SECTION: Friend as Enemy

Even children learn from an early age: you just don’t snitch! Even denunciation is not socially acceptable. And betrayal has already cost the heads of many. Nevertheless, betrayal has belonged to man for thousands of years, in the most diverse facets. Some 28 years after the fall of communism and a particularly perfidious variant still puzzles us – this is the betrayal by the unofficial informers (IM) of the State Security of the GDR or other ex-socialist countries. What was demanded here – often under the guise of a “better” socialism – from one person of another, how people were psychologically controlled and blackmailed against others, how biographies, friendships and marriages were destroyed by the state: this was ultimately monstrous and demanded a particularly inhuman way of thinking and feeling from the Stasi’s active controllers. In THE BLACK BOX, a high-ranking Stasi officer and lecturer in psychology at the GDR State Security College has his say. He trained senior officers and interrogators in psychological strategy. Even when speaking with the extremely empathic Tamara Trampe, the man does not recognize the perfidiousness of his methodology, but defends it – after all, he wanted to make it more "humane".

A lot of dirty linen has been washed throughout Germany on this subject since 1992, the year when the Stasi files were opened up to the public, far too often without differentiation and by those who were not affected. However, recently, documentary films have been made that do not condemn but want to explore, that allow empathy and reflection and afford space to the complexity of the character, psychology and political convictions of the IM "perpetrators". VATERLANDSVERRÄTER (ENEMY OF THE STATE) and ANDERSON of Annekatrin Hendel’s “Betrayal” trilogy see her delving into two very individual and different IM stories. Although neither protagonist explains themselves that well, she manages to create a personality puzzle offering some fragments of deeper insight and stimulating reflection. Reflection on how and why this betrayal began and what it did to its protagonists. And there is also the question of what to do after the betrayal. And how does the betrayed person cope with the breach of trust, how do they deal with violation and anger?

The feature film DRÁGA BESÚGOTT BARÁTAIM | DEAR BETRAYED FRIENDS has Sára Cserhalmi describing the silent struggle between two former friends: the rage of the betrayed person clashes with the speechlessness of the perpetrator, only to end in his own feeling of powerlessness. It’s much more painful when a wife in RYSA | SCRATCH entertains the mere suspicion that her husband had been informing on her father and put on to her for this purpose. The two feature films describe very forcefully how the pain about the breach of trust can tear a person apart.

Director Thomas Heise was betrayed by his brother's closest friend. In his film MEIN BRUDER – WE’LL MEET AGAIN, he visits his brother who now lives with this friend in southern France. It may be that this film is Heise's personal reappraisal we are able to share in. Anyway, it doesn't need any stident tones, but instead gives room for reflection and those words that are left unspoken. Life goes on, and forgiveness is lighter than hatred. KF

The series Friend as Enemy is supported by the Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany.

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