Late at night, Funder walks through the streets of Berlin, passing by a drunk man. The man cries, “I don’t want to be a German any more!” and adds, “The Germans are terrible.” Funder wonders, “Were his people, now broke or drunk, shamed or fled or imprisoned or dead, any good at all?”
As the drunk man’s words might suggest, many Germans still haven’t come to terms with their country’s violent past. This uncomfortable truth undercuts the elated mood of the new, reunified German state.
A few days later, Funder learns that there’s been a request for the Stasi surveillance file on Mielke himself. It occurs to Funder that “Mielke must think the apparatus he created was so thorough … that somewhere, someone was keeping tabs on him.”
Mielke was slavishly devoted to the efficiency of the Stasi surveillance effort, to the point where the Stasi institution was more powerful than Mielke himself.
Funder reunites with Frau Paul, who’s been involved with organizing people who were persecuted in East Germany. Some people have been harassing her lately—presumably, ex-Stasi agents. Shortly afterwards, Mielke dies at the age of 92—headlines read, “Most hated man now dead.” Shortly afterwards, in a phone interview, Von Schnitzler tells Funder that Mielke has been unfairly vilified—largely because of “naked, brutal” capitalism.
Mielke’s death brings little catharsis to East Germany, even though Mielke symbolized the cruelty of East Germany for many people: ex-Stasi agents continue to harass Paul, and others debate over Mielke’s reputation, suggesting that Germany has yet to reach real closure regarding its recent past—and perhaps never will.
Funder finds that a portion of the Berlin Wall has become a tourist destination—“airbrushed for effect.” At the Wall, Funder runs into Hagen Koch, who leads tours of the Wall. The next day, Koch takes Funder around the Wall. He points out the area where the Wall used to stand, now empty. He also shows Funder to a garden located near the Wall. The garden was technically in East Berlin, but the wall zigzagged around, leaving it accessible to West Berliners. A Turkish family planted vegetables there, and the garden continues to thrive. At the end of his private tour, Koch gives Funder a piece of the Wall. He promises it’s genuine, though, Funder thinks, “There have probably been enough ‘genuine’ fragments of the Wall sold to build it twice over.”
In this passage, Funder describes the way the new German state has treated the Berlin Wall—and, implicitly, East German history in general—like a historical curiosity, to be commodified, fetishized, and gawked at. In reality—as Funder has shown throughout her book—East Germany history is still a part of many people’s day-to-day lives, and they’re not yet ready to treat it as an “airbrushed” relic of the distant past.