Stasiland, Anna Funder’s account of her investigation into people whose lives were impacted by the Stasi (East Germany’s Secret Police, the Staatssicherheitsdienst) begins and ends with the story of Miriam and Charlie, two victims of the Stasi’s ruthless, merciless pursuit of what they saw as enemies of the state. Bookending with this story as she does, shows Funder’s desire to try to understand the people who could have perpetrated these crimes against characters that inspire such empathy.
And it’s true, in her investigation Funder finds plenty of ordinary Germans who through circumstances find their lives savagely impacted by the Stasi. She also meets a host of characters who worked for the Stasi for their own reasons – some through threats and others through idealogy. But few were not negatively impacted by their association.
Funder writes fluidly and with insight – although non-fiction this is highly readable and highly engaging. It celebrates the bravery of those who stood up against the regime, and attempts to shed some light on the darker side of human nature that these moments in history beg us to understand.
Pictured here is my preferred cover – the one with the girl in the red top on it is laughable.