Hohenschönhausen Berlin

The STASI prison in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen.

After the foundation of the Ministry of State Security the underground prison came under its jurisdiction in March 1951.

Numerous opponents of the communist dictatorship were detained here during the fifties. The list of those
arrested reached from leaders of the uprising of 17 June 1953 to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement.

The prison complex was part of an extensive secret area – no ordinary citizen of the GDR was allowed to enter. Most of the prisoners had tried to flee or emigrate from the GDR or had been persecuted due to their political views. Physical violence became psychological cruelty – methods and techniques to break the prisoner’s resistance and will. It was prison policy not to inform newcomers of their exact whereabouts. They were systematically subjected to the feeling of being helpless at the mercy of an almighty authority.

Being completely cut off from the outside world and their fellow prisoners, they were subjected to months of questioning by expert interrogators aimed at coercing them into making incriminating statements. The peaceful revolution in the autumn of 1989 overthrew the SED dictatorship and resulted in the dissolution of the State Security Service

Following the unification of the two German states, the prison in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen was closed in October 1990.

Former prisoners spoke out in favour of establishing a memorial at the site. In 1992, the prison complex was listed as a historical monument. The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Site was established two years later. Since 2000, it has been an independent foundation under public law. The memorial has been charged with ‘exploring the history of the Hohenschönhausen prison between 1945 and 1989, informing about exhibitions, events and publications and inspiring visitors to take a critical look at the methods and consequences of political persecution and suppression in the communist dictatorship.

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