Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives

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9783775736206: Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives
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Almost 300,000 people worked for the STASI, the East German secret police--per capita, far more than are or were employed by agencies such as the CIA or the Soviet Union’s KGB. More than 50 years after the Berlin Wall was erected, German photographer Simon Menner (born 1978) unearthed an extraordinary cache of photographs in the STASI archives that document the agency’s surveillance work. These state-approved photographs show officers and employees posing in professional uniforms, wearing unconvincing fake beards and moustaches, or signaling to each other with their hands. Once top secret, and now preposterous, these images are both comical and sinister. Until now, nobody has attempted a visual study of the activities of the State Security. For Simon Menner, the undertaking is more suited to artists and philosophers than to historians.

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From Bookforum:

Berlin-based artist Simon Menner spent two years reseaching the files of the Federal Comissioner for the Stasi Archives of the former GDR to unearth the photographs he has gathered for this dark but unavoidably comic volume. Menner’s collection focuses on images pulled from manuals dealing with espionage tradecraft, as well as actual photos from surveillance operations. [...] That these photographs of fake mustaches, hand signals, and close-combat techniques all smack of the risibly ersatz doesn’t dimish their eerie power: The Stasi, despite its flat-footed training handbooks, proved effective enough. —Albert Mobilio

Review:

The book might be a primer on the banality of evil. (Luc Sante The New York Times Book Review)

Berlin-based artist Simon Menner spent two years researching the files of the Federal Commisioner for the Stasi Archives of the former GDR to unearth the photographs he has gathered for this dark but unavoidably comic volume. Menner's collection focuses on images pulled from manuals dealing with espionage tradecraft, as well as actuals photos from surveillance operations. (Albert Mobilio Bookforum)

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