Historical Witness - Hagen Koch

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Hagen Koch began working for the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security, or Ministerium für Staatssicherheit at a young age. In August 1961, as a Stasi cartographer, Koch was responsible for painting the white line on the asphalt that marked the East-West border at Checkpoint Charlie, along which the demarcation was to run. Years after Hagen Koch mapped the route of the Wall, his father lost his job for protesting the expulsion of his Dutch father, Hagen’s grandfather. Disillusioned, Koch submitted his resignation. The Stasi immediately arrested and imprisoned both him and his wife. His wife was only released from prison when she signed divorce papers and promised to never speak with Koch again. Koch was freed to go back to work for the Stasi, this time in its cultural division. He and his wife remarried and Koch was eventually allowed to resign in 1985, after the Stasi had barred him from attending his father’s funeral. Hagen Koch now works to preserve the Wall, to ensure that this side of East German history is not forgotten.

Koch had parted company with the East German system at an earlier point. His nature was rebellious and his career suffered one interruption after another. The fall of the Wall had left him personally stranded, without rank or position to fall back on. After 1990, he turned his experiences into a virtue, becoming an unofficial ‘historian’ and spokesman for the Wall, his career and the people he had known. Ours was by no means his first interview in the fifteen years since 1989, and it is readily apparent from his on-camera manner that much of his presentation had been delivered before, complete with practiced gestures and a certain showmanship intended to place him in the focal point of events. The interview was conducted in Koch’s own study, where he is surrounded by his memorabilia and is able to turn from time to time to a computer screen for illustration.

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