Why visit Hohenschönhausen Stasi Museum

This former Soviet and Stasi prison was used during the Cold War to detain political prisoners. The house of both physical and psychological torture, is now a museum and memorial, where you can walk the haunting hallways with an ex-inmate or historian as your guide. You will hear sobering stories about life as a detainee; isolated from other prisoners, sleep deprived and interrogated for months on end. The atmosphere is sobering, moving from cells to interrogation rooms, with their 1970’s decor, sparse furniture and blocked windows. A visit to the Berlin Hohenschönhausen memorial center is a chilling reminder of the fate of thousands who fell victim to political persecution after the end of the Nazi regime.

We hired bikes and cycled out to this prison; this proved an easy way to get there along the flat easy cycle lanes. We took the English tour which runs on Saturday at 2 30. Ex prisoners are often the tour guides. The tour was interesting enough at the time, but the poignancy grows and I have found myself reflecting more on it after the event. Not to be missed.

Lynne7, 13 Oct 2012, Wales
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Official tour

Hohenschönhausen Prison Tour

An absorbing insight into the workings of the GDR, the prison turned memorial is well worth the trip out of central Berlin. The 1 hour tour, often conducted by former prisoners, delves into the physical and psychological torture of the period.


Hohenschönhausen Prison history

Soviet “Special Camp No. 3”

In May 1945, after the end of WWII, a commercial kitchen was confiscated by the Soviet Special Police transformed into a Soviet internment camp, codename “Special Camp No. 3”. Alleged Nazi’s, Soviet officers regarded as disloyal to the party line and an increasing number of non-Nazi political opponents to the Soviet occupation forces disappeared into the prison. Primarily used for detainment and transit gulags, the living conditions were deplorable. While more than 20,000 prisoners passing through its...

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Soviet “Special Camp No. 3”

In May 1945, after the end of WWII, a commercial kitchen was confiscated by the Soviet Special Police transformed into a Soviet internment camp, codename “Special Camp No. 3”. Alleged Nazi’s, Soviet officers regarded as disloyal to the party line and an increasing number of non-Nazi political opponents to the Soviet occupation forces disappeared into the prison. Primarily used for detainment and transit gulags, the living conditions were deplorable. While more than 20,000 prisoners passing through its doors, it is estimated up to 3,000 people died in Special Camp No. 3.

KGB Prison “U-Boot”

In October 1946, the special camp was officially closed, but prisoners were forced to convert the former cafeteria into an underground prison with windowless, bunker-like cells. This was named the U-Boot (submarine) and served as the Soviet central remand prison in Germany. The grim, airless chambers were furnished only with a small wooden bed and bucket. Sleep deprivation and torture were the order of the day.

Stasi Prison in Berlin

In March 1951, Hohenschönhausen prison fell under the control of the Stasi. A new building was constructed using prison labour, which included 200 cells and 120 interrogation rooms. After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, Hohenschönhausen Stasi prison primarily housed civilians who wished to leave East Germany and political dissidents, including the leaders of the 1953 uprising and critics of the GDR who were kidnapped from the West.

Physical violence had been deemed inhumane, so isolation, psychological intimidation and interrogation were options of choice to elicit information or confessions. The Stasi prison remained in use until Die Wende in 1989, but Berlin Hohenschönhausen was not officially closed until October 1990.

Hohenschönhausen Exclusion Zone

A possible reason for the continued horror of Hohenschönhausen prison was that it did not officially exist during its years of operation. Located in a large restricted area and surrounded by the second largest military town in Berlin since 1954, it did not appear on any maps and few people knew what occurred inside.

This inconspicuousness meant that Hohenschönhausen prison was not stormed by demonstrators after the fall of the Berlin wall, allowing prison authorities to destroy evidence of the prison’s crimes. Because of this, much of today’s knowledge of Hohenschönhausen comes from account of former inmates and documents source from other East German institutions.

Berlin Hohenschönhausen Memorial & Museum

In 1994, Hohenschönhausen prison was founded as a Stasi museum and memorial site by former inmates, open to the public only by guided tour. Since the vast majority of the buildings, equipment, furniture and fitting remain intact, Hohenschönhausen Stasi museum provides an authentic picture of prison condition in the GDR. While the Hohenschönhausen memorial center is tasked with exploring the history of Hohenschönhausen and inspire its visitors to critically looks at the consequences of political persecution.

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Opening hours

Daily 14.30 by guided tour

Time to visit

4 hours

Transport

M5 to Freienwalder Strasse

Address

Genslerstrasse 66, 13055 Berlin, Germany