Filmmaker Petra Epperlein, accompanied by director Michael Tucker, undertakes a very personal journey to former East Germany to find the truth about the past of her father, who committed suicide in 1999. She researches if he was working for the Stasi (the Ministry for State Security).
The protection of personal information is an increasingly pressing issue in these days of digital communication. Hidden cameras, hacked phones and leaked emails all provide opportunities for gathering privacy-sensitive information. What this means to our security and rule of law is difficult for many to assess, which is why it is good to learn from a situation in the recent past of the former DDR. Half the territory of our eastern neighbour was still under Communist rule and everyone knew that 'Big Brother is watching you'.
A popular East German theory was that when three people were together, one of them was probably an informant. After the reunification of Germany, it came to light that since the establishment of the DDR, over 92,000 civil servants and another 500,000 informants had been passing on information about their fellow civilians. In this documentary, filmmaker Petra Epperlein investigates whether her father might have been one of these informants.
Epperlein was born in Karl Marx City (now Chemnitz). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, she left, but her family – and her father – remained behind. He took his own life in 1999, leaving a short, cryptic letter. Now, years later, Epperlein returns to her native city to investigate whether her father had a past as a Stasi member and if this influenced his decision to take his own life. Based on interviews with family members, Stasi surveillance recordings, and archival records, Karl Marx City provides us with an unnerving look into a world where privacy was rare and suspicion commonplace.
Text: Annika Wubbolt