Stasiland Character Summaries
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- Narrator of the text, a 30 year old woman from Australia, she lives in Berlin.
- Collaboration of interviews.
- She is only an observer, so she cannot feel the guilt or fear that other characters feel, so for her, there is no need to skip parts of stories.
- At the start, funder observes the negative aspects of the city, but at the end she observes stuff that she “had never noticed were there”, showing that she had changed her perspective.
- She goes on alcohol binges to make the reader feel her discomfort.
- Anna unifies disparate stories (Julia and Klaus as an exception)
- “I know that you cannot destroy your past, nor what it does to you. It’s not ever, really, over.” – Funder
- “I like the freedom of being suspended between two places’ (281)
- ‘What am I doing here?’ (147)
- First character Anna interviews, she is the inspiration for the book. “I tried to make your story, but found I needed to explain other things around it.” (Other things = Stories between the two meetings between Anna and Miriam)
- Wrote protest pamphlets criticizing the Leipzig police’s treatment of protestors. This childish act was considered “the crime of sedition” by the Stasi. This is what brought her under investigation at just 16. She was an “Enemy of the state” at 16 years of age.
- “When I got out of prison, I was basically no longer human.”
- She almost escaped East Berlin in 1968, but was caught by a tripwire after almost making it, she was then imprisoned. This humiliated the Stasi. It was “beyond comprehension that a sixteen year-old with no tools, no training and no help” could scale the wall.
- The Stasi interrogated and tortured her in order to get an explanation, however, they were so blinded by their need to be right, that they believed her fiction (a lie she told them).
- Her first arrest (for creating the pamphlets), her second arrest and imprisonment in a brutal women’s prison (for her escape attempt), Charlie’s death and the continuous surveillance of her life left her with ‘little tics’.
- She ‘has no partner in life’ (It would be too hard to explain her past and habits)
- She lives in door-less, top storey apartments with a view, this shows her unusual need for space.
- She stands up to the Stasi/ cemetery officials, she is ‘brave and strong and broken all at once’
- At the first meeting, ‘it is as if her existence is no longer real to her.’ She wears all black, and cuts herself out of her photographs.
- At the end (second meeting) she wears all white and shows Funder pictures of her and Charlie. ‘Everything is white and light and comfortable”. She is however still looking for answers, but has made some peace with her past.
- This outlines her strength and resilience (Ability to recover)
- Against the GDR, although in the beginning she had no serious opposition to the state.
- She marries Charlie sometime after her release. Charlie dies in custody (killed by Stasi), and she continues to seek answers.
- Ends up working at a radio station.
- “In her voice is a combination of pride in how she became such a fiend, and disbelief that this country created enemies of its own children.”
- ‘I couldn’t say to someone, “I’ll meet you on Saturday” – I found that sort of thing an unbearable obligation.’
- “For Miriam, the past stopped when Charlie died.”
- Dies in the custody of the Stasi. The Stasi essentially kill him and they try to hide this face from Miriam by controlling the funeral.
- Does not submit to Stasi authority.
- Was a teacher.
- Anna’s landlord, the only character interviewed that Anna did not find through research.
- The Stasi surveil her life, intercept her letters and listen in on her love life. They even interfered with her education, sending the talented student to a school of ‘no reputation’
- The Stasi left her unemployed, in a country where unemployment was pronounced non-existent.
- Her interview with Major N, and her rape ultimately made Julia lose her self-determination.
- She dresses in ‘layers of black’, ‘regards fixed appointments as intolerable constraints on her freedom’ and is ‘unable to go forward into her future’ (similar to Miriam) She resembles Miriam in her resilience and damage. She refused marriage because she loathed the idea of being ‘utterly dependent on him’ She even attended her friends’ wedding the morning after her rape.
- Her resilience is shown when she later moves to San Francisco to start a new life where she can work though the idea of her victimhood rather than being defined by it.
- She ‘had never wanted’ to leave the GDR, she grew up believing in it (Unlike Miriam). Although her experiences lead to disillusionment. She realized that the GDR was not ‘the good father state’ in which she believed, but something ‘so very dangerous’.
- The GDR destroyed its own faithful without them having ‘done anything at all’. Julie highlights the flaws in the Stasi’s operations. They were so blinded by their need to control individuals that they undermined loyalty and faith where it existed.
- Keeps her love letters.
- “I see a woman who leaves her past in a box, but then comes to collect it…” - Funder
- “She’s a hermit crab.” – Funder
- “A woman … only part-attached to the world’
- ‘She associates the fall of the Wall with the need of what had remained of her private sphere after the Stasi had finished with it’
- ‘They honor their victims here … I’m sure it could go too far, but for me, now, it is a good thing.’
- She was closely monitored because of her relationship with an Italian man.
- Julia was raped right after the wall fell, because of this she has mixed feelings about the regime.
- She is mistrustful, anxious and unable to submit to authority.
- Julia is in some ways Anna’s doppelganger, this reduces the distance from the events she relates to. She is able to imagine herself within the foreign context.
- She responds strongly to aggressors and imagines the park’s impotent drunks as a threat. She says that the drunks ‘well they’re not’ harmless, and she goes on to talk about how one climbed up the tree outside her house and stole her cassette recorder (her neighbor said they saw one leave her yard)
- She views herself as the Stasi constructed her, as a criminal.
- She has ‘notes on her own life’, she “doesn’t, however, use the notes”.
- Arguably the most damaged of Stasiland’s characters.
- Michael Hinze describes her as a “very courageous woman”
- “…she still feels like [a criminal]”
- “She seems wobbly, a woman holding onto notes on her own life.” - Funder
- Keeps her biography.
- She is caught trying to escape, and helping others escape, and from then on the Stasi followed them. She is then brought to prison where she is perched on a stool ‘designed of indignity’, then she is asked to inform on Michael Hinze, but she refuses, if she accepts, she would be given permission to see her son in west berlin. This refusal is a courageous act. She chose her conscience over her son, tis was extraordinarily brave, it ‘took a whole new fund of courage to live with’ The ramifications of the decision illustrate the consequences of courage.
- She volunteers at the museum set up in the former Hohenschönhausen prison, where she was incarcerated in the 1960s for helping students escape East Berlin.
- Eventually reunited with her son, but only after being broken by her four-year imprisonment and the destruction of her family life.
- “I had to decide against my son, but I couldn’t let myself be used”
- “The picture she has of herself is one that the Stasi made for her”
- Frau Paul’s son.
- Born with life threatening injuries, he spent 5 years in a West Berlin hospital. Anna meets him as an adult.
- When Torsten returns, he is so institutionalized that his manners are overly formal, signaling a ‘terrible distance’ between him and his mother. This continues to pain Frau Paul. Frau Paul is now ‘a lonely, teary guilt-wracked wreck’ because of this.
- A western student, helping easterners escape to West Berlin.
- Got told by a human rights group in West Berlin about ways to escape.
- Frau Paul met Dr Hinze in East Berlin. Frau Paul was told about Michael Hinze by Dr Hinze (Michael’s father) and he said that Michael would help them escape to visit Torsten, as Dr Hinze wanted to be reunited with his son also.
Leader/ President of the GDR.
- “It is said that psychopaths, people utterly untroubled by conscience, make supremely effective generals and politicians, and perhaps he was one.” - Anna
- Head of the GDR secret police. (Minster of state security)
- “Mielke must think the apparatus he created was so thorough, with an administrative impetus all of its own, that somewhere, someone was keeping tabs on him.”
Karl Eduard Von Schnitzler
- “A grumpy old puppet throwing scorn on proceedings from on high”
- Describes himself as “One of the leading figures of the GDR”, ascribing huge importance to his television show “The Black Channel”.
- His self-importance is challenged by Anna when she mentions the back-surge, “as everyone, simultaneously, switched off” (every night when the black-channel came on, as before the black-channel, movies are shown)
- Anna does not like him.
- He has “stuck with what he said back then”
- His faith in the regime is steadfast. He believes the wall was “humane” and defends it by mention that it was “necessary to defend a threatened nation”
- He also defends Mielke by saying he is “The most humane human being” This shows how these ideas created bizarre realities in the GDR
- For the GDR.
- 79 years old, frail but aggressive.
- He presented ‘The Black Channel’, which attempted to defame the imperialistic (and capitalistic) views of the West, in order to keep the country believing in the communism.
- He remains committed to communist and GDR ideology.
- Joined the Stasi so he could box for the organization’s sporting club, although later an accident stops his sporting career he stays with the firm.
- In the middle (for/against) the GDR.
- He was demoted and locked up for 3 days due to not informing the Stasi about a marital affair he had.
- Believes he has “an acute sense of duty to obey the law” – “I am also a stickler for the law”
- He has an adulterous relationship which he keeps secret from the Stasi.
- He is demoted and he has a grudge against the friend with “an overdeveloped sense of loyalty” who informed on him.
- Takes funder to the places he used to work.
- He used to work on the Stasi’s border control.
- He claims to be sensitive but dispassionately sent would-be escapees (women and children included) back to Potsdam for certain imprisonment.
- He had no ideological commitment to the Stasi. Although he feels an obligation to obey the law, even if he does not fully agree with it. (As he feels what they are doing is wrong)
- Is now a detective (at time of book)
- “He looks straight at me, smiling his lopsided smile like a gangster, or an angel.’
- “Her Koch is a lone crusader against forgetting” – Funder
- “The GDR was like a religion. It was something I was brought up to believe in.
- “The wall is the thing that defined him, and he will not let it go”
- Against the GDR. (They were backed into a corner)
- He drew the line for the wall/ marked out where the wall would go.
- “Poster boy” for the “Free German Youth Program” (“A poster boy for the new regime”)
- He directed the Drafting office for Cartography and Topography
- He approved the wall as they were taking advantage of the “eastern way”
- His wife was forced to divorce him.
- “Unlike most heads of state, Honecker needed a personal cartographer, because he was redrawing the limits of the free world.”
- His father came to the GDR to visit, and was thrown out of his job due to contact with the Stasi, due to this Hagen handed in his resignation. A day later he was imprisoned, and the Stasi forced his wife to divorce him. The Stasi then let him join the cultural division now that his “negative influence” was gone. However he remarried her a year later.
- Koch lost his unwavering faith in the GDR (like Julia) because of how the Stasi treated him.
- First Stasi man interviewed.
- Disguises himself as a westerner, and hopes “to set the record straight”.
- Tells Anna that “We had people everywhere.”
- For the GDR, he enjoyed it. He clings to his Stasi role through his membership of the Insiderkomitee. Also clings to his hope of “the Second Coming of socialism”
- Asked for Funder’s ID
- Reluctant to share details about his past. This is a character pathetically out of touch. He even pauses before saying his name.
- Brought a copy of The Communist Manifesto.
- He now belongs to a group of ex-Stasi men (the Insiderkomitee)
- He believes that people miss the safety of the GDR and eagerly awaits the second coming of socialism (/ communism)
- “This man wants to play spy games seven years after the fall of the Wall’
- A founding member of the Klaus Renft Combo, one of the most famous rock groups. It was banned in 1975 by the stasi.
- Klaus is easygoing, philosophical and a heavy drinker.
- He often asks Anna if she wants to drink.
- No interest in pursuing Stasi personnel, claiming that they have been sufficiently punished by their own consciences.
- He is nonchalant, even amused by his encounters with the Minstry.
- This highlights Klaus’ unusual ‘gift of taking things easy’
- The Ministry obliterated his band, removing its records from shops, making them non-existent.
- Klaus was left ‘with nothing to do, no-one to do it with’
- Klaus being the only character to show such resilience highlights the damage the Stasi could inflict on ordinary people.
- “the bad boy of East German rock ‘n’ roll”
- “He seems incapable of regret, and anger evaporates off him like sweat.”
- “Some towns we went to, the main street would have its building painted only halfway up…because when Honecker came through that was the level he could see to from the back seat of the limousine…the buther’s shops full of smallgoods for the drive-by, which would vanish again after Honecker and the other officials had been through.”
- “This society, it was built on lies – lie after lie after lie.”
- Taught ‘the science of recruiting informers’ at the Ministry’s training academy.
- Uses his skills and knowledge to educate Anna about the Stasi’s formal structure.
- His undeviating subscription to “perfect dictator-logic” shows that he still firmly adheres to Stasi beliefs.
- “He is enjoying himself, here in the dark.”
- Anna undermines his Stasi-acquired power (like Herr Winz)
- Anna makes him appear childish when she states: he is “Sitting camouflaged in … a beige-and-brown diamond patter acrylic cardigan’ with “His feet, in socks and sandals, barely touch[ing] the floor”.
- For the GDR.
- His quiet menace makes Anna uncomfortable.
- He is still steeped in Stasi life as he asks for his name not to be used. (He asks Anna not to use his name)
- “Fallen between two stools.” (Stasi don’t accept him because he "outed himself", and other’s don’t accept him because he used to be a Stasi man)
- Name is openly listed on his apartment door.
- He was employed in different division from any of the other interviewees (Division X)
- Not concerned about his identity, accepts what he has done.
- Anna feels some sympathy for him.
- In the middle (for/against) the GDR.
- Outed himself after the Wall fell. (Expertise was disinformation)
- “He is not, as it turns out, a man with anything to prove”.
- His efforts to burn incriminating files in his family’s old baker’s oven.
- Anna asks who his friends are, and he says “I have none”.
- He is also a lonely victim of the Stasi.
- Herr Bohnsack is a sad figure that does genuinely seem to have lost his place in the new Germany.
- Knows everything about Julia.
- For the GDR.
- “Miss, you are not unemployed…This is the Employment Office, not the Unemployment Office…you are not unemployed! You are seeking work!...There is no unemployment in the German Democratic Republic!”
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