Wednesday, May 09, 2007

One thing that works really well online

is when periodicals link to archive material newly apropos--as here the TLS makes available (as a companion piece to a review of "The Lives of Others," not available online) Anne McElvoy's 2003 review of Anthony Glees's book The Stasi Files:

Halfway through the book I discovered to my considerable surprise that the industrious Dr Glees had unearthed a part of my own Stasi file - relating to my stay as a student at the Humboldt University from 1986 to 1987 - when I had given up what seemed like a pointless search in a labyrinth of changing access laws. Finding oneself reflected through the eyes of secret observers is always disconcerting. To discover that I had, according to the Stasi, "an ethereal quality" is strangely flattering. Not so edifying is the insight that "at the Humboldt University she failed to make much impression", but let's just say it was not for want of trying, so a lot of people I thought might be informing on me obviously did not bother to do so.

Surveillance was often more random and patchy than Glees's account of a relentless machine suggests. I also had contact with many of the other characters in Glees's account -not knowing that they were working for Wolf's foreign intelligence service, but not exactly surprised that they turned out to be. Oswald Schneidratus was no less than one of the elite Offiziere im Besonderen Einsatz (OIBEs), who were intended to carry on the good fight for Communism in the event of a capitalist overthrow of the regime. Schneidratus, an expert on nuclear proliferation, sought me out after 1989 and presented me with a brilliantly lucid account of the justifications, in Bismarckian balance-of-power terms, for maintaining the GDR intact. I remember thinking that the only flaw in his argument was that the State had just collapsed around him.

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