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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  13,558 ratings  ·  1,303 reviews
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. In a country where the headquarters of the secret police can become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their countrymen and women, there are a thousand stories just waiting to get out. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published January 15th 2004 by Granta (first published June 5th 2003)
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Anthony Dunn "Stasiland" goes way beyond merely the mechanics of the wall. It deals with the mindset and psychology of those who viewed it as a means of "defending…more"Stasiland" goes way beyond merely the mechanics of the wall. It deals with the mindset and psychology of those who viewed it as a means of "defending their state" and their "world view" and the experiences, at the hands of the DDR 's organs of state control, of those who took a different view.

A compelling read.(less)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  13,558 ratings  ·  1,303 reviews


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Amalia Gkavea
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Any political comments will receive the axe. Don’t try to provoke me, you’ll fail miserably.*

‘’Peter Fechter, the eighteen-year- old shot trying to escape in 1962 and left to die on the death strip, because each side thought the other would retaliate if they went to help him. Someone has thrown him a roll of bandages, but he lies immobile and bleeding.’’

This book doesn’t need many words. Anna Funder has created a punch in the stomach, a work that you could characterise as ‘’Orwellian’’ if it w
...more
Steven Godin
It wasn't until about a third of the way though reading Anna Funder's riveting piece of factual writing, that the true horror and brutal reality of East German repression finally sunk in. Of the population (around seventeen million people) as many as one in every 6.5 was either a Stasi officer or informant. As for everyone else, they were pretty much screwed. Even without doing a lot wrong, confessions were forced out of the innocent simply because it made more sense to admit guilt than face day ...more
Maciek
The East German Stasi was the world's best and most efficient secret police, the textbook definition of the omnipresent Big Brother. The Stasi guarded and secured the rule of East Germany's Communist Party for four decades, during which it seeped into every tiny crevice of East German society. East Germans could not escape the Stasi - in every seven people, one informed for it; all spaces where life took place have been infiltrated and monitored by the Stasi, which kept meticulous records on its ...more
Matt
“Walls work.”

That’s the opinion of Monica Crowley (appointed the position of senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council in the Trump administration)



Well, Ms Crowley, how shall I break it to you gently? The Berlin Wall doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe you’d like to refer to a history book (in case you have one available). Look for “Germany, United” in the register. The place you’re standing at is a tourist attraction to remind people that walls don’t work in the
...more
Woman Reading
4 Stars - Lies, Paranoia and Oppression

Everyone suspected everyone else, and the mistrust this bred was the foundation of social existence.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) emerged in 1949 from the eastern section of Germany that had been occupied by the Soviet Union forces during World War II. The name was the first lie, for the GDR was no democracy. Multiple political parties existed on paper, but in reality the Social Unity Party (SED) ruled in tandem with the State Security
...more
Psychonaut
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book because David Byrne recommended it in Bicycle Diaries. It's an incredible book. I literally had to check to make sure the label said non-fiction, because some of it is so unbelievable. It tells the story of the Eastern side of Berlin when the wall was up, and the way people's lives were controlled, manipulated, and destroyed. I thought I had some idea of what went on, but I really didn't understand the extent of it until I read this book. I didn't expect this book to be s ...more
Mariel
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the chicken eats you
Recommended to Mariel by: another goodreader said David Byrne. I'm not that cool to know any Talking Head
Horror romance. I can't think of anything better than what Anna Funder came up with to describe the fascination with life in the DDR, behind the Berlin wall and under the microscope (real perverts use petrie dishes. Fact!). It's like that tv show with Tim Roth (the name escapes me right now. My mom "treated" me to a long speech like their techniques to spot liars would actually work and then forced reasons to try them on absolutely everyone and kept calling me a liar for stupid things. I imagine ...more
Muphyn
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Muphyn by: Leah
This was quite a fascinating book, especially since it's a bit of a walk down memory lane for me.

I had heard that it is quite a controversial book, especially in Germany, and thus I didn't quite know what to expect. I didn't expect the sort of memoir that this book is but I actually found that it worked quite well. And I think because Stasiland is a personal book and it never seeks to be objective in the sense a history book might aim to be, Anna Funder is in a position to take sides and becomes
...more
Jonny
Not really so long ago, East Germany was one of the most tightly controlled countries on the planet. So popular was the regime and it's policies, that it maintained a security service of Orwellian proportion, tasked both with protecting the elite from the unwashed masses, and ensuring that said masses avoided any thoughts of freedom, democracy or originality.

There are a number of stories, from both sides of the looking glass recounted here, both the victims of Stasi and members of the security f
...more
Sotiria
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sotiria by: Julián
I have read a lot of books about WWII and the Cold war but never before have I read anything about the realities of living in East Germany under the Soviet rule. I could not even imagine the extent of the horrors that people endured there. The more stories I read, the more horrified I became.
It never ceases to amaze me how innovative people can be in their cruelty....
My only "problem" with the book is that I would much prefer it if we spend more time with the stories of all these people affecte
...more
Joey
Jan 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
I had really high hopes and expectations with regard to this book. I thought it would be an insider's look into the seedy, corrupt, disgusting practices of the East German secret police. Instead, it's a tired and thinly-worn collection of super-boring and petty tall-tales from random people that haven't been fact-checked or verified in any way.

The author's style of writing is particularly grating. As I already alluded to, she breathlessly reports these stories from random people who she meets t
...more
martin
Jul 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book works well as a personal and very subjective account of a process of trying to learn about something that no longer exists. It's not an objective, deeply researched study of the GDR, more a description of fascinating personal experiences and discoveries.

I lived in the GDR for a year as a student back in the 1970s. The reality was in fact far more complex and layered (and contradictory) than Ms Funder describes but I enjoyed the book as it showed a genuine attempt to understand and occ
...more
Michael
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
The GDR or East Germany as it was formerly known lasted for just over 40 years. One of the main things that kept it alive for that length of time apart from the Berlin Wall was the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit or Stasi as it was commonly known. The Stasi used every method both legal and illegal to try and keep the people subdued including an army of informers who would track your every move to methods of punishment which ranged from brutal to straight out inhumane. Stasiland by Aussie author ...more
Sonja Arlow
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
The hardest books to review are those that you almost love.

I think the author had the best of intentions and a burning desire to tell stories of a nation that has suffered so much but I got the impression that she was quite overwhelmed by all that was told to her that she didn’t want to leave out any little detail.

So she didn’t.

The result is a mix between a memoir, travelogue and collection of non-fiction stories which left me with the feeling that the impact of each story was diluted somehow.
...more
J.
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ... keyhole listeners ...
As the most visibly catastrophic wreckage of the Cold War, the gray horror of life in the German Democratic Republic-- East Germany--- was carefully choreographed by the security apparatus, the Stasi. The basics of state control were expanded to previously unimaginable heights with the Stasi's network of informants and secret police.

Anna Funder's participatory journalism brings the ghosts of this bizarre surveillance state out to tell their own story in the vivid Stasiland, which manages to be i
...more
Dimitri
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1945-present
"What surprises me about living here is that, no matter how much is taken out, this linoleum palace continues to contain all the necessities for life, at the same time as it refuses to admit a single thing, either accidentally or arranged, of beauty, or joy. In this, I think, it is much like East Germany itself." ...more
Chrissie
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, bio, germany, history
ETA: I want to make myself really clear. I wanted to give this book five stars. That is how I reacted; I thought it was amazing and astounding what the author depicted through this book. It was only my head that reduced one star because I was a bit annoyed by some of the generalizations.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it sure did surprise me. Being a book of non-fiction I expected objectivity in its analysis of life behind the Wall. The author is not impartial. Shouldn't one be impartial wh
...more
Oleksandr Zholud
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fic book by an Australian author, who visited East Germany in the late 1990s and made a score of interviews with both Stasi personnel and their victims. I read is as a part of monthly reading for March 2020 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

In my childhood in the USSR, East Germany was presented as almost a haven: access to western goods, higher wages. The country was the showcase for socialism. Like the rest of the Soviet bloc, it actually had a massive surveillance and oppression s
...more
James
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Take a walk through Berlin today and you'll have a job finding evidence that this was once a divided city. There's certainly a sizeable chunk of the Berlin Wall on Potsdamer Platz. But in the shadow of the futuristic Sony Centre it looks more like a modern art installation than a remnant of the Cold War. As time goes by, Berlin seems finally to be getting over the Wall.

But as Anna Funder discovered, the grim monument that once defined the city still looms large in many Berliners' minds. In what
...more
Belinda Carvalho
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
Just finished rereading this, ten years (!) after originally reading it when I lived in Leipzig and wanted to learn more about the effect that the Stasi had on society. It affected me so much and I went on to learn more about GDR society through official history books and exhibits. A friend asked me about it recently and I realised I had forgotten almost the entire book, so it seemed like a good idea of time to revisit it. Especially after recent high profile GDR based TV shows such as Deutschla ...more
Nigeyb
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anna Funder has done the world a great service. She was working in Berlin in the mid-1990s when she decided to chronicle what life was like in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (aka East Germany) prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in particular the role played by the Stasi, the official state security service which effectively spied on its own people.

By placing herself into the narrative, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall relates a compelling story of how Anna Funder met o
...more
Katie.dorny
A collection of stories from behind the Berlin Wall by a woman who travelled there from Australia shortly after the wall fell.

This book contains a number of stories from all different perspectives of those who worked, lived and suffered under the regime of the Stasi.

The delving into each individual character was interesting and the stories they told were those that history books do not mention.
Baris
Nov 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: comps
This is not a history book. It is rather a dull diary of an expat -- very casually-- reporting what she hears from the people of former East Germany. She provides few interesting anectodes here and there, but nothing substantial on the topic. So if you want to get a real sense of what Stasi was about, this book would be utter disappointment.
Diane S ☔
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Thoughts soon.
Konstantin
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-politics
A bit light on the GDR, but stronger on the individual impact of history. The rating is a personal one, rather than one based strictly on the book's merits. ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Does telling your story mean you are free of it? Or that you go fettered, into your future?’

In 1992, just three years after the Berlin Wall fell, a section of it was erected outside the Harmonie German Club in Canberra. I have walked past it many times. It looks quite insignificant now, a reminder of a past when Germany was divided, a time which many would prefer to forget.

In this book, published in 2002, Ms Funder tells the stories of both some of the victims of the East German secret service
...more
Maru Kun
My main take-away from this book is that former Stasi operatives or Stasi informers aren't giving much away.

Most of the ex-Stasi who were interviewed for the book had already outed themselves for one reason or another and were already on the public record. The rest, at the time the book was written, were still lying low, despite there having been so many of them.

I was looking for more facts on the methods the Stasi used to control citizen's of the DDR, to help better identify those methods if ev
...more
Michael Flanagan
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, cold-war
Anna Funder has delivered a fascinating read that is well researched and gives readers a feeling of what it was to live behind the Berlin Wall. Stasiland in a great blend of oral and researched history that at times took my breath away.

I know that it is impossible to truly understand what it was like living in the oppressive regime that was East Germany. The ultimate Big Brother state where paranoia is the normal way of life. I was blown away by some of the stories normal Germans shared with the
...more
Tuck
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written reporting from east Germany (post wall) combining personal with history . Helps one understand the life of a paranoid society , one with a vengeance. Reminds one of garton ash writing.
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Anna Funder was born in Melbourne in 1966. She has worked as an international lawyer and a radio and television producer. Her book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, won the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize. She lives in Sydney with her husband and family.

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