Why visiting the former Stasi jail in Berlin?

Photo Catherine Gras

The East German regime not only locked its citizens inside a wall, the remains of which can still be seen in Berlin, it also set up a highly developed surveillance regime.

The Stasi, the internal security service, was created in 1950 and grew over the decades until the fall of the Wall in 1989. Its strength lies not only in its official staff, but above all in its innumerable informers (its unofficial members), who make it an extremely effective surveillance network. Between 2 and 3% of the population would have been part of this surveillance network.

It was when the Wall came down that the East Germans discovered the extent of the network, when the Stasi archives were opened. Many surveillance files were destroyed in the weeks following the fall of the regime, but what remained demonstrated the “effectiveness” of this organisation.

At the end of the Second World War, a plot of land in Hohenschönhausen was used by the Soviets as a kitchen for their troops. This land and its buildings were later taken over by the SED regime. From 1951 onwards, Hohenschönhausen Prison was used as the main prison and interrogation centre for Berlin, and the building was extended in the 1960s, with its inmates as its builders.

It has been preserved and can be visited, which I highly recommend to those who spend some time in Berlin and want to better understand its history.

Over the years, the Stasi agents will evolve their interrogation methods, moving from physical to psychological torture, realising that isolation was a method that worked. It is this atmosphere of silence that we find during the visit of this prison, its corridors under ground and its rows of cells of isolation.

Small unmarked vans were used to transport the future detainees:

Where to find it: https://goo.gl/maps/8iTNKycJ6cTBdyfV6

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s