2:47 PM EDT, September 12, 2012
It’s important to preface this post with a very rudimentary history of the “German situation”.
After World War II concluded with the Allies victorious over Germany, Japan and Italy, it was decided that Germany would be split. The allies would control the Western side while the Soviet Union would control all of East Germany.
Conditions in East Germany were not optimal, to say the least. After the soviets left in 1949, East Germany was ruled by a government out of the people who lived there in a communist government. The Stasi were modeled after the KGB and were the ministry of state security for the German Democratic Republic (GDR). There were a sort of police force that served as the “shield and sword” of the government. It boasted a staff of 90,000 full-time employees and 180,000 secret spies. For every 6.5 citizens there was one spy. Nearly everyone was under being surreptitiously spied upon.
“Considering itself the 'shield and sword of the party'” it was from this compound that the Stasi conducted its nearly 40-year-long fight against the so called enemies of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) – against those who refused to follow the guide-lines of the regime, against those who did not conform to its idea of a human being”.
Our group visited one of the 44 Stasi prisons located in East Germany. A former prisoner of the Stasi regime, named Cliewe, led our tour. He led us through the hallways and into the former jail cells, occupied by dozens of political prisoners. Inside the small cells, many would try to commit suicide. Others would try to communicate with their fellow prisoners by removing the water from their respective toilet bowls and shouting down the pipes. The danger though, was that you might unknowingly be talking with a guard.
Some of the cells had wooden constructions and shackles, designed so that the prisoner had to choose whether to let their face fall into a container with water and drown or to constantly strain and hold their neck up.
Many brutal punishments were handed down to the prisoners during this regime. They were prisoners who were sent to jail in some cases for mere suspicion of an attempt to leave Eastern Germany.
Ultimately the Stasi prison was decommissioned, but it still exists today as a museum and stark reminder of Germany’s not-so-distant past.