The movie The Lives of Others is set in 1984 East Berlin, five years before the Berlin Wall came down. Captain Wiesler, a surveillance expert for the East German secret police, known as Stasi, is given the job of spying on a playwright and his girlfriend, a noted actress. Finding himself in a dilemma of conscience, and torn between his humanity and loyalty, Wiesler takes surprising actions with unpredictable consequences.
This compelling film, in German, subtitled, reminded me of the Iron Curtain, the oppression of the East German people under the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and the desperation that droved them to attempt escape to the West. I wanted to revisit that time and place and found these materials at the Library:
The Story of My Disappearance by Paul Watkins (FIC WATKINS) is a novel about Paul, a young East German who is recruited by the Stasi (GDR secret police). His assignment is to gather information for the state and, by association, the U.S.S.R. Paul’s assignments take him to Afghanistan, where he is imprisoned and tortured by the Mujahadin. Years later, the Berlin Wall comes down while Paul is living in the United States under an assumed name, and he is very uncertain of what the future holds. This very short novel (213 pages) offers a glimpse into the psyche of a reluctant Stasi recruit trying to make sense of his role in the world and a unified Germany.
The Berlin Wall: a World Divided, 1961-1989 by Frederick Taylor (943.1552087 TAY) offers a history of the period, from the time East Berliners were first cut off from the West by barbed wire to the erection of the 103-mile-long Wall and finally its collapse.
The Lost Border: The Landscape of the Iron Curtain by Brian Rose (943.10879 ROS) is a told in words and photographs. Rose traveled along the Iron Curtain’s Wall before and after its demise. His travels took him from the Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie and beyond. Some of his most compelling photographs capture visitors chipping away at the Wall after Germany’s unification.
Parents and children may enjoy a book published by New York Times, When the Wall Came Down: The Berlin Wall and the Fall of Soviet Communism by veteran journalist Serge Schmemann (J 943.1087 SCH).
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