Prompted by Anna Funder’s fascinating book, Stasiland, we make the trek out to a massive complex of buildings in former East Berlin that was the Stasi HQ and now a museum.
We learn staggering statistics on an organisation determined to protect its population from so called imperialism from the west at all costs with as many as 2000 spies in West Berlin alone. The Museum has the original offices of Eric Miekle, the Stasi boss, on view and all manner of Maxwell Smart style surveillance equipment on display.
Fear of the Stasi ruled East Germans lives from 1950 until the wall came down in late 1989. In that time, 200,000 prisoners were detained, most often their crime was simply wanting to leave the country. Intimidation ruled with a ‘disintegration programme’ for dissenters that psychologically isolated them.
Executions were practised until 1980, often, ironically, on former Stasi. Informers were groomed and present everywhere. The establishment was so paranoid prisoners were also invited to inform on their own guards.