The Greatest Kindness Melts the Iron Curtain: Revisiting the Movie ‘Eavesdropping Storm’

The Berlin Wall.

After 1949, terrible darkness fell all over East Germany. It became shrouded in an autocratic communist iron rule behind the infamous Iron Curtain. (Image: Haotian via Dreamstime)

Eavesdropping Storm tells the story, after 1949, of the terrible darkness that fell all over East Germany. It became shrouded in an autocratic communist rule behind the infamous Iron Curtain.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

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Sir Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

In 1961, to control the movement of its people to the free world, the communist East German regime forcibly closed its borders and built the Berlin Wall, keeping freedom and humanity outside the wall.

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.'”

President John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963, Berlin, Germany

How does a corrupt state guard itself against unarmed but flesh-and-blood people? Europe and Asia were in turmoil and fear after WWII as the communist terror tightened its grip on the world.

During the era of the total blockade in East Germany, the people fell under the surveillance of the ultra-secretive and perfidious state organization known as the “Stasi.” The chilling organization, the Stasi, was like a terrifying octopus with its tentacles reaching into every aspect of people’s lives.

During the era of the total blockade in East Germany, the people fell under the surveillance of the ultra-secretive and perfidious state organization known as the ‘Stasi.’ (Image: Thomas Fehr via Dreamstime)

Behind every door, at every table, lurked a hidden informer

It consisted of the Ministry for State Security, Intelligence, and Secret Police, which monitored the East Germans’ every move and inner thoughts. Behind every door, at every table, there lurked a hidden informer.

It even had a garbage analysis office, where daily garbage was collected and sniffed through to find clues from food waste and supplies from the West to eradicate class enemies and eliminate those with so-called dissident leanings.

The harm inflicted on humanity by the degenerate Stasi is impossible to describe or measure. Nevertheless, the extent of it still lingers and may be irreparable. Its tactics are being deployed and expanded by other totalitarian regimes worldwide, particularly the Chinese Communist Party.

It is said to have had 286,000 underground agents and 85,000 undercover agents in the Ministry for State Security to monitor 6 million of the total population of 18 million people in East Germany.

No place to hide – lives were destroyed on a whim

The secret files of the Stasi collected about individuals alone amount to about 2.125 billion pages and, if laid down side by side, would stretch a distance of 201 kilometers. In this way, 1 in 3 people in the country was monitored: Just like its slogan warned: “We’re everywhere.”

There was nowhere to hide: with or without any excuse, arousing the slightest suspicion, and, or at the slightest carelessness, one could fall victim to the terror, be harassed, captured, and your life destroyed.

It is reported that in the 28 years from when the Berlin Wall was built until its fall, an average of eight people were arrested every day on charges of “undermining national security.”

The Oscar-winning movie ‘Eavesdropping Storm’ revisits the brutality of communist East Germany

A nation that can honestly face up to its history and is brave enough to take responsibility for it is very rare. Such a nation should be commended. And those who can sincerely face up to their hearts and conscience, whether state or individual, are undoubtedly strong.

In 2006, the German film Eavesdropping Storm, also known as The Lives of Others, which was an Oscar-winning film, indeed revisited the cold and brutal surveillance history of East Germany.

Eavesdropping Storm highlights the psychological pressure and terror brought about by the bleak atmosphere that pervaded East Berlin, a city with countless invisible ears and eyes. It was a city bereft of soul and humanity based on totalitarian oppression; it had fallen way below rock bottom and below anything resembling a human society.

It was a demonically infested government conjuring hell on earth. The moving part of the film is that it tears open the terrible wounds of history for people to see. Still, through the unique perspective of peeping into the lives of others, it perfectly integrates the restoration of a living, kindly, decent human society with the self-redemption process of an individual’s inner world.

The storyline of ‘Eavesdropping Storm’

The theme of Eavesdropping Storm is not complicated. It tells the story of Gerd Wiesler, a member of the Stasi secret police, who is responsible for spying on and monitoring a male playwright, Georg Dreyman, and his girlfriend.

Wiesler bugged Dreyman’s apartment, set up surveillance equipment, and began reporting on Dreyman’s activities. While monitoring them round the clock and trying to find evidence that could convict Dreyman, the cold-blooded Wiesler was gradually touched by the warmth and righteous pursuit of the two artists.

He became sympathetic to the decency and fraternity shown by Dreyman and, in the end, secretly helped Dreyman and destroyed the evidence against him at all costs.

A few years later, after the reunification of Germany in 1989, while searching for information, Dreyman found out that it was the secret police that secretly protected his life. (Image: Maik Schradter via Dreamstime)

Great kindness does not need acknowledgment

A few years later, after the reunification of Germany in 1989, while searching for information, Dreyman found out that it was the secret police that secretly protected his life. He suddenly found his savior on the street, looked at the slightly bald figure from the back, and left after a long gaze.

At the end of Eavesdropping Storm, a scene brings tears to countless viewers’ eyes. Dreyman later published a book, Sonata for Good People, to thank Wiesler, and the front page was marked with Wiesler’s Stasi code name.

When Wiesler opened the book at the bookstore, he recognized his code name. It became clear what Dreyman’s message implied. Wiesler calmly paid for the book and said to the clerk at the counter: “This is for me.”

The old Chinese saying “No words of thanks are needed for a great kindness” is common to all people, and the tacit understanding reached by life at the moment of life and death exists in the human nature of all races.

Here, in this story, the power of the great kindness in human nature leads to more compassion and redemption. Because the most basic service of Wiesler was reached, he was awakened to help Dreyman escape a disaster, and in that process, he saved his soul and the nation.

Translated by Chua BC

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