A visit to the former Stasi prison Hohenschönhausen Memorial is a chilling reminder of the fate of the thousands who fell victim, as prisoners of conscience, to political persecution in the former East Germany.
The former Stasi prison known since 1994 as the Hohenschönhausen Memorial, and run as an independent public foundation since 2000. It is situated in the former Ministry for State Security’s “Untersuchungshaftanstalt” which used to be the main remand prison for citizens under investigation. The reality of life under the Stasi – GDR’s secret police – was brought to the world with the film and 2007 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film “The Life of Others”, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. A visit to the former Stasi prison, located in the former East Berlin district of Lichtenberg-Hohenschönhausen is a chilling reminder of the fate of the thousands who fell victim, as prisoners of conscience, to political persecution in the former East Germany although many amongst the incarcerated had committed no crime.
During the Soviet occupation after the end of WWII German prisoners were sent to the Gulag from here and many more died of starvation and exhaustion until 1946. The guided tours available today include the underground cells, the descriptions of the interrogations and beatings carried out here in order to extort confessions. The STASI inherited the facility from the Soviet administration in 1951 and soon after imprisoned here members of the democratic workers uprising of 1953, known as 17 July. It was the location of the Espionage Data Processing Centre (HVA) and until 1974 Labout Camp X was located next to the prison for prisoners sentenced to forced labour.
Tours are possible by arrangement and are usually conducted by former inmates who provide excellent eyewitness accounts on prison conditions and interrogation methods employed by the former GDR’s Ministry of State Security (MfS).