The Stasi Headquarters

House 1

The Stasi Headquarters

The Ministerium für staatssicherheit, or Stasi for short, was the GDR Ministry of State Security. It operated from 1950 until 1989 with the headquarters located in the Lichtenberg district of Berlin. Its main purpose was to ensure that the population adhered to the strict Marxist-Leninist ideology of the GDR, and in most cases, they conformed – outwardly at least. For those who didn’t there were various methods of making sure that they did.

The blocks of offices connected to the Stasi in Lichtenberg employed around 7,000 people, and the man at the helm for much of this time was Erich Mielke who presided over the organisation from 1957 to 1987.

His headquarters at Ruschestrasse 103 was built in 1960, and if you’re as inquisitive as me, then you might want to come and take a look at where the East German equivalent of the Russian KGB operated from.

This building, known as House 1, was where decisions were made to implement the wishes of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the only political party in a one-party state.

The crude and heavy-handed tactics that were initially used to keep the East German people in line, such as arrest and torture, gave way in the 1970s to psychological harassment, which as the phrase suggests, was a more subtle way of persuading people to do as they were told. The purpose of this post though is not to highlight the activities of the Stasi, but to show you what the headquarters were like where they carried out their business.

House 1 opened to the general public on 7th November 1990. It’s now called the Stasi Museum, but I wouldn’t call it a museum as such because it’s more about the rooms where the Stasi operated from than anything else, and fortunately they have been left just as they were found.

Erich Mielke's Office
The Conference Room

The rooms are certainly not opulent, and even Mielke’s Suite was quite frugal, so at least the people who operated out of here lived in accordance with their beliefs – or they did while they were at work.

Mielke's Kitchen

Although I said I didn’t regard it as a museum, there is one room that displays some gadgets and gizmos that were used by the Stasi in their clandestine espionage affairs. These exhibits may have been used for sinister purposes, but some of them were quite laughable too.

A Bird's Nesting Box Spy Camera

The complex is huge, but the museum isn’t, and it didn’t take long to see what there was to see. I finished up by taking a break in the café which still seemed stuck in the 1960s. Whether it was intentional or not I don’t know, but it had a cold war feel to it with unsophisticated home-made cakes and old- fashioned prices to match.

The Cafe

Now that I’ve seen where this feared organisation operated from, I wondered what it must have been like for members of the Anti-Stalinist Action Group (ASTAK) who barged their way in here on January 15th 1990, just a couple of months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and took over the Stasi offices before all the incriminating evidence was destroyed. They ransacked the cupboards and filing cabinets from which they were able to retrieve around 111km of paper files, 1.7 million photos and 28,000 recordings.

Some of these items were on display at the Stasi Exhibition in Zimmerstrasse before it was closed down in 2014. Since my visit to both the exhibition and museum in 2013 the Stasi Records Office took control of the archives from ASTAK and moved into House 7.

The Former Stasi Exhibition in Zimmerstrasse

It’s also been reported that the Stasi Records Office will soon be integrated into the Federal Archives, and I’ve no doubt that the dilapidated buildings that once housed the army of state spies will be ripe for redevelopment. I just hope they keep House 1 and Mielke’s headquarters exactly how it was left – so that people who think that Marxist-Leninist ideology was a great idea might just want to think again.

https://www.stasimuseum.de/en/enindex.htm

Mielke's Desk
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22 thoughts on “The Stasi Headquarters

  1. Nemorino

    I still haven’t been to this place. Thanks for the reminder.
    (After German reunification, a colleague of mine in Frankfurt was outed as a Stasi spy. So conceivably they might have a dossier on me somewhere.)

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      It’s probably just as well that you didn’t know about his clandestine hobbies at the time then Don.

      Reply
  2. starship VT

    Great write up and photos, Malcolm! This is just the type of museum I’d love to visit. I also hope they preserve such buildings which incorporate the Stasi Museum — the lessons learned from this period in history are too important to be forgotten. I think I may have mentioned to you in another comment something about the movie, “The Lives of Others.” The movie is excellent and portrays the ways in which lives and emotions were destroyed under the ever watchful eye of the East German Stasi.

    Reply
  3. bitaboutbritain

    I’d be in there with you finding that place fascinating, Malc. Lovely write-up and photos. It seems to me that human nature means that extremes in politics, left and right, pretty much end up being the same thing.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      You’re absolutely right of course Mike. If only the rest of the world would listen.

      Reply
  4. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    This is another one of your very interesting and informative posts, and of course, with great photographs. Communism is (because it still exists even in our government now, lamentably) the worst thing that could happen to a country. No communist country has ever been successful. Their citizens just want to flee at all costs and the state wants to enslave them for cheap labour at all costs as well. It does not work and it only looks agreeable when seen through a blog post on history. Hopefully we can all soon relegate all communism to history. Take good care Malc and enjoy the weekend, it is wine time in Spain (1900 hours), so
    Cheers!
    FBC.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thank you for your input Francesc. You know I always value your point of view. You also know that I try to be fair-minded in my posts, but that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t have an opinion. As far as communism is concerned I think the system is flawed by believing that all people are equal but as we know some people are more equal than others. Those who were in charge of the system in the Eastern bloc still lived better than the proletariat, so that’s an example to me of how the system is flawed.

      Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thanks for joining me in the Stasi Headquarters Luisa. Not everybody would want to, but I’m glad you did 🙂

      Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      It’s certainly not ostentatious, but I agree that there’s an understated quality about the wooden furniture. Thanks for your continued support Stephen.

      Reply
  5. jogacreations

    I found it kinda fascinating myself. It was interesting to read how it was “stormed” by the protestors as the wall was going down and the recovery attempts at putting the shredded files back together. Well worth the visit – I think it was a freebie?

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      I think I paid a small entrance fee, but able to wander around at will. I think you now have to go on a guided tour, but I can’t be sure about that. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up for a beer soon, but at the moment I’m an invalid.

      Reply
  6. equipsblog

    I liked the write-up and pictures. I hadn’t realized you also did posts beyond the UK. My husband tells me that older Americans want a fascist type leader (not sure I agree with him but Trump supporters do make me wonder) and the younger Americans want socialism.–I’m guess once they realize that someone (likely them) will have to help pay for it, that may change as they begin to earn more wages and own more property.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thank you so much for taking a look at another of my posts. I think this one is my 28th on Berlin.

      As for the politics, I think as people get older they see things differently than when they were young because they’ve experienced more of life, and also the world is constantly changing of course. It’s a subject I could talk about for hours – and have done 🙂

      Reply

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