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Sali Miftari, 12H

VCAA 2013, Q13ii


This society, it was built on lies ...
Why does Funder find it so difficult to uncover the truth?
Anna Funders Stasiland, (2002), provides a condemning exposition into how
the deplorable practices of the socialist Stasi affected the lives of ordinary
citizens in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Funders
investigation uncovers the lingering impact of the Iron Curtain (and Berlin
Wall) had on reunified Germany, illustrating how its existence symbolised a
long lasting trauma that for some, cannot be forgotten. By positioning herself
as an Alice-like investigator that tries to make sense of the "crazy jungle
under glass", Funder discovers that the GDR's past practices of secrecy,
surveillance and oppression shrouded the truth with utter mistruth,
subjectivity, and a desire to move on into a reunified, democratic future.
Where some of Funder's observations are hindered by an unwillingness to
reflect on and acknowledge the effects of a harrowing past, the German
Democratic Republic's duplicitous and deceptive composition inherently left a
void in the memory of those subjected to life in the former soviet enclave.
Indeed, Funder's mission to uncover the truth of life in the GDR is impeded by
authorial, interviewee, and reader subjectivity. Between the extremes of a
desire of some to rid themselves of the past, and for others to honour it,
Funder's investigation is challenged by the validity of her findings, and who
she engages with to conduct them; thus producing a text that achieves
ambivalence in uncovering the truth.
Funder's investigation is challenged by certain individuals apprehension to
engaging with the truth of their history in the German Democratic Republic,
thus generating feelings of ambiguity and confusion about the narrative and
how it records life under the Stasi. At the outset of the text, Funder highlights
the difficulty faced in extracting the true nature Julia Behrend's trauma
experienced in the GDR. In her ostensibly cathartic discussion with Funder,
Behrends treading of a fine line between seeing things for what they were
in the GDR, and ignoring those in order to stay sane elucidates the how
Behrend is unable to convey a true account of her callous experiences as it
would extend the memory into the future, and debilitate her process of
rehabilitation. Furthermore, the belligerence and aggression in Funders
interview with former Stasi propagandist, Karl-Eduard Von Schnitzler, entailed
a sense of manufactured truth in his account of the existence of the German
Democratic Republic. Sudel-Edes (as he was known by viewers of the Black
Channel) ability to turn humanity into inhumanity creates an unforthcoming
perception of innate deception in what he is saying about the benefits of the
regime for the GDRs citizens, which is juxtaposed with Funders recount of
brutality suffered by Julia Behrend, or Frau Sigrid Paul, amongst others.
Indeed, the extension of German National Guilt from shame about the Nazi
reich into contrition for the injustices inflicted by the Stasi in East Germany
permeates the reunified Germany Funder finds herself in. In asking herself
whether telling your story means you are free of it? Or that you go, fettered,
into your future, Anna Funder questions whether Germanys collective desire
to move onto the future comes at the expense of noting the truth of the past,
which makes it difficult to uncover any circumstantial evidence on the

Sali Miftari, 12H


German Democratic Republic, and its impact on victims, perpetrators, and
herself as the investigational journalist researching the past.
It is reasonable to suggest that the East-German establishments malevolent
practices of ubiquitous propaganda and mistruth led to irreversibly damaging
consequences on both the citizens, and former national conscience; to the
point that in effect, there was no such thing as the truth. Indeed, Funder
discovers this Orwellian idea of consensus reality to have permeated through
much of the German Democratic Republics following; with Klaus Renfts
Combo being told that you do not exist anymore highlighting the power of
propaganda in instilling an ideal into the nations psyche, thus riddling
Funders adventures in Stasiland with further complexities in that no-one
could actually tell, or knows, of what really happened to the Klaus Renft
Combo. The institution of power, and the unquestionable nature of it in the
German Democratic Republic also allowed the truth to be manipulated
whenever it was necessary for the government; be it in regard to crop yields,
prisoner exchanges or imperialistic Western forces. Funder discovers that the
feeding of false truths was down to the fact that former leaders of the GDR
were accustomed to such power that the truth did not matter because you
[the leadership] could not be contradicted, thusly resulting in a population
uninformed about the actual realities of life in the GDR as well as inaccurate
representations for Funder to discover in her work of investigational
journalism. However, the strong and supposedly indomitable facade of the
German Democratic Republic that is illustrated in Funders interview with
former-Stasi men is challenged by the fact that it eventually did succumb to
reunification with capitalist West Germany. In fact, Funder highlights
numerous deceitful symbols that were employed by the regime in her
narrative, with Herr Kochs ostensibly gold, but in reality, light and plastic
prized hammer-and-sickle insignia reflecting on the vulnerability of a regime
that was internally purported to be unbreakable. Funders authorial intention
to chronicle the existence of the GDR, and the effect on its citizens, is
consequently challenged by the sheer nature of secrecy in and unawareness
about the German Democratic Republic both during its existence, and into
the future as well.
In encountering varied attitudes about the existence of the German
Democratic Republic, Anna Funder confronts varying prejudices- including
that of the reader, and her own. Stasiland elucidates how the heavy practice
of oppression and surveillance influenced unique and biased attitudes to the
harsh reality of life in the GDR. Indeed, Funders close friend, Klaus Renfts
landings that cushioned by alcohol highlights his dependency on alcohol to
maintain his passive view on the negatives of life in the GDR, and to an
extent, how alcohol - and other numbing agents - distorted the attitudes
Funder used to create her polemic exposition, and thus increased the
difficulty in uncovering veritable facts about the German Democratic
Republic. As an Australian who in writing Stasiland aims to uncover the truth
of the regime, and therefore socialism as well, Anna Funder subjects her
observations through her own socially democratic, capitalist ideological
filters. Such oppositional attitudes are displayed as Funder chastises
Professor Mushrooms Ostalgic outlook on life in the German Democratic

Sali Miftari, 12H


Republic as being coloured a cheap and nasty world golden, denoting her
fundamental opposition to the overall premise of the communism that a
German pub-goer wished to return. Furthermore, ambiguity in how the reader
interprets Funders version of the truth extends from the unstructured nature
of the narrative, as her narration of the non-fiction appears unreliable, and at
times, altered for fluency. Indeed, the sheer mention of the formerly East
German toilet-keeper wanting to visit the Great Wall of China seems
coincidental, and written in to foreshadow the role of the Berlin Wall in the
GDR, and her text too. Unsubstantiated anecdotes as such lessens the
credibility of Stasiland as a history of the German Democratic, thus making it
more difficult for Funder to expose and convey the real truth to herself, and
consequentially, her readership too.
Truth, and the exposition of it in Anna Funders Stasiland is very much
challenged by the inherently manufactured nature of it in the German
Democratic Republic. Indeed, to find the truth in a society built on lies is a
monumental task in itself, with the dual challenge of sifting through past
practices of secrecy and mistruth to find the truth, as well as encountering
prejudices and authorial inconsistencies making the process of uncovering
the truth about the German Democratic Republic a naturally ambitious, and
subsequently difficult one. The complex discussions Funder has, and
observations she makes, very much suggests that the psychological damage
inflicted by the Stasi, and East German Politburo in altering the truth very
much distorts the mere account of it by Funders interviewees and herself; be
it from an apprehension to tell for the sake of recovery, or the sheer fact that
truth is and was inexistent in the German Democratic Republic.