TV review – The Independent on Sunday, 10 June 1990


The Stasi Tapes (C4)

Colonel Christ, until recently something disagreeably senior in East Germany's Stasi (the secret police), was cleaning out a penitential drain when nemesis fell upon him from behind. Vengeance came in the shape of a film crew from Dispatches (C4) led by a huge, jovially menacing reporter from Berlin called Klaus Schwagrzinna. Accompanying the team, and madder than a hornet, was a man who had just discovered his name on file at Stasi headquarters, one of five million victims of Colonel Christ's machinery of state surveillance.

Six months ago the colonel would probably have had them all shot for impersonating Candid Camera, once regarded as the exclusive preserve of Stasi's own snooping film crews; now, standing in the rising stench of sewage, his instinctive reaction was to emulate the sullen RUC constables interrogated in Shoot to Kill (YTV); he claimed immunity under the laws of official secrecy.

Obviously enjoying their newly acquired shoot to thrill policy, Schwagrzinna and his merry men took their state victim to a crowded café in West Berlin where lager was being served by Peter Dorn, a one-time Stasi informer who had betrayed the victim. "You're one of the scum that made all this possible," the victim shouted at him, amid widening interest in the café. "Swine. Loathsome creature." Dorn's face collapsed into a variety of rubbery emotions, like Kermit the frog being hand-bagged by Miss Piggy.

David Ash's film was a wondrous piece of fleet-footed reporting, tormenting the tormentors. Stasi executives, one of them a fat silhouette in a forest, grovelled as they explained about their networks of informers. One of them said: "We were brought up to respect the British Secret Service because they are intelligent and astute and masters of their trade." The camera slid cheekily to a clock on the wall going "Cuckoo!"

Television preview – The Independent, 2 June 1990

Next Week's Television

Dispatches (C4)

A real scoop this week as some of the East German Stasi's most embarrassing dirty tricks are revealed on TV for the first time. Secret police surveillance of East German citizens was routine – five million dossiers were discovered when Stasi HQ was stormed during the revolution – but activities even stretched as far as garden parties held by the British military mission to mark the Queen's birthday.

Television review – The Guardian, 7 June 1990


The Stasi Tapes (C4)

Revenge, like honey from a dead lion, was given to Klaus Hopper, a victim of the East German secret police. He had told Dispatches (Channel 4) about being denounced and imprisoned, and forced to stand to attention with chalk sprinkled round his feet so he could not move a toe. As they left the prison he spotted Col. Christ, formerly head of the secret police, unblocking a drain. The colonel was dressed as a workman and wearing a battered hat. It is somehow difficult to impose your will when your hat turns up all round. Klaus looked at the overalls, the broom, the muffler, the hat. "It's poetic justice seeing you looking like this," he said. And left him to his sewer.

To BFI Film + TV databaseTo BBC OnlineDavid Ash, producer-director

Television documentaries by British programme maker David Ash

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