Stasiland

Themes and Colors
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Bravery and Heroism Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Stasiland, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Most of Stasiland takes place in Berlin in 1996, seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse, soon after, of the East German state. Following the end of World War Two, Eastern Europe fell under the control of the Communist Soviet Union. Countries such as Hungary, Yugoslavia, and half of Germany functioned as satellite states: the Soviet Union provided the states with funding and military support, and in many cases hand-picked…

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Perhaps the most important aspect of the East German tyranny that Anna Funder explores in Stasiland is surveillance. Under the leadership of Erich Mielke, the Stasi monitored a staggering number of East German citizens, many of whom had done nothing illegal, violating these citizens’ right to privacy. Some estimates suggest that there used to be almost 100,000 Stasi employees running surveillance on the country, plus an additional 173,000 informers. The Stasi accumulated millions of…

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In Stasiland, Anna Funder isn’t simply writing a history of East Germany under a Communist regime. By interviewing dozens of Germans about their experiences under this regime, she shows how people live with history—or, put another way, how an entire country of people go on living, having survived some almost unspeakably painful events.

When burdened with painful memories, Funder shows, East Germans cope in various ways. Some people try to deny or repress these…

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While Stasiland is a depressing book in parts, there are many moments in which Funder depicts ordinary East German people behaving with remarkable bravery. There are probably more specific examples of characters standing up to the Stasi and the East German government, in fact, than there are specific instances of characters betraying their friends, cooperating with the Stasi, or compromising their beliefs. In part, this is because of selection bias: the people who behaved bravely…

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Stasiland is about the ways that individual characters deal with the legacy of history, but it’s also about how Germany itself deals with its history—not just the atrocities of the East German regime, but of World War Two, the Holocaust, and events even further removed in time from the present day. In particular, Funder discusses the dozens of museums that opened throughout Germany in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall: there are…

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