Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stasiland



I cannot recall when I developed a certain consciousness and interest in Germany. As far as my German classes in High School (that ran for 3 years) were concerned, I was not much interested in Freiburg being on the border of 3 neighbouring countries, or how I would get around in the country by memorising the traffic signs. University years have introduced many eventful stories that attached me to Germany.



Endless visits to Hamburg made this, what some recall a 'village', city very special for what it's worth with all its diversity. I've seen the World Cup 2006 Final here, stalked one of my favourite film makers (Fatih Akin) and had quite a chat while distracting him from his business meeting, seen the city covered under snow, smelt its spring-fever, heard legendary David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, been in and out of love in this city. I've had peaks of joy and despair, loneliness of a death roll, coldness of extreme grey, as well as heat of passionate love in and for Berlin which still remains as one of my top destinations. Had mitfahr rides across the country, troublesome hitch-hike from Stuttgart to München, 3 single-day visits to üsseldorf, driving on its Autobahns, out-of-necessity ride through G
über Berlin, Alice in den Städten), Olivier Hirschbiegel (das Experiment, der Untergang) all helped enhance a deeper visual insight to what this troubled land incorporated. The troubles had been injected into my blood long ago in Istanbul when I saw The Believer. I have set out once to live my own Im Juli riding trains and hitch-hiking my way from Denmark through Germany, all the way to Istanbul not so long ago. On and off interest in architecture and especially Bauhaus, history courses I took relating to inter-war and Nazi regime eras meant I was already deeply affiliated with this country even before I knew it. And now, since my last visit to Berlin in February 2007, my prolonged return to the land of 'wurst' came recently with literature. Not only that I have decided grab another Hesse book (who had major impact on me especially with Demian and Steppenwolf) only to realise that I might have out-matured (pretty bold statement!) parts of what he has to offer; I have come across another one, from the other side of the wall that brought back memories intertwined with imagination: a book called Stasiland.

Australian lawyer and radio/television producer Anna Funder cleverly tells of the stories behind the Wall she has heard from witnesses during her visits to what was formerly East Germany in the mid-1990's. She was working in Potsdam in 1997 at the Australia Centre and paid visits to Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin to reveal secrets braided by a population with a cliché remark "more spies than spied ones", as to remind the Turkish readers of the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire under the monarchy of Abdulhamid II. The first few chapters of Stasiland constructs the background of the author, her affiliation with the German language and curios follow-up on some stories to track down ex-"victims" of the Stasi (Ministiry of State Security; Ministerium für Staatssicherheit). Mainly due to German officials shying away from facing the "embarassment" of the existence of the Stasi, a theory suggested as one of the motivations to bring down the building of the former headquarters of DDR in Berlin, Funder finds few support in going through the sensitive cases of the Iron Curtain era. This is exemplified in a story of the opening chapters by Miriam Weber who struggles to arrange a funeral for her husband who was sensationally revealed 'dead' in prison. Weber fights her way around to find out the real cause behind her husband's death but her efforts end in disappointment. A run-away herself, who tried to cross the Berlin Wall on the New Year's Eve in 1968, Weber is one of the characters in Funder books that give us a hint of some of the dark sides of the Stasi.



As written in an earlier blog, I had come to know about Stasi in my first visit to Berlin in 2005, when some guy was putting up banners on a cardboard cursing Stasi and trying to create roots between the then's Chancellor Gerhard Schr

2 comments:

Nav said...

"heat of passionate love in and for Berlin"..poetic realism and beautifully descriptive.

Thank you.

Nav

ömer said...

A true poet who described a humblest of my sentences as "poetic". =)

Thanks Naveed, I'm very honoured with that comment.