Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Anna Funder, Stasiland: Tales From Behind the Berlin Wall (2003)

Anna Funder’s Stasiland (2003) is a work of literary journalism and social history that attempts to capture the nature and atmosphere of life in totalitarian East Germany before the revolution of 1989 that swept away this ‘social experiment’ in communism.  Funder believes that the enormous state security apparatus, the Stasi, characterised this society, making it the most pervasive and invasive police state ever created.

Written from the perspective of an author educated to be a human rights lawyer, she is openly sympathetic towards the victims of the Stasi.  Funder’s account represents her advocacy for justice through compensation for the victims.  She attempts to show that the human rights of the victims of the Stasi were violated and many continue to suffer after the German unification, while the former Stasi officers remain free and, for the most part, have prospered.  The issue of compensation is for Funder unfinished business. 

The story follows Funder’s personal search for the truth, alternating between pitiful accounts of the victims of the Stasi and then the frank testimonies of (mostly unrepentant) former Stasi officers, the inclusion of their opinions being heralded by Funder as a journalistic scoop. 

Funder presents a portrait of a regime and society that she believes is fading rapidly from historical view so it urgently needs to be recorded for posterity.  She presents herself as an Australian who, not being German, is bravely confronting issues from Germany’s recent past that most Germans are reluctant to face or acknowledge. 

Funder seeks to provide an account of recent German history that is informative and accessible.  While not endorsing capitalism, she attempts to provide insights into the nature of totalitarian communist oppression, as George Orwell did in his dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty Four (1949).  She reveals in detail the workings of the oppressive police state, noting how virtually anyone could be investigated and classified and treated as an enemy.  She also noted how the flow of information about the world to the public was limited and how the regime’s misleading propaganda was presented as news.  In addition, she described the economic privations and shortfalls of the system, and the regime’s denial of realities like the existence of unemployment.    But most of all, her book puts a human face on the suffering of the victims of totalitarian oppression. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Stasiland meaning, Stasiland themes, Stasiland analysis, Stasiland notes