Americans like to think that they live in a perpetual present, as author Ilan Stavans, a Jewish-Mexican immigrant to the U.S. in the 1980s, writes in A Most Imperfect Union, lavishly illustrated by his compadre Lalo Alcaraz. But that is another illusory convention that, like many others, gets knocked down in the manner of a summary execution.
In the early days of dissent in East Germany, the state and the Stasi were dedicated to eradicating all signs of opposition. As Thomas Klein, a leading oppositionist from those days, explained to me, they didn't even know the size of their dissident circles until after 1989 when the Stasi files became available.
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