Interiors, Architecture – Until 1989, in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Ministry of State Security, better known as the ‘Stasi’, organised the surveillance and repression of the population as well as the GDR’s foreign espionage. The Stasi Headquarters in Berlin occupied a huge complex with around 50 buildings and thousands of offices, in which up to 7,000 full-time employees worked and spied until the institution was disbanded.
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Visitors of the Stasi Museum [at the House 1 in Normannenstraße 20, Berlin] can now explore office spaces, meeting rooms and spying technologies of one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies ever to have existed. All perfectly preserved like in a time capsule. Since there are no pictures nor records of what happened in there, Stasi Museum is the only proof of the Stasi infamous ‘efficiency’.
“This distinctive character and atmosphere are fascinating fact to me.” Says David Altrath to Archipanic. “Walking through the museum and becoming the observer of the of the ‘observers’ is turning the obscure concept of surveillance of an entire population around.”
“Each room served a particular function. On the one hand, it was the demonstration of power and the controlling of people and on the other hand, it was to provide a space for the leaders to come together and do this. Now that the building became a museum, all that is left are empty spaces, leaving a false sense of calm and quiet, similar to the feelings you might feel after a giant storm or flood wiped out an entire area. What used to be vibrant is now empty.”
House 1 towers over the neighborhood with an ominous presence. A high balcony overlooks the street as a defensive and inaccessible watchtower planted on a solid base similar to a fortress. “You could interpret the strict raster of the façade and the hidden entrance as a symbol of the totalitarian regime, operating in the shadows, allowing no space for errors.”
The concrete ornaments of the entrance hide all party members who enter or leave the building from the public’s eye. In the Adjutancy Room minister’s personal security officer stayed and watched over Mielke, the latest minister of state security.
In the Dressing room, politicians could check their wardrobe and fix their uniforms and badges of honour while in the casino, politicians and party members used to lounge and come together. Visitors can also explore the control room featuring a telephone switchboard of tap-proof lines during the cold war.
“These spaces represent a past that I am glad to have not witnessed.” Says David Altrath to Archipanic. “Maybe, for the new generations, the Stasi Museum is more of a memorial and a warning for the future.”
All photos by David Altrath.