|Stasi Headquarters - a giant campus virtually intact|
|KGB Shield - Stasi Shield|
It seems that nothing has shaped the people of East Berlin and East Germany more than the Stasi - their Secret Police. After World War II - the Allies divided Germany into two separate countries. To compound that problem - they divided Berlin (which was in East Germany) into two halves. West Germany became a democratic country under the watch of England - France - and the USA. East Germany became a communist state under the care of the USSR.
In the communistic USSR - they had the KGB secret police. The KGB was the big brother of the Stasi.
The Stasi had a giant headquarters in the Litchenberg neighborhood of East Berlin - not far from our apartment. Today - it is a museum. Their job was to monitor the people - to prevent them from escaping East Germany - and to keep them faithful to the communist way. The Stasi ran a youth corp called the Pioneers. It used the program to indoctrinate the kids. Sometimes 90% of the youth were involved in the Pioneers. To qualify to become a member of the Stasi secret police - you first had to serve in the regular East German army for 2 years. Then you took a battery of qualifying tests. Generally members were not college trained.
When the East German government fell - the people occupied the Stasi headquarters to protect the files from being destroyed. Today - anyone can get permission to view the files that the Stasi collected on them.
It was a way of life to inform on your neighbors. If you saw a neighbor reading banned books - you could report them. It was almost like Amway Sales in America. You got points for turning people in. If you were good to the Stasi - you might get a better apartment - or move up in line to buy their terrible Trabant car. If you wanted cancer treatment for your Mom - the Stasi could get it done for a price - information. One display at the museum said 1 in 6 East Germans was Stasi or a Stasi Informer.
Although the Stasi has been gone for 25 years now - East Germans are still very cautious. They do not share information unless asked. When you sit in the tram or subway - the people facing you just a couple of feet away - will not make eye contact. If you attempt to make contact - they are friendly. When we were in a pub setting - to see the Rolling Stones replica band - the people enthusiastically wanted to learn about America. They admire Americans - not so much the Russians. After World War II - the USA extended a hand of peace. The Soviets plundered and butchered the Germans - payback for losing 20 million Russians during the war.
East Germany and West Germany reminds me of two twins - being separated at birth - and being raised by two very different families. West Germany was raised by a liberal family - East Germany was oppressed with dogma. The West flourished with Volkswagen - BMW - Audi - Mercedes. The East produced the Trabant.
One last shocking thing about the Stasi Museum. A large map showed all the safe houses and outposts of the Stasi in Berlin. There is a marker on our building showing our apartment as a Stasi outpost. Who knows - there may still be bugs in our walls - watching and listening to us.
Once again - traveling all over the world - we see so many things that make us happy to be born by chance in the USA.
|Commie Paddy Wagon - had 5 compartments - they|
would pick up people for questioning in it
|This plastic Trabant car door had infrared lights in it.|
They could drive by at night - flash the invisible lights -
and take night pictures
|This is a letter steamer - for opening mail|
|In 1975 - I had a Polaroid camera like this - the 195 -|
it had an excellent lens - very popular for Stasi -
taking infrared pictures
|Another Commie Wagon - I am not kidding -|
the van was the Commie brand.
|When the Stasi questioned you - you sat on a towel.|
They would store your scent so dogs could track you.
|You could be picked up and question without cause|
|Conference table at Stasi headquarter|
|Conference room in director's office|
|Note the phone system|
|This is a paper shredder - Stasi tried to|
destroy records when caught
|Stasi recorded everything|
|Every room had a big safe|
|Old TV and furniture in Stasi headquarters|
|Bust of Communist Lenin in director's office|
|Radios in every room had tape on them.|
Stasi could check to see quickly if
you were on Western channels
|Russian Kalischnikow machine gun|
|That yellow dot by the K in Dunckerstrasse is|
our apartment - a Stasi outpost