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Genuine piece of the Berlin Wall at Villa Schöningen memorial, Potsdam. © Ron Stern

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Contemporary witnesses report

Places of repression in the GDR

The sole command of the “Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands“ or “SED” (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) led to a system of totalitarian rule, into which law and justice blended in. Last but not least, the SED defied the legal system that it had created itself. The Ministry for State Security, called STASI, was the crucial instrument of power of the SED to maintain and expand their rule. The secret police united the oppression of the population with intelligence functions to West Germany.

Rostock prison run by the STASI ©Sascha MayererThe 1950s were characterized by a strategy of aggressive terror, which then turned into an attempted nationwide surveillance of the population in the 1980s. In coordination with the SED, other government agencies and the STASI, lawyers made it their business to suppress actual or suspected opponents brutally. Socialist ideologies were scattered into the private lives of families by the public youth welfare. Conspicuous youths were politically trained and educated in special homes. In the course of the collectivization from the 1950s onwards, political prisoners were persecuted alongside those citizens who did not adapt, were critical or even listened to Western radio stations. Ultimately, there were 180.000 political prisoners, of whom 33.755 were ransomed by the Federal Republic of Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those concerned suffer from consequential effects to this day.

25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, documentation centers and memorials provide insights into the everyday life of political prisoners as well as into the repression and methods of the State Security of the GDR.

Potsdam: Kommandantenhaus Memorial site

Rostock: Remand Center of the GDR State Security

Erfurt: Andreasstrasse Memorial

Erfurt: Remand Center of the GDR State Security

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