Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


The File

Timothy Garton Ash (1998)

 

But what a gift to memory is a Stasi file. Far better than a madeleine. (12)

. . . the Stasi's own informers, known as Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter—literally "unofficial collaborators"—or IM for short. They were subdivided into several categories: security, special, operative, conspirative, even the informer for running other informers. Since 1989, the initials IM have entered the German language. SS is the synonym in every European language for the loud, violent, outright bestiality of Nazism. IM has become, in German, the synonym for . . . routine, bureaucratic forms of infiltration, intimidation and collaboration . . . the quieter corruption of mature totalitarianism. (14)

Timothy Garton Ash The File

Samuel Johnson:
How small, of all that human hearts endure
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.
But looking back I see how much the experience of my own heart, at least, was caused by our modern "laws and kings": by the different regimes of East and West, and the conflict between them. Perhaps, after all, Johnson was expressing not a universal but a purely local truth. Happy the country where that was ever true. (23-4)

The stick has never quite been lost,
although its use has been banned.
Inside the glove of newer ways
there's still the old iron hand.
[Heinrich Heine, "Germany: A Winter's Tale"] (71)

My friend Andrea, too, concentrated on private life, bringing up her small children in the charmed atmosphere of a run-down old villa on the very outskirts of Berlin. There were lazy afternoons in the garden, bicycle rides, sailing and swimming in the lakes. Modest idylls, especially for children. "Inner emigration" and "the unpolitical German" are the large phrases behind which such lives disappear. (75-6)

For calls between West Berlin and West Germany it had a sophisticated listening station located, suitably enough, on the Brocken mountain, scene of the fabled witches' sabbath, or Walpurgis Night. Their equipment could be programmed to record any conversation in which a particular word or name was mentioned. (81)

In East Germany the regime was never popular to start with, and the longer it went on, the more it came to rely on this huge network of informers. I appear to have had the attentions of five. . . . As I study their reports on me, and set out to identify, find and talk to them in person, I am drawn back not just into my own past life but into these other lives that briefly crossed with mine. . . . Why did they do it? What was it like for them? How do they see it now? (85)

What makes me decide to publish—although without naming names—is the conviction that there is also a larger purpose. Here is a chance to bring home, with the vividness that can only come from such intimate detail, how someone is drawn into a secret-police net—and to show where such collaboration will lead you. (126-7)

He attaches a three-page typescript entitled "Some thoughts on the MfS" [The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security)]. This makes no mention at all of his own involvement but discusses the whole problem in general terms, as one interested scholar writing to another. . . . The word "I" does not appear once in his text. (139)

When he has left, Werner and I look at each other, shake our heads and start quietly laughing. Otherwise we would have to cry. Here, in that chair, has sat before us a perfect textbook example of the petty bureaucratic executor of evil. A good family man. Proud of his correctness, loyalty, hard work, decency—all those "secondary virtues" that have been identified as a key to collaboration with Nazism (and that the Prussian Association now hopes to revive). He is incapable of acknowledging, to this day, the systemic wrong of which he was a loyal servant, yet filled with remorse for having stolen a couple of Matchbox cars. (170)

He is completely unrepentant. The state was threatened by Western agents, terrorists, provocateurs, subversives. As its name suggests, the State Security Service gave ordinary people security, and they look back to it with longing now, when there's so much insecurity: crime, unemployment, drugs. Yes, there was a minority who suffered for their political views. But that's normal. Exactly the same thing happened in West Germany. What was that word they had for it? I suggest: Berufsverbot? Yes, that's it! It was exactly the same!
But I thought your system was supposed to be better?
"Na ja . . . " He laughs bitterly. Anyway, most people did appreciate the security, and they didn't mind giving up a little liberty in exchange. (183)

There was also a sense of things going wrong in the country. Privately, he and his colleagues identified two main problems, the Car Problem and the Travel Problem. The Car Problem was that there were simply no decent cars available. People could only get a puttering little Trabant or Wartburg, and they had to wait ten years even for that. The Travel Problem was that most people weren't allowed to travel anywhere, except to a limited number of countries in the Soviet bloc.
Did they ever discuss the Freedom Problem?
"No!" Pause for thought. "Although the Travel Problem was somehow related to it." (188)

Major Risse has moved to Dresden. I obtain his address from the local Residents Registration Office. You can find almost anyone's address, anywhere in Germany, just by asking. (192)

His opening line is much like that of his former colleagues: "I wanted to work for a better world." But soon he leaves that well-trodden path. The system went wrong, he says, because it was bound to go wrong, because of human nature. People can't be transformed, turned into something other than they are. Communism failed to allow for what he calls "the inner Schweinehund." It could only have worked if people had been angels. His judgment is simple but not shallow: that was communism's basic flaw. (193-4)

It must be right that the Germans, and not just the Germans, should really understand how in the second half of the twentieth century there was again built, on German soil, a totalitarian police state, less brutal than the Third Reich, to be sure, far less damaging to its neighbors, and not genocidal, but more quietly all-pervasive in its domestic control. How this state exploited some of the very same mental habits, social disciplines and cultural appeals on which Nazism had drawn, and those same fateful "secondary virtues"—duty, loyalty, punctuality, cleanliness, hard work. How all this could go on for so long with so many Germans being so little aware that it was going on. How the German language, that glorious but all-too-powerful instrument, once again lent itself to disguising evil as good. In short, how Germany still walked in the shadow of the Goethe Oak. (226-7)

What you find here, in the files, is how deeply our conduct is influenced by our circumstances. How large of all that human hearts endure, that part which laws or kings can cause or cure. What you find is less malice than human weakness, a vast anthology of human weakness. And when you talk to those involved, what you find is less deliberate dishonesty than our almost infinite capacity for self-deception.
If only I had met, on this search, a single clearly evil person. But they were all just weak, shaped by circumstance, self-deceiving; human, all too human. Yet the sum of their actions was a great evil. It's true what people often say: we, who never faced these choices, can never know how we would have acted in their position, or would act in another dictatorship. So who are we to condemn? But equally: who are we to forgive?
"Do not forgive," writes the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert,
Do not forgive, for truly it is not in your power to forgive
In the name of those who were betrayed at dawn."
These Stasi officers and informers had victims. Only their victims have the right to forgive. (252)


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