Friday September 09, 2016

Karl Marx City follows filmmaker's search for answers about her father and East German Stasi

Twenty-five years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), filmmaker Petra Epperlein returns to her hometown of Karl Marx City to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumored Stasi past.

Twenty-five years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), filmmaker Petra Epperlein returns to her hometown of Karl Marx City to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumored Stasi past. ( ©pepperandbonestwo2016)

Listen 20:15

Read story transcript

East German native Petra Epperlein suffers from a condition called "ostalgie" — a nostalgia for all things East. It's something she says she's lived with for a very long time.

Twenty-five years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Epperlein returned to her hometown of Karl Marx City on a quest for answers into the life and suicide of her father. Her documentary Karl Marx City chronicles her quest as she delves into the archives of the Stasi, trying to learn whether her father had in fact been a Stasi operative.

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Filmmaker Petra Epperlein was born in Karl Marx City. ( ©pepperandbonestwo2016)

"Having worked for the Stasi was pretty much the worst thing you could accuse someone of in East Germany. And still to this day, that's actually the case," Epperlein tells The Current's Friday host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"The Stasi was the sword and shield of the Communist party. So they, basically, had to do anything to keep the party in power; that was their task. And they decided that they needed to collect information on everybody in East Germany. They wanted to know everything about everybody,"

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Petra Epperlein says while she sought for answers to her father's life and suicide in, it was difficult to look back into a contentious chapter in German history. ( ©pepperandbonestwo2016)

The Stasi's archives are extensive and Epperlein is still going through documents.

"There are still thousands of bags with shredded files. The German people have decided that they cannot let the Stasi decide on their fate — what they can know, and what they cannot know. And so they are putting these shredded files back together, which is incredible."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio.