If you want to know more about life under the Stasi, watch the brilliant Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), an Oscar-winning German film partly set in the prison.
When the East German secret police, the Stasi, was formed in 1950, they soon realised that they were going to need somewhere to detain the hundreds of dissidents, deserters and undesirables being dredged up by their extensive civilian spying campaign. This site in Hohenschönhausen was the obvious choice. The chillingly-named “Special Camp No. 3” had been created by the Soviet Army in the aftermath of WW2, and German prisoners had been housed there in deplorable conditions. With the facility now vacant, the Stasi moved in.
Destroying the Evidence
It’s hard to know for sure how many prisoners passed through these walls. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Stasi prison was one of the few government locations which was not immediately stormed by demonstrators, giving the authorities enough time to destroy most of the evidence of the prison’s history and function. Much of what we do know comes from the eyewitness testimony of former prisoners.
House of Horrors
Some of these former inmates have bravely overcome their demons, and they now comprise the majority of the tour guide staff at the prison. They will guide you past the looming guard towers and coils of barbed wire to the interrogation rooms, 120 of them, where suspected dissidents were often tortured by three staff at a time. You’ll also see the infamous “U-Boat”, the windowless cell where unyielding prisoners were kept with the light permanently on, in an attempt to break their resolve. Cheery and fun it may not be, but the Stasi prison is a shocking insight into events that occurred less than 30 years ago.
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