Saturday, February 25, 2017

STASILAND - Anna Funder

"Funder became aware of the hidden histories of people whose lives had been shaped by one of the most efficient police states in history.  She set out to collect and investigate the stories of both victims and perpetrators;  of those who worked for the Stasi (the East German secret service) and those who had been persecuted by it".

This is a chilling read, seventeen million people living in fear for over 40 years.  The Stasi infiltrated every facet of people's lives.  It is estimated that 2 people per 100 were paid police informers, families denounced each other.  By having this army of informers they quantity of information gathered on its citizens was enormous,  "Laid out upright and end to end, the files the Stasi kept on their countrymen and women would form a line 180 kilometers long".

The saddest victim in this is a women who suffered a breach birth, the child was taken to a West German hospital for treatment, over night the wall was erected and she was unable to have her son live with her again for five years.

After the war the Communists simply replaced Nazi school teachers with Communist school teachers who began indoctrinating the children- get them young and you have them forever- from there the Stasi power grew and grew backed by the threat of Moscow's tanks until all the GDR was a massive zoo controlled by Honecker and Mielke.

As from the rear cover blurb above , the author interviews both sides.  The most interesting and deserving of a book of his own is Herr Bohnsack, a former lieutenant colonel responsible for 'disinformation and psychological warfare against the west'".  His boss was Marcus Wolf, supposedly the blue print for John Le Carre's GDR spymaster "Karla".

Much of Bohnsacks work was directed against West Germany.

" It collected sensitive or secret information from agents in the west and leaked it to cause harm; it manufactured documents  and spliced together recordings of conversations that never took place to damage persons in the public sphere; it spread rumours about people in the west, including the devastating rumour that someone worked for them.  Division X men fed "coups" to western journalists about the Nazi past of West German politicians, it funded left wing publications and it managed, at least in one instance, to exert extraordinary influence over the political process itself.  In 1972, the Social Democrat head of the West German Government Willy Brandt faced a no confidence vote in parliament. Division X bribed one and possibly two back-benchers for their votes to keep him in power."

Then there is the physical torture that was used against prisoners, then there is the fact that people were shot trying to cross over  "the street" in Berlin. The horrors go on and on.

For me what makes reading this so horrifying is the remarkable writing, it is totally understated no hysteria, its just outstanding.

The author is interesting in her own right ,an Australian, "she has worked for the Australian Government as an international lawyer in human rights, constitutional law and treaty negotiation before turning to writing full time."  (Wiki.)

The only criticism I have of this book is it has the most rubbish cover in relation to the contents's I have ever seen.

A great topic, great writing, an outstanding book.

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