Berlin – Stasi HQ

At Normannenstrasse in East Berlin, the Stasi had its headquarters. Stasi is an abbreviation of the Ministry of State of Staatssicherheit and was the repressive organ of the East German state against its own citizens. Stasi was the shield and weapon of the East German Communist Party (Schild und Schwert der Partei) and their activities were widely known among the population. The head of the Stasi was an old communist named Erich Mielke. In the turbulent years that prevailed in Germany at the beginning of the thirties, Mielke had participated in the murders of two police officers in Berlin. He was smuggled out of Germany to the Soviet Union where he remained throughout the war.

Mielke was the head of the Stasi from 1957 until the fall of East Germany and he based over an organization of about 90,000 full-time employees and about 170,000 volunteer informers. When East Germany collapsed and citizens personal acts were opened, it turned out that the Stasi had informers in almost every corner of society. Their task was to map out all the deviant behaviour and activities among East Germany’s 17,000,000 inhabitants. In comparison, West Germany had about three times more inhabitants than East Germany but only about 15,000 employees within its security police. The Nazi Gestapo in turn had about 7,000 employees for the entire German empire.

The Stasi checked about 90,000 letters daily and of the annually budget of about 4,000,000,000 East German mark, more than half went to personnel costs. Mielke was a member of the East German politburo since 1976, which gave him a place in the absolute innermost circle and thus great influence. After the fall of East Germany, Mielke was arrested. He was tried for the murder of the two police officers in Berlin in 1931. In 1993 he was sentenced to six years in prison, but he was released on parole after two years. The preliminary investigations to examine his role as head of the Stasi were discontinued in 1998 due to his health and he died at the age of 92 in May 2000.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2006).

Address: Ruschestrasse 103/1, 10365 Berlin.

Get there: Metro to Magdalenenstrasse Station.

My comment:

Although Stasi’s headquarters was stormed by East German citizens in connection with the fall of East Germany, the building and the rooms was spared from destruction. All the furniture and furnishings remain, and in Mielke’s office his death mask is on the desk. A very interesting museum considering that all the interior remains. The downside is the English translation, which is largely non-existent. As with Stasi’s prison in Hohenschönhausen, I recommend Normannenstrasse if you are interested in the East German security services rather than the overexploited and major tourist attraction Berlin Wall. I also recommend to visit Hohenschönhausen (Stasi Prison) if you visit Normannenstrasse.

Follow up in books: Gieseke, Jens: The History of the Stasi: East Germany’s Secret Police, 1945-1990 (2014).