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★★★★☆

“Stories from behind the Berlin Wall”

Written on: 14/09/2012 by occupythestate (0 reviews written)

Rather than the larger political history of the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to it's demise in 1989, Anna Funder tells the events through a series of personal stories of ordinary people who were caught up in the unfolding drama.
We hear about Miriam, a free-thinking 16 year old who attempted to escape,was tortured and imprisoned for her crime, subsequently married Charlie, who after years of surveillance, was arrested and killed.
We hear about Klaus, a member of the Klaus Renft Combo, the closest the GDR got to the Stones, whose music and style was too 'Western' so the band 'no longer existed' in the eyes of the state and all recordings were destroyed.
We hear about Hagen Koch who in 1961 walked round Berlin with a pot of paint to draw the outline of the Wall. We hear how his father was cajoled and coerced to join the Communist Party. How Hagen was also coerced to divorce his wife as she 'is inappropriate' according to the Stasi.
Along with other stories we get a picture of how ordinary life was corrupted and destroyed by the Berlin Wall.
What we don't get is how similar walls today, in Niciosia, Israel and the Mexican Border will also produce similar narratives today.
Nor do we get a sense that this is not just history. Hohenschonhausen prison was the scene of torture and brutality on behalf of 'The Ministry for State Security'. If 'Guantanamo Bay' and 'Homeland Security' are substituted, the past becomes present.
Despite this, the book explores the GDR through the tales of individuals and is very endearing for that.