The Stasi surveillance apparatus kept detailed files on a staggering number of East German citizens, and in the final days of East Germany, the Stasi were tasked with shredding these files. After much debate, the German state now allows German citizens to look at their own personal files—but first, the files have to be painstakingly reassembled. The shredded files—which, it’s been estimated, will take more than four centuries to reassemble by hand—symbolize the legacy of the Stasi force and the East German surveillance state. These files contain a huge amount of information about German people, some of it disturbing or painful. Throughout the book, Funder questions what will be accomplished by reassembling the shredded documents—in effect, asking what is the purpose of studying history and reliving the past.
Shredded Documents Quotes in Stasiland
It was a close call, but Germany was the only Eastern Bloc country in the end that so bravely, so conscientiously, opened its files on its people to its people.
He is telling me, in his quiet way, that the resources united Germany is throwing at this part of reconstructing the lives of its former East German citizens are pitiful, some kind of Sisyphean joke. What he is running here is an almost totally symbolic act.