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The Media of Testimony explores testimony relating to the Stasi in different cultural forms: autobiographical writing, memorial museums and documentary film. Combining theoretical models from diverse disciplines, it presents a new approach to the study of testimony, memory and mediation.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction: Remembering East Germany: Contested Heritage

Abstract
This book is about testimony; it is about first-person narratives of personally experienced events and, more specifically, about how they are produced in different media forms. It thus aims to make a theoretical contribution: to establish the role that testimony plays in memory ‘conflicts’ (Irwin-Zarecka, 1994) and what happens to witness accounts when they are mediated in and through different cultural artefacts. In the process, it will provide detailed (first) analysis of a range of texts, exhibitions and films. However, as indicated by the subtitle, it aims to do this in a specific empirical context: memories of the East German State Security Service (Stasi) since unification. But why focus on the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? What can the study of remembering the now defunct East German state contribute to broader understandings of memory, media and individual experience? Memory of the GDR remains disputed and this ‘memory contest’ (Fuchs and Cosgrove, 2006) is being negotiated in a complex interaction between the political, cultural, social and individual levels. First-person accounts of life in the GDR play an important role in each of these spheres, including in cultural representations. In this introductory chapter, in order to demonstrate these dynamics and set the scene for the subsequent analysis of the media of testimony, I give an overview of some of the key public debates that have accompanied negotiation of the legacy of the GDR. I then outline the role that testimony has played in constructing the history and memory of this part of the German past.
Sara Jones

1. The Media of Testimony

Abstract
As we have seen, eyewitness testimony and individual experience have played a significant role in shaping the socio-political debates surrounding collective memory of the GDR and the processes of dealing with its legacy. This chapter seeks to give an overview of the approach to testimony, media and memory that will be taken in my analysis of a selection of these texts, exhibitions and films, as well as introduce two new theoretical terms that emerge from the study and which have wider relevance: mediated remembering communities and complementary authenticities.
Sara Jones

2. Literary Autobiography and the Stories That Can’t Be Told

Abstract
One of the key areas of interest for the State Security Service was the literary sphere. Intellectuals, and their assumed power to influence the masses in ideological terms, were both revered and feared by the East German state. This meant that writers in the GDR often enjoyed privileges that were not available to the average citizen — notably freedom of travel. However, they were also subject to intensive surveillance and those critical of the state suffered publication bans, manipulation of their private lives and even imprisonment. The desire to control the literary sphere also meant that the MfS was keen to recruit Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter who were either writers themselves, or who were involved in the publication process. After unification and the opening of the Stasi files in 1992, a number of dramatic revelations about the involvement of prominent GDR writers with the Stasi ensued, leading to further debates on the nature of the relationship between writers and political power in the GDR. In turn, for victims of Stasi observation, the opening of the files provided evidence of the level of infiltration into their professional and private lives and painful revelations regarding the complicity of friends and colleagues with the MfS.1
Sara Jones

3. Fragmented Auto/Biographies: Testifying with Many Voices

Abstract
As noted in Chapter 2, autobiographical writing as a means of testimony exists in many different forms and genres, with literary autobiography being but one of them. Preece (1995, p. 349) includes ‘memoirs, autobiographies, extended interviews, and personal statements by prominent citizens of the ex-GDR’ in his observation of a post-Wende ‘publishing phenomenon’ in this respect. However, we do not need to move outside of the book format to observe a range of different approaches to recording one’s own memories and experiences of life in the GDR and surveillance by the Stasi. Traditional autobiographies, such as those discussed in the previous chapter, stand alongside autobiographical fiction (notably, Wolf, 1990), annotated collections of Stasi files (for example: Kunze, 1990; Loest, 1991) and anthologies of testimony (for example, Schädlich, 1992). This chapter examines a selection of these works, focusing on the texts of victims of oppression at the hands of the MfS. Consideration of the production and reception of witnessing texts by those who experienced persecution, particularly in comparison with autobiographical writing by those registered as informants, can reveal further the importance and mechanisms of socially constructed schemata and social capital in the ‘field of witnessing’ and the generation of ‘trust’ as the ‘basic currency among the agents [of the field] and the object for which they compete’ (Frosh and Pinchevski, 2009, p. 133).
Sara Jones

4. The Importance of ‘Being There’: Memorial Museums and Living the Past in the Present

Abstract
The analysis of Knabe’s Gefangen in Hohenschönhausen, in particular the reframing and repurposing of memory matter to support the overarching narrative of the anthology and the political viewpoint of its editor, highlights the importance of both the mediator and the institution in the formation of collective narratives about the past. Chapters 4 and 5 will consider further the institutional embedding of memory through close examination of a medium more evidently linked to political power: the memorial museum. Williams (2007, p. 8) defines memorial museums as sites at which educational considerations, traditionally associated with the museum, coalesce with acts of commemoration and a ‘moral framework’ founded on memory of the victims of past atrocity and violence. In the context of memory of the Stasi, there are a number of sites across the five new Länder and Berlin which fit this definition. This study will consider seven memorial museums located in former Stasi remand prisons, two located in former national or regional offices of the MfS and one located in the notorious Bautzen prison, which was under the directive of the MfS. In the following, I give a brief overview of the history, form and political context of these sites. The chapter will go on to consider the role and nature of authenticity in memorial museums and the methods use to construct an authentic experience for the visitor and an authoritative narrative about the GDR. Chapter 5 will then consider the embedding of eyewitness testimony in this context.
Sara Jones

5. Whose Memory Is It Anyway? Memorial Museums and Modes of Authority

Abstract
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the production of an emotive response is valued by memorials as a key method of connecting individuals, particularly those with no living memory of the East German past, to the memories of repression that are narrated at these sites. However, the production of authenticity is only half of the story; the interpretation of the space or objects by the visitor reconstructs the meaning attributed to this authenticity. As Seaton (2009, p. 96) argues, ‘all spaces, probably most of all auratic spaces, do not have an absolute value but are polysemic, which is to say they may have different meanings for different audiences’. In this regard, Seaton (2009, p. 97) adds, ‘thanatourism1 management may involve the anticipation and negotiation of contradiction and conflict, due to the polysemia of place’. The highly contested nature of the GDR past and its significance for contemporary Germany make this particularly true for the sites under consideration in this study.
Sara Jones

6. Documentary Film: Being Moved by Memory

Abstract
The final medium of testimony to be considered in this study is documentary film. A large number of non-fiction films with the Stasi as their focus have been produced since 1990, and particularly since the Oscar-winning success of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s blockbuster film The Lives of Others (2006).1 The question of authenticity was central in the reception of this fictional representation of the East German State Security Service and debates raged over whether its improbable story of conversion and numerous errors of detail detracted from its significance as a portrayal of oppression in the East German state. Some saw the film as an ‘antidote to Ostalgie’ (Bradshaw, 2007; see also Gauck, 2006) and authentic in its presentation of the impact of the Stasi on private lives; others felt that the film did not match up to the director’s claims of authenticity (for example, Gieseke, 2008; Lindenberger, 2008) and considered the portrayal of the ‘good’ Stasi officer to be a distortion of history.2
Sara Jones

Conclusion: Extending the Remembering Community

Abstract
In his discussion of the rise of the eyewitness in historical representations of the past, Martin Sabrow (2012, p. 22) concludes that what was once a form of ‘counter-narrative’ has in the last 30 years ‘gradually achieved hegemony’. The analysis of cultural responses to the Stasi in this study can only confirm this statement. Autobiographical writing was one of the principal ways in which individuals remembered the GDR and the role of the State Security Service within it. Memorial museums focusing on the history of repression in the GDR make extensive use of eyewitness testimony to support their interpretation of the past. And each of the documentary films considered in this book deploys the power of first-person narratives to generate authenticity and authority for the versions of history they tell. However, this study has sought to show not only that eyewitnesses are everywhere but also why and how their voices are used and received in popular representations of the past. In this process, two key concepts have emerged that have relevance beyond the scope of this book and are significant for understanding the interplay between individual and collective memory formations: mediated remembering communities and complementary authenticities.
Sara Jones

Backmatter

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