Conflicting Evidence: Hermann Kant and the Opening of the Stasi Files

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ABSTRACT

This article analyses the crisis of memory resulting from the historical rupture of 1989 and the opening of the Stasi files in 1992. Focusing on the GDR writer, Hermann Kant, I compare Kant's own account of his involvement with the Stasi in post-1989 autobiography and journalism with the portrayal of these events in the files themselves. The Stasi files have been described as both an aid to memory and a form of hostile biography, and a tension can be seen in the responses of both ‘Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter’ and victims of Stasi observation between the desire to use the files to reconstruct forgotten past events and the need to reject this secondary perspective on one's life. Hermann Kant can be seen to react to this crisis of memory with a total refusal to accept the validity of the file and an assertion of the superiority of his autobiography over this second biography. Analysis of the files and autobiography in conjunction with each other points to the ambiguity and complexity of intellectual life in the GDR and the difficulty of remembering this complexity in the post-1989 political context amidst conflicting evidence shaped by different political circumstances.

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