The fall of the Berlin Wall heralded unalloyed optimism for the future in Germany, and yet, with the benefit of hindsight, the euphoric reactions to the events of 9 November 1989 masked an array of fundamental problems that would gradually start to manifest themselves. Many commentators speculated that the merging of the old and new Bundesländer (Federal states) would require a generation to bed in due to the speed of social, political and economic union, forecasts which themselves seem overly optimistic now. In truth, nobody could have imagined the depth of trauma that lay at the heart of the GDR, or what secrets and lies lay buried, the vast majority of which were recorded meticulously in the Stasi files that were eventually opened up in 1991. Faced with his dossier, British historian Timothy Garton Ash (1997: 10) remarked: ‘What a gift to memory is a Stasi file. Far better than Proust’s madeleine.’ While that may be true for Garton Ash, who spent much time in the GDR but whose life and livelihood were never truly controlled by the state, for so many people the opening of the files, and the discoveries therein, proved traumatic and led to irrevocable family breakdowns. The extent to which people informed on their loved ones was shocking; in some cases, one wonders whether ignorance might not have been the better gift.
The corrosive effects on family lives of long-hidden secrets coming to light is central to Christian Schwochow’s debut film Novemberkind (November Child, 2008).
|Title of host publication
|Remembering and Rethinking the GDR : Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities
|Anna Saunders, Debbie Pinfold
|Place of Publication
|Number of pages
|Published - Nov 2012