Flashcards in Stasiland theme of grief and memory Deck (21):
What did Funder do by writing Stasiland
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.
What are the two ways of dealing with painful memories that Funder highlights
When burdened with painful memories, Funder shows, East Germans cope in various ways. Some people try to deny or repress these painful memories, others seek to re experience or learn more about the past.
Repression of painful memories
Members of the Stasi refuse to acknowledge what they and their peers did, even when Funder confronts them with the evidence. In denying the facts, they try to preserve their own dignity, rather than admitting that they incarcerated innocent people, violated the right to privacy, etc. But East Germans don’t repress the past simply out of guilt. It's easier for them to ignore painful memories than to think about them every day.
Other characters in Stasiland are shown to pursue the opposite strategy: instead of trying to make themselves forget the past, they seek to re-experience it or learn more about it.
Miriam whose husband Charlie may have been murdered by the Stasi, has spent decades trying to learn the truth about her husband. While Funder is sympathetic to Miriam’s behaviour.
Funder also expresses skepticism that learning the truth will help her cope with her sadness. Miriam seems to be motivated by a compulsion, rather than a rational choice. She wants to use the truth to reach closure with her grief, but there’s no guarantee that she’ll ever achieve this closure—and the same could be said for any of the grieving, traumatized Germans to whom Funder speaks.
What does Funder show in terms of grief and memory
As Miriam’s behavior indicates, there is no reliable cure for grief. East Germans’ painful memories may continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Still, Funder seems to believe that confronting the past, and facing the truth, is the only way to move forward with life. The alternative, repressing the truth, or denying that it happened at all only leads to more pain, more guilt, and more self-hatred.
‘Have you travelled yourself since the Wall came down?’ She throws her head back. ‘Not yet.'
Traveled quote analysis
Long after the reunification of Germany, the impact of East Germany can still be felt. East Germany lives on after its collapse, in the minds of its citizens. One would think that, after so many years of virtual imprisonment, the elderly woman would want to get out. Funder shows that it’s not that easy. After so much time, the woman has grown to accept her place and she remains docile, obedient, and satisfied with being cut off from the rest of the world.
I could see his neck—they'd forgotten to cover it up. There were no strangulation marks, nothing.
Strangulation quote analysis
For the last few decades, Miriam has been trying to learn the truth about her husband’s death. She never gets a clear answer, but her ongoing struggle for information, as Funder portrays it, mirrors the entire country’s ongoing struggle with the trauma of East German history.
Beauty of socialism quote
"Each time I ask [Herr Winz] about the reality of life in the GDR he returns to the beauties of socialist theory."
Beauty of socialism quote analysis
Funder doesn’t directly challenge Herr Winz’s sincerity and the same is true of her other interviews with the Stasi. Most of these officers claim to be committed to East German values, and Funder never contradicts their claims explicitly. Still, Winz’s behavior could be interpreted as a way to cope: he’s so guilty about what he did as a Stasi operative that he immerses himself in idealism, deluding others and himself into believing that he was doing the right thing.
Repressed Julia quote
"‘I think I'd totally repressed that entire episode,’"
Repressed Julia quote analysis
Rather than relive her traumatic experience every day, Julia represses her memories (unconsciously) in an attempt to have a normal life. Her behavior is, one could argue, representative of the behavior of Germany as a whole: rather than confronting the past (and potentially coming to terms with it), Germany has, by and large, chosen to deny, ignore, or trivialize East German history.
Von Schnitzler isnt the worst quote
"When we started to get tied up in this ridiculous GDR success propaganda—exaggerated harvest results and so on—I withdrew from that altogether"
Von Schnitzler isnt the worst quote analysis
Schnitz tells Funder about how he focused on the propaganda glorifying East German values and beliefs rather than the kind that dealt in outright lies; such as harvest results. His behavior mirrors a common way to cope for people who suffer from guilt. He admits that he was involved in propaganda, but then tries to separate himself from the “worst” of it. In this way he implies that there were many others worse than he.
"It meant that before the good things about the west got to us, this negative thing—the letting loose of the criminals—affected me."
Rapist quote analysis
The passage is a sobering, tragic reminder of why it’s so important for Funder to compile a book based on individuals’ accounts of the fall of the GDR. The reunification of Germany is often celebrated as the beginning of a “glorious new era in German history,” a statement that neglects the experiences of people like Julia, who continued to go through pain and suffering after reunification.
Reclaim the night quote
"We went on a ‘Reclaim the Night’ march recently, something that made me feel real positive, and far away from Thüringen and everything that happened here."
Reclaim the night quote analysis
Stasiland is, in many ways, a book about how people cope, or don’t cope, with tragedy. After enduring the horror of being raped, Julia seems to cope with her feelings by leaving Berlin and becoming involved in feminist and anti-rape causes. Funder includes this is in her text to demonstrate that Julia’s behavior is due to her own traumatic experiences and even without the GDR, the only way Julia could escape was by leaving Germany.
Sisyphean joke quote
"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."