Stasiland

Stasiland Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At work, Funder reads hate mail from a German TV viewer, who explains that Germany will never forget “what you nazis done.” Uwe arrives and offers her a ride home. When Funder brings up the hate mail, Uwe nods and explains, “We usually respond to those in a moderate tone.” Privately, Funder thinks about the German society that supported Hitler—the disturbing truth is that, even after World War Two, a lot of people might have voted for Hitler a second time.
After the fall of Hitler in 1945, many Nazis survived under the new Communist regime. Furthermore, the government claimed that there had never been Nazis in East Germany (although, of course, there had been). Partly a result of the East German government’s policy of denial, Germans in the 21st century are still struggling to come to terms with the Nazi legacy. Certain Nazis or Nazi collaborators have gone unpunished, and state authorities have only recently begun to acknowledge the Holocaust.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
In the car ride home, Funder tells Uwe about the ad she placed in the paper, and about the stories Julia has told her. Uwe tells Funder about a man named Hagen Koch, who the TV station interviewed recently. Uwe also mentions a man named Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, the chief propagandist for East Germany, who Funder might speak with.
As Uwe implies, Funder’s two interviewees can be placed in conversation with one another: von Schnitzler was a powerful propagandist, while Koch, as Funder will learn, is living proof that East German propaganda was a lie.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
In the following days Funder familiarizes herself with von Schnitzler’s TV program, “The Black Channel,” first broadcast in 1960. In the years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, von Schnitzler was much despised: one of his main jobs was providing live commentary for old German movies when the West German TV station broadcasted them. East Germans secretly thought of him as a “grumpy old puppet.”
It’s interesting that East Germany allowed West German television to air instead of banning it altogether. Perhaps the government believed that it could subvert Western TV by mocking it—but instead, many East Germans just came to despise von Schnitzler.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Funder visits the former East German television station, now a “multimedia center.” Inside, she speaks with a woman named Frau Anderson, who tells her that von Schnitzler, unlike many former government officials, has stuck to his old message, rather than becoming a “damn turncoat.” Anderson shows Funder some tapes of von Schnitzler’s earlier TV programs from 1960: therein, he announces that he will be providing “a hygiene operation” for West German broadcasting. Later, in 1965, von Schnitzler announces that the building of the Berlin Wall is a “humane” act that will guard East Germany from invaders. In another tape, von Schnitzler introduces a group of “Lipsi dancers,” who were designed to compete with Western entertainment, such as rock ‘n’ roll. The dancers are stiff, un-sexy, and oddly clumsy.
Von Schnitzler, as much as any single person, was responsible for spouting lies on behalf of the East German government. Like some of the history Funder discusses, the Lipsi dancers seem almost funny in retrospect, since they represent East Germany’s attempts to compete with American and West German entertainment—and these attempts failed, of course, because entertainment designed for consumers’ desires will always be more entertaining than entertainment designed for the sake of state propaganda. At the time, however, the dances stood for the domineering, humorless nature of the East German government.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
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Weeks after Funder’s visit, she gets a call from Herr Winz, connecting her to von Schnitzler’s wife, who in turn gives Funder von Schnitzler’s address.
Von Schnitzler seems willing to cooperate with Funder—and as we’ll see, he has a certain defiance that makes him want to tell his side of the story.
Themes
Grief and Memory Theme Icon