Funder speaks to one more “Stasi man,” Herr Bohnsack. Over drinks in a pub, Bohnsack tells Funder about his time in Division X, the top-secret segment of the Stasi tasked with “disinformation and psychological warfare against the west.”
Each Stasi officer to whom Funder speaks is a little more secretive than the one before: Division X, we learn, was a top-secret sector of the Stasi (and with a Hollywood-esque name to boot).
Herr Bohnsack studied journalism, and spent most of his information spreading false or sensitive information for the Stasi. One of Division X’s chief responsibilities was leaking information about West Germany, such as the identities of West German spies. Division X bribed West German politicians to vote for policies the East German government preferred. As time went on, however, Division X became less active. By 1989 they had standing orders to stay at home so as not to provoke demonstrators. In the final days of the East German state, Bohnsack spent days destroying secret information.
Thanks to officers such as Bohnsack, the Stasi wielded a lot of power in other countries, even West Germany, East Germany’s sworn enemy. But over time, even Division X lost some of its power. As Funder has suggested already, the fact that the Stasi destroyed so much of its own information might suggest a guilty conscience, and the awareness that what they were doing wasn’t right (or even legal).
Bohnsack received word that somebody was about to publish a secret document containing the names and addresses of more than 20,000 Stasi employees. Knowing he had to get ahead of the story, Bohnsack contacted Der Spiegel, one of the most famous West German papers, and revealed himself as a Stasi agent. He also talked about some of the things he did as a Stasi agent—forever alienating him from his colleagues. For many years after 1989, Bohnsack received death threats because he went to the press.
It’s interesting that the vast majority of Stasi agents didn’t take after Bohnsack—in other words, they remained loyal to their organization and to each other. This might suggest that many Stasi agents were sincere in their commitment to their cause (or, alternatively, Stasi agents had been trained to stick together, even when doing so conflicted with their own interests).
That night, Funder gets a call from home—doctors have found tumors in her mother’s head, meaning that Funder will need to go home and be with her family. She calls Miriam and informs her that she’ll be leaving soon. Back at home, Funder explains, she spends time with her mother before she dies, nine months later. She’s consumed with grief, and takes three years before returning to Berlin.
Funder’s journey through Berlin comes, like the East German state itself, to an abrupt end. But she continues to ponder her interviewees’ life stories, even while she’s attending to her own mother.