The EastSeven Berlin Hostels recommendation for this week: visit the former stasi prison
The site of the main remand prison for people detained by the former East German Ministry of State Security (MfS), or ‘Stasi’, has been a Memorial since 1994 and, from 2000 on, has been an independent Foundation under public law. The Berlin state government has assigned the Foundation, without charge. The Foundation’s work is supported by an annual contribution from the Federal Government and the Berlin state government.
The Memorial’s charter specifically entrusts it with the task of researching the history of the Hohenschönhausen prison between 1945 and 1989, supplying information via exhibitions, events and publications, and encouraging a critical awareness of the methods and consequences of political persecution and suppression in the communist dictatorship. The former Stasi remand prison is also intended to provide an insight into the workings of the GDR’s political justice system.
Since the vast majority of the buildings, equipment and furniture and fittings have survived intact, the Memorial provides a very authentic picture of prison conditions in the GDR. The Memorial’s location in Germany’s capital city makes it the key site in Germany for victims of communist tyranny.
In 2006 the Memorial could reach a new record with more than 171,000 visitors in total and 50% of these being students. Since the Foundation came into effect in July 2000, the number of visitors has more than doubled (figures as of 31.12.2006). Tours of the prison are usually led by former inmates, who provide first-hand details on prison conditions and the interrogation methods employed by the GDR’s Ministry of State Security (MfS).
The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial regularly holds events designed to encourage critical reflection on the communist dictatorship in East Germany. The spectrum of events ranges from elaborately planned exhibition openings to panel discussions, lectures, and book presentations, as well as film, music, and readings, with events frequently combined with a tour through the former prison.
Despite the Memorial’s rather out of the way location in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, previous event evenings have usually met with a very positive response. For example, over the last few years the “Long Night of the Museums” has often attracted more than 1000 visitors to the former Stasi prison for that event alone. The Memorial has enjoyed similar success during the “Open Memorial Day” each year in September, with visitor figures usually at around 1500. The “Long Night of the 17th June” in summer 2003 marked a special highpoint in the Memorial’s history, with numerous events to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 17th June uprising in the GDR. With various partner institutions, the Memorial also organises a number of events that take place at venues in the centre of Berlin.
If you are planning to visit the Memorial as a group, you can register with the Visitors’ Service either by phone, letter, or email. The Visitors’ Service then appoints a guide for your tour and coordinates the times with you, confirming the planned date of your visit and providing the details for payment. The Visitors’ Service also offers a fee-based service for accompanying film teams (permission to film has to be obtained in advance).
It is only possible to view the extensive prison complex on an official guided tour. The guided tours team has more than 30 freelance members, most of them former inmates, who also relate the tour to their own experience in the remand prison. Since our tour guides were imprisoned for a variety of reasons during different periods of persecution, they provide an insight into a broad spectrum of political persecution in the GDR. As part of the Memorial’s civic education programme, our guides are also available for longer eyewitness interviews.
Public tours in English for individual visitors
Every Wednesday at 2.30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.
and upon request by mail, fax or phone.
Admission: € 4 / concessions, € 2; students free
Free admission on Mondays.
Guided tours for non-German groups
The Memorial offers guided tours in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish and Norwegian, daily between 9am and 4pm.
Groups are requested to register 7 to 8 weeks in advance of their proposed visit.
Please contact the Visitor’s Service: Phone: +49 – (0)30 – 98 60 82-30, Fax: +49-(0)30 – 98 60 82-34, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Groups with no more than 12 participants pay an allowance of 48 Euro.
- Groups with at least 13 participants pay 4 Euro each.
- Groups with no more than 18 participants pay an allowance of 36 Euro.
- Groups with at least 19 participants pay 2 Euro each.
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