THE ABANDONED PRISON IN GERMANY
The ‘Stasi-Gefängnis Berlin’ was the main political prison of the former East German Communist Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. It was built after the Second World War and closed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Today it is a museum.
The prison area housed a factory manufacturing supplies for the soup kitchens of the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization before the Second World War. In 1945 the Soviet Secret Police took over the site and transformed it into a detainment and transit camp, called ‘Special Camp No3’. The camp served as both a prison and transfer point.
The camp was closed and prisoners moved to other camps in 1946. After the closing, it served as a Soviet prison during the winter of 1946-1947. The former cafeteria was converted to the underground prison area by prison labor.
The prison was reopened in 1951 by the East German Ministry of State Security, also known as the Stasi. At the end of the 1950s, inmates from the neighboring labor camp had to construct a new building with over 200 cells and interrogation rooms in the rear part of the site. This building eventually replaced the old basement prison. Numerous people who stood in the way of the communist dictatorship were imprisoned here.
After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the prison was primarily used to house those who wished or attempted to leave East Germany, although political prisoners were also held here. The physical violence of the 1950s has been replaced by sophisticated psychological torture methods since the 1960s. Prisoners were interrogated for months by well-trained interrogators in order to get them to make incriminating statements.
The prison was used until Die Wende in 1989 and officially closed on 3 October 1990. The prison was listed as a historical site in 1992 and opened as the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial in 1994. I visited the ‘Stasi-Gefängnis Berlin’ in 2018 when I was permitted access to the closed parts of the museum. Follow this link for more abandoned prisons.