former Stasi, star of the JT, militant prisoner … Witnesses tell what life was like in the GDR

IThey have white hair or naked skull and they knew a country that has disappeared: the Democratic Republic of Germany, or GDR, a communist dictatorship two hours from Paris, born in 1949 and buried forty-one years more later.

I am surprised that these groups continue today to attract crowds. The explanation may be in three syllables: "Os-tal-gie", a suitcase word that describes the nostalgia for East Germany – Ost, in German. Since about fifteen years, the German capital surfs on this mode. It is the delight of the sellers of trinkets at Checkpoint Charlie, the hirers of Trabant, these mythical cars of the GDR, and also the grandfathers of rockers of the East … even if they forbid it.

"We have nothing to do with thatplague guitarist Fritz Puppel, re-adjusting his glitter cowboy hat. Ostalgia is something that glorifies the past … For us, this system is behind us, it's over. We kept the sincerity we already had in the GDR, the one that brought people together. That, we always have it, and that's what the public expects from us. "

His friend and singer, Toni Krahl, opines the chef, a gigantic glass of rosé in his hand. After the concert, several fans bring flowers and soft toys to those who are 70 years old. The group, it is 48. And, like the country, City has experienced the deprivation and censorship of the Stasi, the famous political police of the East German regime.

A few days after the show, I find Toni Krahl in his pavilion, in an affluent suburb of Berlin. He has a tanned complexion, his wife too. They had a trip to the Canaries between two concerts. His wife makes me a pretty full-bodied coffee. The City singer drops from the first floor in slippers, a gold disc in one hand, his Stasi folder in the other. "I was confronted very early with the Stasi, from my 18 years"he slips.

After the fall of the Wall, like thousands of Germans, Krahl consulted his file in the Stasi archives and, like thousands of Germans, he was confronted with the pettiness and betrayal encouraged by the regime. Above all, he discovered who was behind his imprisonment.

Two weeks before our meeting, the rocker met his former best friend, at the chance of a day of reunion between former high school students. Toni tells me the scene.

"I told him, 'But what did you have to do to get that distinction from the Stasi?' And he said, 'I spied on you and your friend Peter … I told them what that you were doing … "

Toni Krahl

The rocker with two gold disks pauses, then slips into a bitter smile: "Later, as a known band, we were constantly watched. We knew that the Stasi could be everywhere. They were bugging our phones. My old friend to continue to 'take care' of us … He made a pact with the devil. "

Tatjana Sterneberg will not have time to put it into effect. The Stasi officers pick her from her home and take her to a post in downtown Berlin where she will be interrogated for eighteen hours. Tatjana Sterneberg is sentenced to 3 years and 8 months of detention. She is incarcerated in Hoheneck, the women's prison.

"We were surrounded by walls and barbed wire".

Tatjana Sterneberg

She tells this, taking care not to forget any important details. Dogs were patrolling too. The buildings could hold 650 people but when I arrived there were 1,600 women … old women, young people, families, and even children. "

Tatjana Sterneberg was released in 1976, with a ransom of 40,000 Deutsche Mark (about 20,000 euros) – as 33,755 other prisoners "bought" by the FRG, according to Hans-Hermann Hertle, author of The Berlin Wall Story. This practice, which allowed the GDR to obtain foreign currency, was done with the assistance of an East German lawyer, Wolfgang Vogel, who died in 2008.

She found Antonio at the end of his ordeal. "I married in a magnificent cathedral, she smiles, proudly showing an old photograph. Then our son was born … Antonio has always refused to talk about what happened in prison. "

When asked the former prisoner if she still wants to Stasi, the answer fuse: "Yes, well, it's not really anger anymore. Over time, I learned to manage my anger. But what is scary for history is that so many people have never been punished for these injustices, for their participation in this dictatorship, they have never been judged. Some are still active in associations, leftist parties. This is our story … Germany has never learned from its history. "

He arose without warning. Frank Heymann wanted to control everything, control everything, perhaps a habit taken during his sixteen years in the service of the Stasi. And that went through the choice of the place of our meeting. He had given me his instructions almost at the last minute. No way to unpack his past home, in front of his wife. "I want to leave her out of this"he sweeps away with the back of his hand. It is therefore in a restaurant set back from the center of Leipzig, on the edge of the woods, that Heymann decided to indulge.

The Stasi was a state in the state in the GDR. By the end of the 1980s, it employed nearly 100,000 people and also maintained an extensive network of several hundred thousand unofficial informants. The Stasi ensured the collaboration of the latter by using threats and benefits in kind.

After sixteen years in the service of the Stasi, Heymann faces an angry mob. It is December 4, 1989, a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Leipzig, a three-hour drive south of the capital, was one of the bastions of dissent, which earned it the name of "the city of heroes." "Two protesters came to the door of the building, Heymann remembers. They wanted to talk to the manager. And the manager was me. They said to me, 'Now it's over for you.'

In Leipzig, as in Berlin, the demonstrators took the premises of the Stasi by storm after the fall of the regime. By challenge, by contrast, and especially to access the famous records – 202 km of archives, according to Anna Funder. Some of the most compromising files have been destroyed, including those involving foreign leaders. The rest has been sorted and made available to the public. This decision was debated. The RDA remains the only country of the former Soviet bloc to have made this choice. A questionable choice for Heymann, who believes that the indics were unnecessarily exposed.

After the fall of the Wall, and despite his atypical CV, Heymann managed to get hired at Deutsche Bahn, the German equivalent of the SNCF. He talks about his past with some colleagues but avoids microphones and conferences. So why did he agree to talk to me? "It would be 1991, 1992, I would have a hard time talking to you about all this, to give you my opinion, He said. At the time, this subject triggered a form of hysteria in Germany. There was this idea that everyone in the Stasi was a criminal. But this is not true. And in a way, it frees me from talking to you about it. "

We all have in mind the image of this North Korean presenter, her pink kimono and her impassive face. Except when she announces a successful nuclear test. This way of delivering information, mechanics, corset, constraint, seems so exotic, so far from our habits … However, it is not necessary to take a flight to Pyongyang to meet the mouthpiece of a dictatorship.

Seeing the face of Schliesing in his youth, I am struck by his confidence, a confidence in the future that shines through his eyes. "For me, it was an honor to have come so far," he says. It is already considerable to have the opportunity to present the evening newspaper. I remember my first JT (He was only 25 years old). It was my moment of glory. Quite honestly, I was pretty proud. " I point out to Schliesing that he paraphrases, so to speak, Frank Heymann, the former Stasi. Was he aware of being the voice of an authoritarian and brutal regime?

Although he never found a position as prestigious as his debut on East German TV, he did well. "After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many people found themselves on the streets, remembers Schliesing. Most went west, too. I worked for a while in Hamburg, on the public radio in northern Germany. Clearly, we were not very well seen because we took the work of others. The 'Eastern brothers' were not welcomed with open arms. "

When I ask him if he trembled for his career on November 9, 1989, the day of the fall of the Wall, he replied in an ambitious, disappointed manner: "I was in the morning that day, I left the office early in the afternoon. In the evening, my colleague Angelika Unterlauf had the honor to go down in history. " It was at home, in front of his post, that Schliesing, child of the meritocracy of a dictatorial regime, saw his world crumble.

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