44 years of political persecution: You can follow the darker side of Berlin’s GDR history in the Hohenschönhausen Memorial.
GDR opponents, people who helped others to flee and political prisoners are all familiar with the former Stasi prison. Today the Berlin Hohenschönhausen Memorial remembers their story. Contemporary witnesses guide you over the site that houses 44 years of political persecution. Large parts of the building have been preserved and give you an authentic impression of the prison conditions between 1946 and 1990. It is therefore no wonder that the memorial attracts more than 400,000 visitors every year.
The permanent exhibition Inhaftiert in Hohenschönhausen – Zeugnisse politischer Verfolgung [Incarcerated in Hohenschönhausen – Witnesses of Political Persecution] shows 300 photos and nearly 500 artefacts including prison clothes and letters from inmates. It depicts the everyday lives of the inmates as well as the story of the former Stasi prison. Now for the first time, separate part of the exhibition looks at the world of the culprits.
History: from an industrial kitchen to a Stasi prison
A special Soviet camp was set up on the site of a former industrial kitchen in the north-east of Berlin at the end of the Second World War. After the camp was closed in October 1946, the central Soviet custodial prison for East Germany was established in the cellar of the building. The Ministry for State Security took it over in 1951 and expanded it with a new building in 1961 and used it until 1989 as a central custodial prison. Thousands of political prisoners were incarcerated here included nearly every famous GDR opponent.
The prison was sited in a restricted military area that was hermetically sealed from the outside world. The area was not even marked on any East German city map. Today, the site of the former prison of the Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen stands for the history of political persecution in the Soviet-occupied zone and the GDR like almost no other location in Germany.
Contemporary witnesses tell the story
You can visit the exhibition in the memorial without a guided tour and entrance is free. A more moving experience is a tour with a former inmate who can recount his personal tale and it is just these authentic contemporary witness accounts that attract so many visitors to Hohenschönhausen.
In a 360-degree virtual-reality movie, the viewer becomes a prisoner himself. The short film is based on the "interrogation protocols" of the DDR dissident and writer Jürgen Fuchs. On a virtual journey into the past, the viewer experiences interrogations and everyday life in the Stasi prison. He encounters guards, interrogators and cell neighbours.
Information for schools
Groups can view the former Stasi prison as part of a guided tour. Due to high demand, you should book an appointment in good time. The two-hour tour, which in most cases is conducted by a former inmate, allows pupils to obtain a gripping insight into the SED dictatorship. There are training courses and teaching materials available as a free download for teachers. In addition, the memorial also offers seminars and project days.
Visits of the memorial are only possible with a guided tour. English tour without apply: wednesday, saturday and sunday at 2.30 p.m.
Find further information here