Them

In her book Oni (Them), the journalist Teresa Toranska profiled Poland’s hardcore Stalinists, what the Poles used to call beton or concrete. When the book came out in 1985, it became an underground classic. The world of the “true believers” was in its twilight years, and soon it would be extinguished altogether. But with her interviews, Toranska managed to convey how a small, Stalin-backed...
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Life Underground

The events of 1989 are largely remembered for the people on the streets. Thousands came out in Berlin to tear down the Wall. Huge throngs appeared in Wenceslas Square in Prague. Protesters massed in the central squares of the cities in Romania and Bulgaria. Solidarity brought out huge numbers of its supporters for election events in the late spring of that year. Before 1989 – and before 1980 in...
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Pushed to the Margins

Most people who worked with the Stasi tried to hide their collaboration. There were some even in the East German opposition movement who, it was later revealed, worked with the intelligence services. Wolfgang Schnur, for example, was a lawyer who defended dissidents and Church members in the East German courts. In October 1989, he cofounded the opposition group Demokratische Aufbruch, which would...
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The Stasi’s Long Shadow

During the Vietnam War, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, which was, per capita, the most bombed country in history. Nearly one-third of those bombs didn’t explode on contact. It’s been 40 years since the bombing campaign stopped and yet more than 100 people have died over the last couple years when they encountered these exploded bombs. It’s been 24 years since...
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Eating History

The GDR Museum in Berlin is actually two museums in one. And these two parts, both devoted to everyday life in the German Democratic Republic, subtly contradict one another. That might not have been the intention of the museum founders. But this tension actually captures the ambiguities of East Germany and the ambivalence that many Germans feel today about the erstwhile communist state. The...
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