Stasiland

Shredded Documents Symbol Analysis

Shredded Documents Symbol Icon

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

The Stasiland quotes below all refer to the symbol of Shredded Documents. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Stasiland published in 2011.
Chapter 7 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Anna Funder (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shredded Documents
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 27 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Anna Funder (speaker), Herr Raillard
Related Symbols: Shredded Documents
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:
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Shredded Documents Symbol Timeline in Stasiland

The timeline below shows where the symbol Shredded Documents appears in Stasiland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Miriam
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
...German viewer regarding the famous “puzzle women”—women who try to reassemble the files the Stasi shredded in their final days. The viewer explains that he wants to do a story on... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Smell of Old Men
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
...could incriminate the Stasi in criminal behavior. For days on end, Stasi employees burned or shredded incriminating documents. The guard, who has been describing the history of the fall of East... (full context)
Chapter 27: Puzzlers
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
...since 1995. There, dozens of people—and not, contrary to rumor, strictly women—are paid to reassemble shredded documents. Computers could, in theory, do the work, but, according to Raillard, these wouldn’t count... (full context)
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
...Funder calculations suggesting that it would take 40 people nearly 400 years to reassemble the shredded documents—and there are only 31 people in the office. Funder is stunned. She thinks about... (full context)