Hubertus Knabe: Stasi spies were worse than in Oscar film

Historians in the News

BERLIN -- Spies for communist East Germany's feared secret police had little in common with the "good Stasi agent" at the center of an Oscar-winning German film, a German historian and Stasi expert said on Monday.

"I'm happy that someone has finally dealt with the Stasi in a critical way," said historian Hubertus Knabe, director of the Hohenschoenhausen memorial museum at the site of a former Stasi prison in what used to be East Berlin.

"But there is naturally a danger that young people who learn some of their history from this film will come away thinking that the Stasi was a refuge for people secretly resisting the regime," Knabe told Reuters in an interview.

"The Lives of Others" by first-time filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 33, won the Oscar for best foreign language film on Sunday.

"I'm delighted to have this wonderful golden phallus in my possession at last," Donnersmarck told Reuters after winning.

The film, which takes a close look at totalitarian powers once wielded by the Stasi, won rave reviews at home and abroad for its portrait of a Stasi agent who, while bugging a couple's home, develops an unexpected sympathy for them.

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