Stasiland

Stasiland Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After going to the museum, Funder gets a call from Miriam, thanking her for talking to her. Funder suggests that they meet again; Miriam hesitates, but agrees. Funder understands what Miriam must be going through: Miriam has just confessed the most painful parts of her life to Funder, and probably isn’t too eager to see her again. Later that night, Funder watches a German TV program about a Leipzig stripper who stripped for East German government officials. She falls into restless sleep. At 2:30 am, she gets a phone call from her friend Klaus. Klaus lives nearby, and he and Funder often go to the same pubs.
Miriam is obviously reluctant to talk any further with Funder, and seems to agree to speak with her again purely out of politeness. Funder, for her part, seems strangely drawn to Miriam: something about Miriam’s story, and her ongoing quest for closure and truth, fascinates her. Notice the subtle way that Funder progressively becomes more and more of a “character” in her own book, rather than simply an impartial narrator.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
The next morning, Funder wakes up to the sound of the phone ringing. She has another caller about her ad in the newspaper. The caller asks if Funder is really Australian, as she’s claimed in her ad. Funder notes that many East Germans are curiously ignorant of other countries, since their travel was, of course, restricted. The caller promises to meet with Funder in Potsdam to “set the record straight.” He says that his name is Herr Winz.
It’s interesting that Herr Winz sees himself as setting the record straight; this might suggest that he believes there have been lots of lies and exaggerations of Stasi history. For obvious reasons, Stasi agents living in Germany in the 1990s are likely to take this sort of tone in interviews about their former employment.
Themes
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Funder meets with Herr Winz, who suggests that they talk in a hotel café. There, Winz asks to see Funder’s identification card, but Funder points out that Australia doesn’t issue ID cards for all its citizens. Winz seems genuinely bemused. Funder shows Winz her passport, and he examines it very carefully. When Funder asks to see Winz’s identification, he laughs. He proceeds to explain to Funder that he worked for the government from 1961 to 1990, focusing on counter-espionage. He presents Funder with a thesis he wrote on protecting East Germany from NATO infiltration. Winz explains that he wrote the thesis for the Insiderkomitee, a secret society of former Stasi officers whose main purpose, he claims, is to create “an objective view of history.”
Winz seems to be so accustomed to asking to see other people’s identification—and having other people comply fearfully—that he continues to do so long after he’s lost all authority in his country. Many Stasi agents, Funder learns, are still in contact with one another—now, however, their main purpose isn’t consolidating power or protecting the state, but simply controlling the way they’re perceived by other people.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Funder proceeds to ask Herr Winz about his work for the Stasi, but he refuses to say much. He claims that the Stasi had “people everywhere,” including spies in NATO and West Germany. When Funder asks how Winz is treated nowadays, he complains that he’s slandered and accused of human rights violations. He criticizes German capitalism, which has polluted the planet and torn society apart. He gives Funder a copy of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and leaves.
While some of the other Stasi agents with whom Funder speaks will claim that rumors of the Stasi’s power have been greatly exaggerated, Winz assures Funder that the Stasi were, in fact, hugely powerful. Notably, Winz criticizes the onslaught of contemporary capitalism—for years, he’s been trained to believe that capitalism is the enemy and Communism is the solution, and the collapse of the USSR doesn’t seem to have changed that view. Whether Funder has any sympathy for this perspective is unclear.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Funder calls Miriam a second time and leaves a message, suggesting that they speak further. She receives many more calls from old Stasi officers interested in speaking to her. She’s eager to ask Miriam more questions, but senses that perhaps Miriam has been “hounded enough.”
Funder continues to contact Miriam in vain—something about Miriam’s story has touched a nerve in her. Yet Funder has to confront the ethics of her own behavior: maybe she should leave Miriam alone and, unlike the Stasi, give her a measure of privacy.
Themes
Grief and Memory Theme Icon