Stasiland

Stasiland Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hagen Koch continues his story for Funder. In 1960, he became a Stasi soldier. Because Heinz had been a mayoral candidate and was now cooperating with the Communist regime, however, Mielke arranged for Koch to become a technical draftsman instead of risking his life. Koch fell in love with a young woman, but the Stasi didn’t approve, and urged him to ignore her. However, Koch chose to elope with the woman in 1961, the same year that the Berlin Wall was completed. By August, the East German army had begun building the Wall, separating friends and families. Koch was involved in plotting the Wall’s location. Funder asks him why he didn’t run to West Berlin while he had a chance, and Koch smiles—“I was in love! I’d been married three weeks.”
Hagen was granted special privileges because of his father’s relationship with the local politicians; however, his privileges came with lots of string attached—Hagen couldn’t even marry the woman he loved without angering the Stasi authorities. Hagen chose to live in Communist East Germany because of personal ties—a rationale that many other East Germans probably shared.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
In 1966, Heinz met his biological father. Shortly afterwards, Hagen Koch came to realize how much his father despised the Communist regime. He resigned from the Stasi, and was promptly thrown in jail, supposedly for circulating “pornographic material” (in actuality, a decidedly non-pornographic booklet celebrating a friend’s wedding). While Koch was in jail, the Stasi confronted his wife and pressured her into signing a divorce application, threatening to take away her children otherwise. Then the Stasi showed Koch the divorce papers and pressured him to rejoin their ranks.
As Hagen grew up, he came to understand the corruption of the East German state. The state was so controlling that it promptly threw him in jail after he quit the Stasi and virtually forced his wife to divorce him—seemingly for no other reason than to enforce the message that people who “betrayed” the Stasi would be severely punished.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Confused and furious, Hagen Koch agreed to rejoin the Stasi. The divorce was canceled, but Koch was furious with his wife for “betraying” him, and divorced her anyway. Then, a year later, they remarried. The Stasi punished Koch for his “inconstancy.”
Tragically, the Stasi’s manipulations really did have an impact on Koch’s marriage—because of them, he questioned whether or not he could trust his wife. In a bitter irony, the Stasi punished Koch for inconstancy when, in fact, this inconstancy was the Stasi’s own fault.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
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