Stasiland

Stasiland Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After the Stasi detained Frau Paul, she and her husband were imprisoned and then tried for collaborating against the authority of the East German government. She was found guilty and sent to Hohenschönhausen, where she served almost two years. Frau Paul takes Funder to this infamous prison building. Inside, Paul shows Funder the cell in which she was kept—it’s so tiny that she can’t even stand upright. Every day, Paul would hear the sounds of other prisoners going mad with fear and boredom.
Earlier in the book, Klaus mentioned Hohenschönhausen in his song; it was one of the largest and most infamous prisons in East Germany. Paul endured months of agony as a result of her decision to remain true to her morals and apart from her child.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Bravery and Heroism Theme Icon
While Frau Paul was in prison, Torsten remained in the hospital in West Germany, barely surviving. Doctors remember that Torsten, in spite of his sickness, was “the darling of the ward.” Michael Hinze continued to live in West Germany, and was never arrested or assassinated by the Stasi. After Frau Paul and her husband were released from jail in 1964, they got word that Torsten was celebrating Easter in the hospital, and had painted a picture for his parents. He was released from the hospital at the age of five and sent back to East Germany.
Frau Paul must have thought about Torsten every day: she was worried about his sickly condition, and wanted to take care of him. Paul was eventually reunited with her son, but by this time she’d missed out on five full years of his life, a loss she’d never fully recover.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Bravery and Heroism Theme Icon
Frau Paul could now be with Torsten, and yet Torsten had no concept of life outside his hospital. Sometimes, Torsten felt like a stranger. Frau Paul introduces Funder to Torsten, a small, unhealthy-looking man. He tells Funder that he’s proud of his mother for making the decision not to cooperate with the Stasi. Torsten grew up moving back and forth between East and West Berlin for medical reasons, and as a result various people asked him to smuggle things over the border. The Stasi asked him to inform on these people but he refused. Today, he collects a government invalid pension and claims to live “for the day.” He tells Funder he’s glad the Berlin Wall is no more—if it were still around, “It would remind me that it could come back. That everything that’s happened might be reversed.”
The chapter ends on a melancholy note: Torsten doesn’t seem to begrudge his mother for her decision not to cooperate with the Stasi, and he even seems to have taken inspiration from her (hence his own refusal to cooperate). And yet there’s an undeniable gap between Paul and Torsten, caused by their five years of separation—as Paul admits, Torsten sometimes felt like a stranger to her. Torsten’s parting thoughts could be a thesis statement for Stasiland itself: the advancement of German society, while worth celebrating, is still fragile and even reversible.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Bravery and Heroism Theme Icon