Anna Funder

Life behind the Wall

In Stasiland: stories from behind the Berlin Wall, the stories recorded by Anna Funde from former East Germans reveal the degrees of hatred, homesickness, anger, pain, sobriety, and the necessity and impossibility of forgetting that the East German security agency, the Stasi, caused to its citizens. Everybody who thinks the GDR was just a playful state based on a mistake, should read this impressive book, in which the 37-year-old Anna Funder has recorded life stories from the GDR – stories of perpetrators and victims and from the grey area between those two.

Through the stories of former East Germans, she slowly but surely gains access  to a country that has been erased. She finds all the degrees of hatred and homesickness, of anger, pain and sobriety, of the necessity and  impossibility of forgetting. These are the stories of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old almost successfully escaped to the West, only to be captured at the last moment. Or Julia, who couldn’t find a job anywhere because she had an Italian boyfriend. Frau Paul, who in 1961 became mother of a handicapped child who needed medical attention in the West, only to be separated by her son when the Mauer was built.


The Stasi was a ruthless organization that tortured its prisoners, people disappeared or never heard of again, threatened and blackmailed and where people simply were expelled from life: no schooling, no work, no relations. Destroyed.

Anna Funder’s personal stories speak for themselves: Miriam was imprisoned, deprived of any sleep for two weeks in order to get her confession. Her husband was also arrested and died under suspicious circumstances in his cell. Miriam was not allowed to see him, was only granted a closed coffin and to this day doesn’t know whether her husband was really in that coffin, or was secretly cremated in order to hide any signs of torture. Julia was offered a job only if she became an informant to spy on her Italian boyfriend. Frau Paul tried to escape to the West by use of the famous Bernauer Strasse tunnel, but she was captured. The Stasi tried to recruit her in order to be able to arrest and kidnap her West-German handler and as a deal offered her an opportunity to see her son, who still was treated in a West-Berlin hospital.

A lie within a lie

With a staggering ratio of one informant for every 63 civilians, the Stasi was one and a half times the size of the army. With a combination of terror and rewards, people stayed in line.  Anna Funder also speaks with former Stasi employees. Some have come to regret their actions, others still cling on to their ideologies. All now realize that they were living in a lie, but at the time did not want to admit it because they were afraid of the alternative, which was to admit it was all for nothing.

Anna Funder’s honest and relatable writing, which includes sharing personal details such as her sloppy life in Berlin is very accessible. Her inability to comprehend what she hears, even her hangovers, all is shared with the reader. It didn’t bother me, instead it gave a personal touch to the story that adds a personal touch to the narrative and helps readers process the difficult and shocking stories with a sense of comfort and shared experience.

Stasiland reveals the fallacy of the impression held by outsiders that the wound of the GDR has healed into a neat scar of nostalgic humor. Stasiland shows how much that impression is a mistake.

  • Anna Funder

    Stasiland: Life behind the wall

    ISBN: 9780062077325 | Pages: 304 pages | Publication date: June 5, 2003

    Buy on Amazon


Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder is a gripping non-fiction book that explores the lives of people who lived in East Germany during the Cold War era. Through firsthand accounts and interviews with former Stasi officers and citizens who were spied on, the book offers a poignant and shocking glimpse into the reality of life under a totalitarian regime. Funder's writing is powerful and thought-provoking, making Stasiland a must-read for anyone interested in the history of East Germany and the human toll of oppressive government control.

— Bill
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