- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday hailed the best foreign-language film Oscar for the Stasi drama “The Lives of Others,” saying the movie had helped the country come to terms with the communist past.

“The Oscar is a fantastic recognition for this impressive film with an authentic German story. This sensitively made Stasi drama speaks to people with great urgency,” Mrs. Merkel said in a statement read by her spokesman.

“This superb directing debut from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck deeply moved people with its merits, and Hollywood as well.” added Mrs. Merkel, who was raised in communist East Germany.

“The Lives of Others” tells the story of a top agent from the feared East German Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi, who is assigned to keep tabs on a successful playwright and his live-in lover, a renowned actress.

While the spy sits alone, he listens in on every intimate detail of the artist couple’s relationship and begins to sympathize with them.

As his loyalties shift, he risks imprisonment or worse to help protect the pair against the communist authorities.

The director of the Stasi archives, Marianne Birthler, said the movie’s enormous popularity and Oscar glory proved “that the communist era is not a peripheral historical issue.”

“The question of how and why some people become traitors and others remain true to themselves and their fellow men is relevant to all societies that have conquered dictatorships,” she said in a statement.

Mrs. Birthler said the film had helped Germans confront the legacy of the Communist era nearly 18 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

She said that although the story was in many ways unrealistic under the East German dictatorship, it had made thousands of viewers understand the terrible choices average citizens confronted.

“The desire of director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck to show how the regime and its state security force infiltrated people’s daily lives has helped the work of my agency,” she said.

The Stasi archive has thrown open the vast records of the dreaded secret service, which had more agents per capita than any other outfit of its kind in the world.

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