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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stasi - The East German Secret Police

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

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