Tina Rosenberg's "Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts after Communism"
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From the Paper:"In Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts after Communism, Tina Rosenberg sets out to analyze the attempts of the citizens of three former Eastern-Bloc countries--Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany--to come to terms with their past in post-Communist Europe, a process she believes is vital to the successful transition from totalitarianism to democracy. The book's highly evocative title is truly reflective of how traumatic this process has been for these Eastern European countries. Written in a free-flowing, journalistic, highly readable style, the book is a mix of interviews, historical information, and personal reflections that bring vividly to life the undercurrents that lurk in the troubled waters of Eastern European politics and society. Rosenberg's main contention in the book is that the measures taken by these nations to deal with the past, while they must be commended for happening at all, are far from adequate to deal with the problem effectively.
"The chief instrument of "exorcism" (the metaphor is Rosenberg's, p. 306) is a controversial law commonly known as "lustrace," a term derived from the Latin word for ritual purification (p. 5). The practice of lustration seeks to purge from public life anyone who was even remotely connected with the former regime, a practice, Rosenberg points out, not unlike the purges of Communism. A person who is lustrated is barred from public office or civil service for a period ranging from five years in the former Czechoslovakia to fifteen in the former East Germany. In Czechosolvakia, lustration depends largely on a published list of people whose names appeared in the StB (the Secret Service) files. This list included not just collaborators and informants, but ordinary citizens who may have been approached by an StB agent and unwittingly provided information about a family member or friend. Lustration is performed, not by the courts, but by a commission, without the person in question being present or having a chance to defend himself or herself. Rosenberg enumerates a litany of other shortcomings of lustrace, not the least of which is the accuracy of the StB files upon which the lists are based. Most seriously, however, lustration runs the risk of deteriorating into a witch-hunt, and that is precisely what has happened in the former Czechoslovakia. Not surprisingly, lustrace has not been universally embraced within Czech society and has even come under fire for human rights violations from such external bodies as the Helsinki Watch, the U.N.'s International Labour Organization, the Council of Europe, and human rights activists around the world. While East Germany exacts a harsher penalty on the lustratee, it practices a more benign form of lustration in which individuals have the right to read the contents of their Stasi (Secret Service) file; no lists are published; the files are held by an independent authority, not the government, and it is up to the discretion of each individual employer to apply lustration or not based on an examination of the Stasi files. Poland had a very brief flirtation with lustrace in 1992 before the law died an untimely death in September 1993, when the post-Communists won the parliamentary election."
Cite this Book Review:
Tina Rosenberg's "Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts after Communism" (2014, September 11) Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/book-review/tina-rosenberg-haunted-land-facing-europe-ghosts-after-communism-154010/
"Tina Rosenberg's "Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts after Communism"" 11 September 2014. Web. 22 February. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/book-review/tina-rosenberg-haunted-land-facing-europe-ghosts-after-communism-154010/>