Photos Reveal the Stasi Art of Disguise

And still, the state repression documented in Menner's book led to more than just privacy being trampled on. It also resulted in countless cases of interrogation, imprisonment and social ruin. It is here where "Top Secret" falls short of conveying to the viewer the real systematic terror East German authorities wreaked on their citizens. The short introduction by Menner and brief captions to the photos could easily be enhanced with an essay by a Stasi expert like Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk.

That would perhaps shed more light on one particularly noteworthy document found in "Top Secret": a report, typed on a typewriter, describing the case of a man who was in charge of a state-owned farm cooperative. He was so angry about all the extra costs of buying a Trabant -- the ubiquitous East German car model -- that he decided to tack on a host of his own types of fees when selling a cow: the black-and-white color job, the genuine leather upholstery and four milk-producing spigots valued at 35 marks each. All in all: "Full cow in requested design: 5920 marks."

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