In December 2003, the Stasi Commission, appointed by the President of France, recommended prohibiting public school students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols or apparel. This recommendation was quickly enacted, becoming the Law of 15 March 2004. This law is meant to be an application of the "principle of laïcité," which is part of the French Constitution. The law speaks in terms of a general prohibition, but in fact essentially targets the wearing of the headscarf by young Muslims, a practice that had been permitted in French schools since late 1989. The present article attempts to explain the particular conditions within which the problem arose in France and to render an account of the work of the Stasi Commission, of which the author was a member. In conclusion, the article offers a critical evaluation of the effects of the law.
Entre Laïcité Républicaine et Multiculturelle
In order to situate the current debate on whether the Federal Commission for the Files of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (the Stasi Archive) should cease to be an autonomous institution in the larger context, this article traces the history of the Stasi Archive and of the Stasi Files Law since 1989. Key to understanding the Stasi Archive and access to its files is the 1989 revolution which saw demonstrators demand access to information gathered by the secret police. Although the research quasimonopoly that the Stasi Archive enjoys would be ended by integration into the federal archives, file access for Stasi victims-the raison d'être of the archive-would be jeopardized. Calls for the dismantling of the Stasi archive are, therefore, premature. Some criticism can be directed at the vetting and trial process in East Germany since 1989, but it is important to remember that the Stasi Archive acted only in a support capacity for those activities.
Who Were These Men and Why Did They Not Crush Mass Protest in 1989?
Uwe Krähnke, Anja Zschirpe, Matthias Finster, Philipp Reimann and Scott Stock Gissendanner
More than twenty-five years after the revolution that toppled the German Democratic Republic, we still know little about the personnel of the organization that should have prevented it: the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi). This article reports on an individual-level investigation of the entire Stasi leadership cadre of the Karl-Marx-Stadt district with information on socioeconomic status, careers, institutional constraints and organizational culture. Although a generational cleavage was evident, we argue that Stasi leadership was so deeply convinced of socialism’s superiority and so thoroughly habituated to the bureaucratic routine of the normal “party soldier” that it was caught utterly by surprise with no plan to annihilate massive opposition from within.
Public debate in Germany, particularly in the western German
media, grew heated in 1991 and 1992 over the role of intellectuals in
East German society and their collaboration with or resistance to the
Stasi. Sparks flew with particular intensity when Wolf Biermann,
former East German dissident musician and poet, accused Sascha
Anderson, erstwhile East German dissident poet, of being a Stasi
informant and an “asshole” (while there was some disagreement
over the latter charge, the former, at least, turned out to be accurate).
As the debate raged, some observers commented that it seemed
more a clash of male egos than a serious attempt to analyze the past.
In a 1993 book on the dissident literary community, a West German
commentator suggested the Stasi debate was a conflict among “three
egomaniacs … [Wolf] Biermann, [writer Lutz] Rathenow, [Sascha]
Anderson.” East German author Gabriele Stötzer-Kachold had
made a similar suggestion in 1992.
La commission de réflexion sur l’application du principe de laïcité dans la République, appelée plus généralement « Commission Stasi, » du nom de son président, a joué un rôle central dans l’adoption de la loi du 15 mars 2004 interdisant le port « ostensible » de signes religieux à l’école publique. Pourtant, dans le rapport qu’elle a remis au président de la République le 11 décembre 20031, la question des « signes religieux » à l’école n’occupe qu’environ huit pages sur les 151 qui constituent le rapport. Ce rapport propose vingt-six mesures, et seule celle sur les signes religieux a été adoptée par les députés et les sénateurs pour avoir force de loi. La commission a-t-elle été « trahie » ? Certains de ses membres l’affirment. Pour ma part, je ne le pense pas. Il est vrai que je n’ai pas voté cette proposition d’interdiction, et j’ai été moins surpris que mes collègues par la tournure des événements. Par ailleurs, étant à la fois historien et sociologue, j’ai tenté—au fur et à mesure du déroulement des travaux de la commission—de comprendre ce qui se passait et dans quel contexte cela advenait. C’est de cela dont je voudrais rendre compte.
Jeffrey J. Anderson
Twenty years after all the excitement, Germans seem to be genuinely of two conflicting minds about unification. One is characterized by awe over the accomplishments of 1989-1990, the other by disappointment and even bitterness over unfulfilled ambitions and promises. These contrasting interpretations and assessments of unification are fluid, but surface repeatedly in the quality print media. This chapter examines the recurring themes, interpretations, and narratives about unification twenty years on, and seeks to trace the interconnections between the social, economic, and political dimensions of unification. As such, these contemporary printed narratives can tell us a great deal about how a people views its recent past, what its priorities are, and how it is facing the future. The analysis reveals that public discourse on unification twenty years after the fact resembles a blind spot—look straight at it, and it disappears, replaced by blank spot—a seemingly irreducible gap between East and West. Avert one's gaze, and the spot fills in, almost seamlessly.
Sascha Anderson, Sascha Anderson (Cologne, 2002)
Jörg Magenau, Christa Wolf. Eine Biographie (Berlin, 2002)
Christa Wolf, Leibhaftig. Erzahlung (Munich, 2002)
William L. McBride
In commenting on the three previous diverse and interesting papers above, I have decided to take the ‘category route’. The categories that I have chosen are praxis, stasis, and ethos. (I am attempting to maintain some consistency in my categories!)
Michael Shorb, Louis Daniel Brodsky, Allen C. Fischer, Yehoshua November and Jason Lee
The Holocaust Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany By Michael Shorb
Late By Louis Daniel Brodsky
The Stasi String Theory By Allen C. Fischer
Walking Already I Feel Like an Old Man Yehoshua November
A River Flowed from Eden Jason Lee
Epistemic Practices and Ideologies of the Secret Police in Former East Germany
This paper traces the epistemic practices and ideologies that Stasi (East Germany's former secret police) used to construct the GDR peace and civil rights movements during the 1980s as one of the GDR's key enemies. In particular, the paper addresses the question of how communications in organized social encounters that are hierarchized by a cultivation of secrecy (legitimized by a Manichaean worldview) and corresponding myths about the distribution of knowledge and the proximity to an absolute social good have shaped interpretive processes. The particular epistemic style of Stasi is analyzed as a peculiar conflation of ethics and epistemology which was, ironically, profoundly undialectic, that is monothetic, and thus unable to react constructively to interpretive failures in response to a fast changing environment.