Anna Funder's Stasiland follows her life in Berlin as she investigates Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall, and the lasting damage perpetrated by the GDR's Ministry for State Security – the Stasi. The structure is fluid, like a travelogue or diary, and yet what emerges is a clear picture of Germany: its people and politics, past and present.
The book opens in 1996; seven years have passed since the Reunification of Germany, yet Berlin is still in many ways a divided city. Anna Funder is working in television in West Berlin, but questions are mounting in her mind about the authoritarian government of the former GDR. Her interest is piqued when she hears the astonishing story of Miriam Weber who, aged only sixteen, made an attempt to go over the Wall. Some years later, Miriam's husband died, tragically and mysteriously, in a Stasi remand cell. Her tale of courage and resistance sets Funder off on her adventures in Stasiland: in the former Stasi Headquarters in Berlin-Lichtenberg and Leipzig, and the File Authority near Nuremberg.
In conversations with her good friend Klaus and her landlord Julia, she learns of lives profoundly invaded and disrupted by the Stasi. Then there is Frau Sigrid Paul: separated from her sick baby when the Wall was built, she ended up in Hohenschönhausen prison. Thirty-five years on, she is a broken woman, still trying to hold back the tears.
Seeking a fuller story, Funder places an advert in the personals section of a newspaper, requesting interviews with 'former Stasi officers and unofficial collaborators'. Her call is readily answered. She meets the respondents in dingy pubs, behind blacked-out car windows, and in unlit suburban rooms. These ex-Stasi range from communist propagandists to memorabilia fanatics, and include victims swept up in something far beyond their control.
Returning to Germany in springtime, Funder stumbles across a new museum of contemporary history in Leipzig. But she concludes that there is something very wrong with putting such recent history behind glass, when nothing has been resolved. She argues that wounds are still raw in a country where ex-Stasi thrive in good jobs, and justice has not yet been done; important questions remain to be asked, let alone answered.