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The Laws of Others: A Jurisprudential Reflection on The Lives of Others

  • Kristen Hutchens, Jessica Nelson, Elizabeth Plachta, Jonathan Rosamond, Nick Scannavino, Vimi Shad and Russell Miller...

Extract

The movie The Lives of Others is not simply a voyage back in time. For many, it is an introduction to an entirely new world, albeit a world with troubling resonance for the so-called “War on Terror.” Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck peels back the iron curtain to expose the day-to-day lives of an unlikely assemblage of artists, spies and Apparatchiks in East Germany right before the regime fell. Several themes are presented: the emptiness of power perverts an ideology and those who should wield the public's trust; the goodwill of a cold-hearted, intrusive spy becomes the salvation of a reluctant revolutionary; a neighbor's desire for self-preservation costs a lover her life. This widely acclaimed movie underscores the fragility and insecurity of normal life in East Germany and invites movie-watchers to reflect on the fragile quality of their present-day business, personal and social relationships.

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Copyright

References

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1 The Lives of Others (Buena Vista International 2006).

2 Brzezinski, Zbigniew, Terrorized by ‘War on Terror', Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2007, at B1.

3 See, e.g., Seven Awards to German Stasi Film, BBC, May 13, 2006.

4 Markovits, Inga, Selective Memory: How the Law Affects What We Remember and Forget about the Past – The Case of East Germany, 35 Law & Society Review 513–14 (2001).

5 See Robert E. Conot, Justice at Nuremberg (1993); Judgment at Nuremberg (United Artists 1961).

6 Schröder, Richard, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Jan. 2, 1991 (quoted in Jürgen Habermas, The Normative Deficits of Unification, in The Past as Future 33, 50 (Michael Haller ed., Max Pensky trans., 1994)).

7 A. James McAdams, Judging the Past in Unified Germany (2001).

8 Id. at 55–87.

9 Claus Offe, Varieties of Transition 88 (1996).

10 Disqualification was extended to pension rights by the statutory regime, but the Federal Constitutional Court ruled these statutory provisions unconstitutional.

11 See Fink Case, BVerfGE 96, 189, translated in 3 Decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Questions of Law Arising from German Unification, 1973–2004, 418 (2005); Treaty Between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic on the Establishment of German Unity, August 31, 1990, BGBl. II:885, Art. 20 (1) and Annex I, Chapter XIX, Subject Area A, part III, no. 1, subsection 5, no. 2.

12 See Wall Shooting Case, BVerfGE 95, 96.

13 McAdams, supra note 7, at 35.

14 McAdams, Offe and Markovits remark that only a small number of East Germans were ultimately affected by the disqualification regime. Market forces proved far more debilitating. See McAdams, supra note 7; Offe, supra note 9; Markovits, supra note 4.

15 See, Fink Case, BVerfGE 96, 189.

16 Id. at 426.

17 Id. at 421.

18 Id.

19 Id. at 422.

20 Id. at 420.

21 Id. at 423.

22 Id. at 423–24.

23 Id. at 425–26.

24 Id. at 420.

25 See Stasi Questionaire Case BVerfGE 96, 171, translated in 3 Decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Questions of Law Arising from German Unification, 1973–2004 358 (2005).

26 Id. at 367.

27 See id. at 368. For the second and third cases grouped as part of the Court's Questionnaire decision, the Court found a violation of both Article 2 (1) and Article 12 (1) of the Basic Law.

28 Id.

29 Id.

30 Id. at 369.

31 Id.

32 Id.

33 Id. at 370.

34 Id.

35 See Fink Case, BVerfGE 96, 189.

36 See Stasi Questionaire Case, BVerfGE 96, 171.

37 McAdams, supra note 7, at 73.

38 McAdams, supra note 7, at 70. This is a large number, no doubt. McAdams compares it to the much smaller degree of Gestapo penetration into German society during the Nazi era. Id. But it is considerably smaller than is often assumed. Where some suggest that as many as a third of all East Germans were in some way affiliated with the Stasi, McAdams reaches a much smaller figure at the time of the GDR's collapse: “at most, about 2.5 percent, or 265,200 persons out of 10,520,000 citizens between the ages of 18 and 65.” Id.

39 Id. at 73.

40 Id.

41 Id. McAdams notes that “there can be little doubt that the scores of new companies and businesses that sprang up throughout the former GDR in the first half of the 1990s had the wherewithal to undertake sweeping review of their ranks to match the most aggressive [public sector] campaigns. … However, as long as skilled labor was in short supply in the East, private employers were apparently more inclined to value the technical abilities and training of those who worked for them than to concern themselves with ancient history. As a consequence, as late as mid-1994, private firms had submitted only about 10,000 requests for background checks to the [Gauck Agency] in marked contrast to the well over 1.2 million inquiries filed by public agencies over the same period.” Id. at 76 (citations omitted).

42 See also Simon Burnett, Ghost Strasse – Germany's East Trapped Between Past and Present 127–140 (2007) (describing a meeting of former Stasi officers at which one of the attendees is quoted as saying “‘there is no need for regrets’ about the past.” Burnett reports that this “won him sustained applause.”).

43 See Stasi Questionaire Case, BVerfGE 96, 171.

44 Id.

45 Of course, Wiesler is just as likely to benefit from the holes in the disqualification regime discussed in relation to Hempf and Grbuitz.

46 See Stasi Questionaire Case, BVerfGE 96, 171.

47 See Fink Case, BVerfGE 96, 189.

* Spring 2008 Transnational Law Seminar (German Law Journal) at Washington & Lee University School of Law. Email: .

The Laws of Others: A Jurisprudential Reflection on The Lives of Others

  • Kristen Hutchens, Jessica Nelson, Elizabeth Plachta, Jonathan Rosamond, Nick Scannavino, Vimi Shad and Russell Miller...

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