About Berlin Stasi Prison
The Berlin Stasi Prison, also known as the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, was an infamous East German prison run by the East German Ministry of State Security (the Stasi) during the Cold War.
History of the Berlin Stasi Prison
Originally a canteen, in 1945 the Berlin Stasi Prison site became a detainment camp named ‘Special Camp No. 3’ run by the Soviet Secret Police. Transformed into a prison in 1947, it was taken over by the Stasi, also known as the MfS, in 1951.
Following the Second World War, East Germany and East Berlin were under the occupation of Soviet Russia as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Stasi were the official security forces of this state. The Berlin Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen became the remand detention centre of the Stasi, housing anyone considered to be hostile to the communist GDR. Prior to the building of the Berlin Wall, this even included West Berliners, such as the lawyer Walter Linse, who was kidnapped and taken there in 1952.
Once the Wall had been erected, many of the prisoners were attempted escapees. The Berlin Stasi Prison was notoriously brutal, with inmates being kept in tiny cells and subjected to torture to extract confessions. Located in a restricted military area, the prison was sealed off from the outside world, and not even marked on any East German city map. Few people who didn’t work there knew what occurred inside.
The Berlin Stasi Prison was disbanded in the autumn of 1989 as the GDR began to falter. It was finally closed on 3 October 1990, when East Germany was once again united with the West.
Unlike many other government and military institutions in East Germany, Hohenschönhausen prison was not stormed by demonstrators after the fall of the Berlin Wall, allowing prison authorities to destroy evidence of the prison’s functions and history. Consequently, today’s knowledge of the functioning of the prison comes mainly from eye-witness accounts and documents sourced from other East German institutions.
The Berlin Stasi Prison today
Today, the Berlin Stasi Prison is a memorial to those who were detained there and is a stark reminder of the political persecution and atrocities carried out in the Soviet-occupied zone and the GDR during the Cold War.
The site is open daily between 9am-6pm. Tours are offered (which last approximately 90 minutes, ideally registered in advance) – often conducted by former inmates – that reveal the full extent of the cruelty towards thousands of suspected regime opponents. Visitors can also view a film about the prison.
Getting to the Berlin Stasi Prison
The prison is a 25 minute drive from central Berlin via Landsberger Allee. By public transport, take tram M5 from Alexanderplatz to Freienwalder Strasse, then walk 10 minutes along Freienwalder Strasse.
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