Writing as Adria Townsend and J. S. Laurenz

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Truth, Fiction, and Hopes for a Happy End

The division of Germany was a painful divorce and in some cases the reunification was an uneasy remarriage.  Just because the Berlin Wall fell, doesn’t mean it took every barrier with it.  This is true in politics and debates about continuing inequality in the east, and the west’s financial burden.  But what about emotionally?  What happens to family and friends and to love?  Parents were separated from children through forced adoption, families were kept apart.  In many cases the parties had grown too far apart to ever come back together. 
The fall of the Wall could not automatically erase the atmosphere of distrust that had festered in East Germany, under the guidance of the Stasi—the secret police.  Simon Wiesenthal once said that the Stasi was more pervasive than the Gestapo.  The network of official members of the secret police was rounded out by countless unofficial members.  Neighbors spied on neighbors.  Spouses on spouses.  It raises the question, how could you trust anyone, even yourself?  The character that developed in this book, Home Sweet Stranger, Ellie Meyer, no longer trusted her parents after they took her with no warning from East Germany, she no longer trusted herself, wondering if she had done or said something that had put them in danger in the first place. When she is reunited with her former friend after the fall of the Wall, she no longer trusts her emotions.  What happens when your heart remain loyal despite what you’ve come to know is true?
The background in this novel is historically accurate to the best of my knowledge, based on what I’ve read, seen in documentaries and experienced living abroad. Forced adoptions were real, there were prisons that were not listed on maps, parents accidentally gave their children overdoses of sleeping pills to keep them quiet as they were smuggled over the border into West Germany. The East German car, the Trabant, could be retooled to hide multiple bodies (see The Spy Museum in Washington D.C. for a detailed and shocking display). Just like after World War II, when the allied forces employed former Nazis in administrative positions, not every former Stasi member was rooted out after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.  In fact the BsTU, the Federal Commission for the Stasi Records was accused of using former Stasi members as  consultants and giving them unsupervised access to the archives.  Even a generation later, people are still coming to terms with what happened.  Those former East German towns are still losing their children who continue to migrate westward, not for freedom, but for economics. 

And the property dispute that drives the plot in Home Sweet Stranger is based on the over two million disputes and applications for restitution that arose after the fall of the wall.  Here's an interesting article about one of those disputes: 
Even 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall people are still coming to terms with reunification and what came before.  This book was my attempt to give the political remarriage a happy end on the personal level. 

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