, and who the informers were. Ossis may now request to see their files, but many of the files have yet to be put back together. The director tells Funder that at the rate of an average of ten reconstructed documents a day per employee, it will take forty puzzle people 375 years to reconstruct all the shredded documents. And, he explains, "as you see, we have only thirty-one employees."

Little by little, Funder allows us to realize that the Stasi does not exist as a curious and irrelevant moment in history. The torture devices in the Stasi museum and the thousands of bags of shredded documents that recall the abuses of power are evidence of a government that still haunts the lives of millions of former Ossis. It had seemed so powerful, but when the end came for the Stasi, it was without violence in a peaceful revolution of people who were just fed up.
13 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A marvel, a must-read on totalitarianism 23. Juni 2004
Von Hugh Claffey - Veröffentlicht auf
Anna Funder is an Australian who, somewhat aimlessly, finds herself in
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.
She excellently outlines revealing vignettes - the toilet minder, ex-East Berliner , who would like to travel, especially to visit China " to have a look at that Wall of theirs"; the former broadcaster, whose weekly propaganda program made him one of the most reviled figures of the Communist regime, who now rails against the reality TV show where people are locked into a house and observed via camera, their every move recorded - he calls it "Big Brozer" with unconscious irony- as a product of `The Australian Television Tyrant' {Murdoch}.
She is less revealing when dealing with the ex-Stasi agents, whom she meets. They talk to her as an apparently neutral foreigner, but their description of the past is filled with minimization and evasion. Their bewilderment at the collapse of their entire belief system and social structure is their most deeply felt emotion.
The book strengths lie in the despair of the stories themselves, and the craft that Funder brings to their telling, the mixture of bewilderment, despair, comedy and banality with which she makes the past and present so real. That said the weaknesses lie in her intrusion of her own story into the tale and her attempts at analysis. Funder is the thread along which the story advances - the tales of her acquaintances, her journalistic assignments mingle in the narrative. For the most part this works, however it can be over-instrusive, in particular when includes some dream sequences.
As an outside in Germany, she fails on when using German self analysis - e.g. Tucholsky's observation that all Germans grovel in front of counters and aspire to sit behind them - is fine for a German to make, but smacks of intrusion into a family quarrel when used by an outsider. Occasionally the commentary will lapse into German exceptionalism - what is it about the Germans and their lack of self esteem that makes them co-operate with oppression and totalitarianism. Its seems to me that this is not too far from the views expressed in the book "Hitler's willing Executioners", and is equally fatuous. It is a myth that societies react selflessly in the face of coercive repression, the French faced it for four years in World War II, Eastern Europe for forty years. Funder's book would be better without these judgmental side tracks.
That being said, it's a wonderful read. There are heat breaking stories of peoples still living with the impact of their treatment by the Communist regime, stories of people still living in denial of the crimes that they have committed. Surprises about the compromises made by the current regime in terms of failing to pursue those crimes, both in a forlorn effort to forgive by forgetting, but also due to typical bureaucratic underfunding. Hugely revealing, and topical in the sense of reminding us that systems and regimes can make enormous mistakes, of historical importance, that questioning dissent is vital for societies and that individual morality must guides all functionaries within systems.
12 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Their story... 28. Juni 2004
Von trix - Veröffentlicht auf
The recent winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, Stasiland reads like a diary of an outsider, as Funder takes her readers through her own personal landscapes of Berlin. Perhaps one of the most honest pieces of history written, her intimate style refocuses on the idea of story-telling in the most personal sense. History, as Funder portrays it, is a matter of memory, of re-telling the story of both sides, of interpreting, of listening and of re-creating. Very few history books dare to reveal their own vulnerability, and their own uncertain claim to "objectivity". Funder puts herself into the history that she attempts to record, and exposes the author of non-fiction as a mediator between the history as recorded and the history as told. Here Stasiland is a vehicle for subjective, personal histories to be heard, to accumulate, to inter-relate and therefore giving us a picture of what it is to wield power in the Orwellian GDR and what it is to live as a subject of the terrifying totalitarian apparatus.
A beautifully written, almost bittersweet, non-fiction. Funder tells the story of Miriam - a woman that continues to struggle with the authorities for the truth of her husband's death; of Frau Paul, who continues to wonder what might have been if she had not decided "against" her child; of her landlord Julia, whose teenage love affair with an Italian brought the scrutiny of the Stasi; and of the Stasi-men - and they are always men - of the young man who drew the line for the Berlin Wall; of a spy who thought it was fun to dress up for his job; of the propaganda-machine of GDR, who continues to hold on to his socialist ideal.
The intimacy of Funder's re-telling of her interviewees' accounts is coloured also by a sadness, an elegy, but sometimes also an obssessive drive. Often, Funder's own voice intrudes, commenting on what she has heard, sharing with us her reactions to the stories she is ascribing. These moments serves to remind the readers that although the prose reads like a novel, these stories are real - no matter how closely they may resemble fiction. Funder re-tells the stories, allowing herself to become the medium through which these histories can come to light.
33 von 39 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Stories of life in the GDR, the real-life Orwellian state 2. Januar 2007
Von George Coppedge - Veröffentlicht auf
When author George Orwell wrote Animal Farm and 1984 he wrote of the contemporary and future 'proletarian' dictatorships. The German Democratic Republic, more than any other state before or since, came the nearest to a state of perfected and complete absolute control over its citizens' lives. The author of Stasiland, Anna Funder, has done a suberb job of revivifying this state in her readers' minds through the personal stories of the GDR's inhabitants. I got this book for Christmas and had it read in three days, so good I never wanted to put it down.

The book's chapters trace the lives of various GDR citizens, both those being oppressed and the Stasi personnel charged with terrifying the GDR's people into abject submission. In Soviet Russia there was one KGB agent for every 5830 people, in Nazi Germany one Gestapo agent for every 2000 people, but in the GDR there was one Stasi - or full-time informer - FOR EVERY 63 PERSONS (see p. 57)!

Funder hears shocking tales of personal tragedy, bizarre - but true - stories of GDR logic, and personal justifications from ex-Stasi men themselves. One 15-year-old girl singlehandedly, without any prior planning(!), almost manages to escape over the Berlin Wall, getting within a couple meters of freedom. Another family is permanently separated from their seriously ill son for his first five years of life. And one woman's personal and career life is ruined when she refuses to submit to ideological control.

The author also interviews some famous GDR personalities, such as musician Klaus Renft, the evil-spirited Karl Von Schnitzler, and Hagen Koch (who literally wrote the plan for the wall). She also interviews the puzzle people trying to piece back together the shredded Stasi files. And she also meets with Stasi agents, who for one reason or another, decided to join the 'dark side'.

As I was reading the book, I couldn't help but become absolutely convinced that, despite the very publicized efforts of the German gov't to piece back together the Stasi files, in fact, German (and all other Eastern European) CURRENT LEADERS WANT TO COMPLETELY OBLITERATE EVIDENCE OF THEIR OWN CRIMES DURING THE COMMUNIST REGIMES. The fact of the matter is that many of the former communist elite are still in power now and are using all their gov't influence to ensure they are never, EVER going to be outed! So, in reality, many of them have gotten away with murder and look set to lead comfortable lives into retirement. Many times throughout the book I sensed a continuing cover-up and obfuscation by former Stasi men.

The German government's extremely feeble, half-hearted attempt to reassemble the Stasi files with a staff of 30 or so persons is an absolute farce! Funder calculates it will take them over 300 years to reassemble the files at this rate. With a budget in the billions of euros, it becomes patently obvious the German government's objective is to NOT reassemble the incriminating files. A person might even believe that the Stasi File Authority is headed by a person, Herr Raillard, who is secretly charged by gov't leaders with eliminating any damning evidence that is actually found. This isn't a surprise, as it is the same across the entire former Communist bloc.

This is a great book with a wonderfully direct, realistic writing style. I hope Ms. Funder writes a sequel to the book. I would have liked to have seen some photos too, though. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in life in Eastern Europe.
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In Hitlers Third Reich it is estimated that there was one Gestapo agent for every 2000 citizens, and in Stalins USSR there was one KGB agent for every 5830 people. In the GDR, there was one Stasi officer or informant for every sixty-three people. If part-time informers are included, some estimates have the ratio as high as one informer for every 6.5 citizens. &quote;
Markiert von 12 Kindle-Nutzern
Optimists and believers are happier and healthier in their unreal worlds. &quote;
Markiert von 9 Kindle-Nutzern
I once saw a note on a Stasi file from early 1989 that I would never forget. In it a young lieutenant alerted his superiors to the fact that there were so many informers in church opposition groups at demonstrations that they were making these groups appear stronger than they really were. In one of the most beautiful ironies I have ever seen, he dutifully noted that, by having swelled the ranks of the opposition, the Stasi was giving the people heart to keep demonstrating against them. &quote;
Markiert von 6 Kindle-Nutzern

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