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Copy of STASILAND-Characters
Transcript of Copy of STASILAND-Characters
A young border guard for the Stasi; inspected cars for illegal immigrants
Happy-go-lucky character joining the Stasi for 'adventure'
He had no ideological commitment to the Stasi, but is a self-confessed stickler for the law.
On a tour with Funder to see some of the places where he worked, in his big, black BMW, Herr Christian tells of his acute sense of duty to obey the law.
Why was he demoted?
Herr Christian animatedly talks about his love of surveillance work, including wearing disguises: ‘Yes, being a blind man is the best way to observe people’, he tells Funder (p. 154).
He continues his enjoyment of surveillance by now working as a private detective!
Who did he discover in the boot of a car?
Funder's landlord in Berlin- odd habits
Julia had an Italian boyfriend and this got her into trouble.
She is refused employment and study opportunities and is spied on relentlessly - She notices how black cars follow her or park outside her home, her phone calls are tapped and bags constantly searched. One of the saddest aspects of Julia’s story is the deliberate ruination by the Stasi of her dreams to become an interpreter.
During the interview with Major N, her whole life is reveled back to her in minute detail and she feels totally exposed and invaded
Julia was raped just after the Wall fell - Julia becomes even more detached from the world
She is mistrustful, anxious and unable to submit to authority.
She moves to San Francisco to start a new life - Funder emphasises the stultifying effect of constant surveillance upon Julia.
The irony of Julia’s character is that she believed in the GDR and had no wish to leave.
Funder also notes that Julia, despite all she has been through, seems at times nostalgic rather than bitter about the regime. The reader may find this rather difficult to comprehend but needs to remember Funder’s observations about the East German psyche and its relationship with the past.
Funder observes: ‘By no fault of her own, Julia Behrend had fallen into the gap between the GDR’s fiction and its reality’ (p. 105).
A founding member of the Klaus Renft Combo, one of East Germany’s most popular rock groups, which was banned by the Stasi in 1975.
Klaus is easygoing, philosophical and a heavy drinker.
Singing anti-socialist songs in the GDR made them a threat but they were famous so they could not be 'liquidated'
He is actually a personal friend, and drinking companion.
Klaus is not angry or bitter at what took place, even after finding out that their manager had been Stasi all along and that another band with a new name appeared and recorded the Renft songs ‘note for note’.
Funder notes, ‘[h]e seems incapable of regret, and anger evaporates off him like sweat’ (p. 191). Funder interprets his lack of interest in punishing the Stasi as ‘his victory’—‘This is what stops him being bound to the past and carrying it around like a wound’ (p. 193).
Klaus provides a contrast
He was the Stasi Chief Propagandist. Von Schni researched, wrote and presented ‘The Black Channel’.
He sincerely believes his mantra, the west is evil and remains staunchly committed to communist and GDR ideology.As such he believes the wall was the "most useful construction in all of German history" - it prevented contamination
The language and tone used by Funder in the ‘Von Schni-’ chapter provides quite a contrast to her discussions with Miriam and Julia. We already have a clear sense of this ‘most hated face of the regime’
Angry and irrational 79 yr old man. Frail, but bullishly aggressive.
He is painted as a bully, whose shouting is followed by bouts of calm reason. When questioned about those shot while escaping over the Wall, he rants: ‘It was absolutely necessary! It was an historical necessity. It was the most useful construction in all of Germany’s history!’ (p. 134)
It is a terse encounter; Funder’s negative feelings about both his political views and personality are clear to the reader. His nickname of ‘Filthy Ed’ seems well deserved.
Leaders of the Party ruling the GDR
"Mielke was invisible, but Honeker's picture was everywhere".
Funder does not meet with these 2 but gives impressions as she walks through their quarters at Stasi
The personal narrator
Australian investigative Journalist
Goes to Berlin 1996-2000 to investigate impact of Stasi rule on ordinary people's lives in the former GDR and also to interview some of the Stasi men themselves
Her role as narrator also allows the reader to know how she feels—to see events and people from her point of view. Funder sheds tears as she talks to Miriam, Julia and Frau Paul. She feels uncomfortable with Herr Bock, feels some sympathy for Herr Bohnsack, and does not like von Schnitzler. Funder also reacts to the physical environments of the places she visits. Her obvious curiosity, detailed descriptions, and point of view towards the people she meets, engage the reader.
The first case Funder follows up in 1996
Classifies as an enemy of the state at 16 and incarcerated for 18mths
Tells Funder the story of her nearly sucessful attempted escape over the wall, which led to her imprisonment
Miriam & her husband Charlie were then continuously hassled by the Stasi
She is determined to uncoiver the truth behind her husband's 1980 death in a remand cell (hanging vs murder & coffins switched at the funeral)
In 2000 Miriam is on the brink of having the coffin exhumed - will this prove anything about the death though??
Miriam’s story drives Stasiland as Funder’s thoughts return to her so often. She deliberately lives in an apartment that makes her feel secure: ‘From here you could see anyone coming’ (p. 14)
Miriam’s experiences in prison of undergoing sleep deprivation torture are harrowing.
Her account of Charlie’s funeral takes on elements of black humour as she caricatures the Stasi efforts to control the event.
Frustrated by her dealings with the German authorities, all she can cling to now is the remote chance that the puzzlers will find something. Funder’s final description of Miriam provides a contrast to the fragile woman she first met: Miriam walks ‘straight backed into the sunlight’, Funder hoping that ‘for now [her] beasts are all in their cages’ (p. 282).
"a secret society of former Stasi men who write papers putting their side of history"
He is a completely brainwashed Stasiman who states in his defence "The foe has made a propaganda war against us"
He continuously returns to theories about socialism and does not discuss life in the GDR
Still in his sixties and vehemently defending communism, he is intent on putting forward the Stasi’s side of history.
She is incredulous that he still wants to play spy games seven years after the fall of the Wall, telling Funder he will hold a rolled up magazine as a signal when they meet at a hotel!
He also wants to see Funder’s ID card, shocked when told that Australians don’t need to carry them. Ironically, he refuses to show his ID?!?
Herr Winz is characterised as a little eccentric when he presents Funder with a copy of The Communist Manifesto signed by himself.
‘I am here to tell you about the excellent work—the masterful work—of the Stasi in counter espionage. That is where I spent my life’ (p. 85). These words give Funder all the information she needs about Herr Winz.
The complete 'Socialist man' employed in the Stasi’s cartography department
A poster boy for the new regime. Herr Koch plays a symbolic role in Stasiland.
His father was not a Stasi man but forced to raise him so
In 1961 painted the line upon which the Berlin Wall was built
After he resigns from his job, he suddenly finds himself charged with making pornographic material and put in prison & unable to contact his wife and young son. His wife, under pressure from the Stasi and fearing the removal of her child, signs divorce papers. Herr Koch describes his reaction: ‘At that moment my world broke apart’.
One little act on his part becomes a focal point for Funder. He takes a plate as ‘my little private revenge’ (p. 178) - The story of the plate is told in its own chapter, ‘The Plate’, a rather comic retelling of the Stasi’s determined efforts to recover an item of negligible financial value.
Now in his 50s, he preserves the Wall in his archive and in his work as a tour guide
He celebrates the historical happening, providing tours and renting the tower!
Anna’s colleague who helps her track down von Schnitzler and Hagen Koch.
Anna’s boss at West Berlin’s overseas television station. His dismissive attitude toward East Germans strengthens Anna’s determination to research and write Miriam’s story.
Herr Bock of Golm
A Stasi officer who taught
, the science of recruiting informers
He reveals some of the psychology governing why people informed,
"they felt they had it over other people"
Deep irony that an informer's qualities needed to be
"honest, faithful & trustworthy"
His quiet menace makes Anna uncomfortable :‘This man with his brown cocoon and his conspiratorial room is unlikely to touch me, but I resent his enjoyment in having me at his mercy’ (p. 203).
Herr Bock lives in yet another brown and beige house; even dressing in the drab colours that Funder has come to see as representing the regime.
Herr Bock justifies informing as vital for the defence of the regime although when asked ‘So why did they do it?’ by Funder, his answers appear more honest to the reader. He says some were convinced of the cause but others felt like ‘somebody’, gaining satisfaction from having one up on another person. She is interested in his observation that it never occurred to the Stasi ‘that our country could somehow cease to be. Just like that’ (p. 202).
In her 60s, Frau Paul is well prepared with notes about her story in her spick and span house
An innocent victim of the wall being built
Her critically ill son needed supplies and hospital treatment from the West - The shockingly unsupportive treatment the family receive from the state when baby Torsten is so ill seems unbelievably cruel.
They become involved in a group who smuggle Easterners to the West - how?
Her husband is caught and she is investigated - Frau Paul takes great pains to make it clear to Funder that she wasn’t a classic resistance fighter, a criminal, or politically motivated when she and her husband decide to illegally leave the GDR.
Both held at the infamous
prison for 5mths before trial!
Offered a 'deal' to act as bait for Michael Hinze (smuggling mastermind) - What is the deal? Does she accept?
Funder links Frau Paul’s story to the central idea of memory in Stasiland: ‘Memory, like so much else, is unreliable. Not only for what it hides and what it alters, but also for what it reveals’.
Frau Paul plays an important role in Funder’s collection of stories from the past but her character is also crucial to the present.
Funder writes that her ‘soul was buckled out of shape, forever’ in that prison and also reminds the reader not one of the torturers there has been brought to justice (p. 227).
‘This seems to me the sorriest thing; that the picture she has of herself is one that the Stasi made for her’. Funder’s sympathetic writing and her description of her own tears when Frau Paul breaks down, wondering if she did the right thing, are powerful.
The 'ill baby' now adult who is remarkably wise in his understanding of the situation
Crippled, he lived his first 5yrs in a Western hospital
Neither angry nor dejected
The last Stasi man Funder interviews
Worked in the Stasi’s overseas espionage department.
He is the most reasonable Stasi man in tone, and perhaps the most intelligent
He relates anecdotes about Mielke and the last days of the regime in a somewhat comic tone, describing how his division were required to play ‘war games’ at the office, even being issued machine guns and protective clothing.
Quick to adapt after the wall fell - He publicly admitted to being a Stasi man in a magazine interview, alienating himself from former colleagues
Destroyed all his files personally - how?
When Funder question about whether he has any friends, he replies: ‘Well, I have none I’ve fallen between two stools, you might say’ (p. 243). Herr Bohnsack is a sad figure that does genuinely seem to have lost his place in the new Germany.
The director of the Stasi File Authority
Oversees the thirty-one ‘puzzlers’ attempting to reconstruct shredded Stasi files.
A volunteer group of citizens who piece together the ripped up files
Daunting task -
"would take 40 workers, 375 years"
Symbolic act - the puzzlers do it because it might give people peace in finding out what happened to them;
"an insight into their own lives"
This is a character never met by Funder.
Major N. is the Minister of State Security that Julia meets in Room 118
He knows every detail of Julia’s family including her sister’s desire to study piano at the conservatory but not that Julia and her boyfriend have broken off their relationship!?
He proposes that Julia become an informer - He represents the power of the regime to have ownership over people, to control and manipulate their lives.
Major N. transgresses the boundaries of privacy for Julia, making her realise she has no private sphere left at all.
Julia’s parents assist her in calling his bluff by threatening to write to Honecker.
What do you think of when you see the cover?
Compare and contrast 2 of the covers
Similarities and/or differences?
What message do you interpret?