Out of love for the people: Stasi from the eyes of the Stasi
Not all Stasi officers spent their last days trying to burn evidence, find a safe hiding place or empty a bottle of Schnapps. At least one, credited as major S., wrote his memoirs of 40 years of Stasi service, all out of love for the people. That sounds like the all-too-well known excuse of many war criminals, but this documentary gives much credence to S.'s uprightness, justified or not. S. seems to be born in or shortly after the war, and joins the infamous border police of the young DDR as an electrician. For reasons not explained in the film, he gets accused of desertion only few days after he starts his job there, and this seems to make him an easy target for the Stasi to be recruited as an informant. The involuntary bit soon disappears as S. gets to like the job, and proceeds on a career path ending with his demise in 1990, together with the Stasi, as a major ranking officer.
The picture we get of the Stasi is not so much that of an instrument of terror and torture (like the Gestapo), than that of a bureaucratic surveillance instrument, trying to know everything about everyone at every time and, as the events in 1990 show, ultimately failing to do so. The people storming the Stasi headquarters expected to find a computer at every desk, but were merely confronted with huge amounts of paper and cardfiles (as S. puts it, the western security services were probably able to watch more citizens with less effort). S. was brought up in a socialist context and defends the system to the end, although he explains surprisingly little about what this socialist state was supposed to bring about. The only thing we can safely conclude is, that to S. it meant stability and security of the citizens even if it had to come at the expense of liberty, the freedom to move around, shout it out loud or rebel in general. S.'s idea of safety encompasses mediocrity and ultimate boredom, pretty much the reputation the DDR got itself. He speaks of political dissidents as 'agitators' in the same calm way a perfectly democratic English police officer would of a bunch of autonome punkers. He defends Stasi's sneaking into other people's homes without a warrant (in violation of even the DDR's constitution) with reference to all other known secret services doing the same. After all, they're all in the business of maintaining the status quo. By any means.
The huge amount of (obviously unsharp) archive footage combined with just S.'s story and taped Stasi recordings as the soundtrack make this documentary an interestingly deviating report of the feared (S. maintains they feared the people more than the people them...) secret service, but also a quite powerful statement on the revival of the surveillance state, version 2.0, in the 21st century, with a replenishment of fresh state enemies and much more eerily efficient means of control. Again in the words of S. (as a justification for locking the TV from his children), "Vertrauen ist gut, Kontroll ist besser", trust is good, but control is better.
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