Before visiting Berlin I accidentally came across a number of documentaries that ended up defining the aim of my visit. Starting with “the Life of Others“, I continued with more material on the infamous Stasi and the Nazis until I came to a very simple conclusion. Something obvious I never noticed: for nearly 60 years in a row Berlin has been the epicentre of the most ruthless dictatorships of Europe’s modern history. Left, Right, Black and Red, the flags changed and so did the methods, but not the level of oppression people in Berlin have been victim of.
Stasi stays for Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, the Ministry for State Security (in most of English leaflets it will be mentioned as MfS), and was the “Sword and Shield of the Party”. The party being the SED, the socialist party that coordinated directly from Moscow. An incredible efficient and oppressive secret police that terrorised the whole East Germany – and probably more than that – for about 40 years, going from physical torture to a perfected system of psychological, way more subtle and damaging, torture. Their infrastructure was massive: they employed more full time agents than the Nazis have ever had and, most importantly, a widespread network of informant. It is said that one every 6 citizens were secret informers. Try to apply this statistic to your coworkers, friends, family, and you will understand the gravity of the situation.
I was particularly interested in knowing more about the Stasi, this is where I mainly focused my research, and this is what I want to talk about. It scares me that, while the Nazis belong to my grandfather’s youth and have been thoroughly covered to make sure that nothing like that will – hopefully- never happen again, the Stasi belongs to my lifetime, I clearly remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but little is known and said about them. And consequently, are those agents still around? Are they still in positions of power?
I don’t mean to give any history lesson, or write a document of any scientific relevance, but I want to raise the attention of this bit of history that is being slowly and quietly wiped under the carpet, and helping you find the most interest spots and museums in Berlin where you can get to know more.
If you want to know more here is some material you might be interested to:
The Lives of Others (The movie I mentioned before)
The File (A book of a man who’s lived in Berlin in 1978 for research purposes, and went back 15 years later to find his own Stasi file)
Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police (Book by John Koehler who had his hands deep in the secret information jar)
The picture in this article has been taken from the beautiful photogallery on the Denver Post.