Every night at 6:50, this children’s show aired on one of East Germany’s state-run television stations. Hosted by an adorable stop-motion puppet named Sandmännchen (“The Little Sandman”), an average episode ran about 10 minutes and featured a family-friendly story. Afterward, Sandmännchen would wish all the kids at home “good night” and urge them to go to bed….even though it was barely 7 . The character was beloved by multiple generations of East Germans and aired for decades, even after the country’s reunification; there was even a Western German version of the show.
Unfortunately, for reasons of unoriginality and because it’s too early to offer a strong case for this recently debuted show, Allegiance shows up on this list before the much, much better The Americans . That’s a pity because Allegiance is such a direct knockoff of The Americans ’ plot about a family of undercover Russian spies in America that to understand it and its relative merits you have to view the two side by side. Actually, you don’t. You can just watch The Americans and imagine what another show with the exact same premise but set today rather than in the Cold War years in which The Americans takes place would be like, thus saving yourself valuable time to watch better stuff. (See below.) Interestingly, the origins of Allegiance are linked to another show of much higher quality, Homeland , as both are based on Israeli television series. (In the case of Allegiance , the Israeli show is The Gordin Cell .) They are also both based on the 2010 case of Russians living in and spying on the United States. That case was notable as the launchpad to fame of Russian spy Anna Vasilyevna Kushchyenko, better known as Anna Chapman, whose good looks and unabashed love of the limelight (somewhat offbeat in a spy ) have led to a lively career following her return to Russia. (The career has featured action figures based on her and a modeling assignment for Agent Provocateur lingerie.)
Recent studies produced by historians Christian Booß and Helmut Müller-Enbergs also show domestic surveillance in East Germany went far beyond the Stasi's network of IMs. The two work at the BStU and not long ago, they happened across Stasi informant groups into which hardly any research has been conducted. They found that institutions in which people provided information about others were categorized as POZW -- which stood for "Partner in Political-Operative Cooperation." In contrast to IMs feeding information to the Stasi, these people were not forced to sign a document obliging them to pass along information. But they did so nonetheless. Numerous POZW reports are still in existence -- from banks, for example, or libraries, hospitals, registration offices and judiciary agencies.