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Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters

June 24, 2024

An inconspicuous block of buildings in Dresden harbors a dark secret. Today, regular people make their homes here. But until 1989, this block of buildings housed the headquarters of the GDR’s State Security.

Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters
The building of the Dresden Stasi headquarters.Image: MDR

The long, four-story building in the courtyard is only remarkable for its windows, which are still barred. The district administration in Dresden was one of the most important centers of power of the GDR's State Security, or "Stasi." 

Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters
An interrogation room.Image: MDR

The original rooms of the Stasi headquarters have been preserved and are still accessible to visitors. No one who walks through the large detention building remains untouched. Footsteps echo loudly in the huge stairwell, full of barred corridors and steel doors with peepholes. 

Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters
Without the rule of the SED, the MfS would not have been created; it was regarded as the "shield and sword of the party".Image: MDR

In October 1953, the Soviet secret service handed the building over to the GDR‘s security authorities. Until then, thousands of real and alleged Nazis and war criminals, as well as opponents of the regime, were held here in the basement prison. For many of them, imprisonment ended with the death penalty, or in Soviet labor camps. 

Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters
A holding cell.Image: MDR

After that, between 1953 and 1989, an estimated 10,000 people were held here in the 44 cells. They had been arrested for alleged espionage, attempts to flee the republic, resist the police or engage in ‘subversive activities’, as the Stasi called it. In December 1989, GDR citizens stormed the Stasi headquarters. They prevented files from being destroyed and evidence from being stolen. 

Today, the building is a memorial - a place of remembrance, research and encounters. Contemporary witnesses guide interested visitors through the rooms and talk about what they experienced here. For the film, author Katrin Claußner meets people whose lives were fundamentally changed here.

Fear, Power, Remembrance - Dresden‘s Stasi Headquarters
These three men were arrested as juveniles.Image: MDR

Like the three young men who wrote "Down with Ulbricht” in paint on a bridge in Dresden after the Wall was built in 1961 and ended up in Stasi prison. They are moving testimonies that tell of arbitrariness and torture, but also of resistance, courage and strength.

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