Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Have you ever heard of "Puzzlers"?  No, I hadn't either until a few weeks ago when I read "Stasiland Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall", and there they were men and women grappling with the aftermath of East Germany's determination to rid itself of its accumulation of records gathered during the Cold War. When it became clear that the Berlin Wall would fall endless documents were shredded, others torn by hand.  Some were burned, but many sacks of fragments remain and it's the job of the "puzzlers" to piece them together. Their work makes a window into an oppressive world, it may also give to some an explanation for the course their life has taken.  I say only "some" because just 31 workers are employed in this work.  Given that one "puzzler" can reconstruct ten pages a day, and that sounds speedy to me, to reconstruct everything would take 40 workers 375 years.

As I worked on Chapter 9, puzzling my designs together, I was reminded of the dramatic change the fall of the Berlin Wall had made in our family's life and how very fortunate we have been.  The review describes "Staziland" as reading like a novel, and I'd agree with that.  Do put it on your reading list and I hope the stories you read make you, like me, count your lucky stars.


  1. The part that intrigues me about being on this course is how it heightens ones senses to a whole wider range of associations. The book sounds fascinating, I have a friend who married an East German and she is now living in Germany which is a whole story in itself. As much as the stories the aspect that holds me to you words is the thought of the papers and the piecing. Our task is held in context!

  2. It's hard to imagine such exacting and tedious work, but there again it could be the thrill an archaeologist feels. I can't think that it's possible for any puzzler to remain unconnected to the content of the documents -- at least the ones with personal information. It would be like eavesdropping at a cafe or on a beach and making up stories about the people involved. I'm certain that with this approach my work rate would not be good!