17. Nov.

11:00-13:00 Guided Tour through the former Stasi-prison “Hohenschönhausen”

16:00 Guided Tour through the Stasi-Museum Lichtenberg.

(“Stasi” is the short form for “Ministerium für Staatssicherheit” – Ministry of State Security – and was the official state security service of the GDR)

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15 thoughts on “17. Nov.

  1. General impressions after today visit -sadness and fear. Sadness and fear of prisoners of Hohenschönhausen, due to their unhuman conditions, but also the fear of the GDR authorities, who put so much effort, money and time to spy, arrest, and hold prison people presumably responsible for acing against the system. The system similar to many other systems all around the world, where authorities, aware of the power of the masses joint together under one goal, use brutal methods to prevent any action that could finish their hegemony. And history shows they were right, the power of many united under shared goal is unstoppable, despite the sacrifices and victims, that we will remember thanks to memorials such as Hohenschönhausen.

  2. Today we had a guided tour of the former prison “Hohenschönhausen”. Very interesting presentation of the prison made by a former political prisonier, and a thrilling experience inside. But (no offence), for me this prison was a 5-star hotel compared with the political prisons in Romania like Sighet, Aiud, Jilava and many others.
    In the afternoon we visited the STASI Museum. Again an interesting presentation, well-balanced, a bit “tourist-like”. The history of STASI is the translated one of the Romanian “Securitate”.
    After all, we had a nice day…

  3. As Adrian read my mind when talking about the “Hohenschönhausen” prison, I would talk more about the STASI Museum. When talking about responsabilities during the Communist regime, not only in the former GDR, but also in the other Communist countries, we can talk about a mixed one (the Party, the Political Police and the population). As I understood, the number of STASI employees increased, but the number of the files was the same…maybe because having more people who were keeping an eye on everybody else prevented them to act in against the Regime.
    At the end of the day, I can say it was a very useful experience to see how the things worked in Eastern Germany.

  4. feeling a bit overwhelmed with STASI issue after today, however still i got an important experience. wasn’t sure about the guide in the former STASI-prison, who had an indirect experience with the imprisonment – i didn’t know how i should approach such a person. i honestly had bigger expectations from the exhibition in STASI-museum but i appreciated the guiding – more guides like that one!

  5. Stasi Museum and former prison Hohenschönhausen gave me a image of GDR reality. It was so depressing to listen about brutal methods, specially if was talking about that ex-prisoner. The Stasi Museum for me looks like a lot of other public institutions in east part of Europe but the guide was talking a lot of interesting things about GDR, so this time was not wasted too.

  6. “Hohenschönhausen” offered a very dramatic (even dramatized) guided tour that channeled and asked for emotional responses from the participants. Focused on the experience that a former prisoner could have had, in defavour of a larger perspective on surveillance, oppression and suppression.

  7. When our tour guide at the Stasi Museum explained to us what kind of an “Ideal Socialist” was sought after in GDR, I couldn’t help thinking of a parallel to “Aryan Race”, a pure and ideal race of the Nazi ideology. When he told us how difficult it was to put the Head as well as other higher ranking officials of the Stasi on trial after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I again had to think of the similarities in the long-lasting discussion about who the guilty Nazis were. It seems to me that both in history and our present time, there has been always a need for certain utopia or ideology, constructed by a certain group of people to fit its interest. As human beings are not perfect, neither are their constructions. When certain utopia falls apart, the people who (help) construct it become “just a part of a system.” I am not interested in the concept of a scapegoat but I do question how mistakes made in history could be prevented in the present and future if we never learn how they were made in the first place, hence nobody was responsible.

  8. “We are in danger of forgetting, and such an oblivion – quite apart from the contents themselves that could be lost – would mean that, humanly speaking, we would deprive ourselves from one dimension, the dimension of depth in human existence. For memory and depth cannot be reached by man execept through remembrance.” in Between Past and Future, Hanna Arendt.

    After the day’s visits i found myself lacking a “museum of the present” or a “museum of the history that repeats itself”. It would tell the story of how oppression is transversal to apparently very different regimes and the difficulty of societies in dealing with power and its power seekers. If every memorial has its own agenda, this one would make the point of remembering this repetition of the same script . For the sake of depth, in the name of new possibilities of existence.

  9. In this day we’ve been in touch with another side of life in GDR times: the repression and the maintenance of a dictatorship type of left-wing governance. Even tough this contact has been important, I particularly doubt about the efficiency of “sensationalist” approaches such as the one at the Hohenschönhausen former prison. It is incredible how we can touch, smell, observe the history; but a less dramatized approach, yet not lacking the storytelling, would be better in my point of view. Both visits made me think about how memory might be allowed or prohibited with a same intention: to stare at it or to be silent about it and therefore not discussing it up to it’s depth.

  10. The visit to the Stasi prision and museaum was an important aspect of the programm. The pedagogical approachs were very different and I fineshed the day wondering if an approach centered in live witnesses can be really effective; the personnal experience is, if course, irreplaceble. However, shouldn’t it be completed with other kinds of methodologies such as interactive materials, etc?

  11. The most outstanding feature of the memorial site in Hohenschönhausen is given by tours held by former inmates that tell the visitors step by step their experiences during the imprisonment while leading the group through the significant stations of the penitentiary.
    Eyewitnesses are very requested. In the official website it is clearly communicate that a tour with an eyewitness can not be garanteed ever.
    At the same time many witnesses of the memorial site are kind of full-time employees (4-5 tours a day, several days a week).
    What kind of mechanism leads former prisoners to make of their traumatic experience an employment?
    Which effects have this type of repeated memories on the eyewitness’s recollection?

  12. If you would like to know more about the controversial former Stasi prison we visited on Sunday, I invite you to have a look at this long article.
    You can read about its foundation, about the current management and in particular focusing on the director, about the area and the perception of the site in the public sphere.
    http://www.humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/30-a-needle-in-red-flesh-the-dynamics-between-a-former-stasi-prison-and-its-town
    Even tough it was written in 2009, it is still very actual. Just one revision: the mentioned permanent exhibit has inaugurated in the meantime. This happened at the beginning of October 2013.

  13. a lot of old and new questions today:
    – can the suffering of people be compared in different opressive regimes (including colonialism, capitalism etc)? if yes, then the economic mechanisms of regimes (and thus of suffering) are the only differences between regimes?
    – if everything is connected across time and across regions and continents, then who is responsible for what? who is to be taken to the court of law? and what law…
    – what happened/ happens in time to the public support for humanistic ideals?

    plus a great evening discussion, from which I took the following conclusion:
    – we need to build alternatives to the system, while at the same time gaining more time for resistance and for “raising awareness”. yes!

  14. Let us forget for a moment the object of remembrance as symbolic conveyor of affects and let us focus on its archival, documentary value. The era of the eye witness/participator as purveyor of truth is coming to an end as we near closer to the border of one trauma or another…The witnesses re-tell their stories over and over again, each time re-writing them. After a number of re-telling actions, the aura of the story decreases (as it is the case with any reproduction, just ask Walter Benjamin:P) – and the witnesses can find themselves entrapped in the meaninglessness of their own truth. Still, they continue to bank this reproduction of truth upon others…It is in a way history repeating itself, as Marx put it, first as tragedy and second (third, fourth etc….) as farce.

    Now is the time of the interpreter, of the user of scientific methods, documents and archives, of the forensic approach to trauma (see Eyal Weizman for ideas on that)… Four years after Lenin’s death, a specific form of monument was proposed to commemorate him: an archive of files related to him – or papka (in russian) – which would have had the least inclination towards manipulation through visual impact and affects.
    The pedagogy of the archive has the great advantage that an archive is always a thing of the present, and not of the past, it exists in the present for as long as there is anyone to preserve it and to interpret it.

  15. by “inesvieira”:

    Reflecting upon the historical view mediated by Hohenschönhausen and Stasi museum, our group considered:
    1. That in the former prison no documents had been presented, lacking images and basing the museum experience on the guide; this leads to the recreation of the prison itself, kind of “forcing to do” under the view of the oppressed in a more emotional/bodily experience of recent history.
    2. In the Staci museum some research (documents and daily life archives) have been presented and interpreted, including some images. This was a more institutional, formal and classical museum, presented as more informative than emotional.

    Thinking about how adequate the pedagogical approaches were, we’ve arrived to two questions rather than to two thesis:
    3. As the experience in Hohenschönhausen did not allow any criticism to the museum itself, on a more directed kind of pedagogy that develops less the personal critical thinking, we ask: how to balance former experience of oppression and pedagogical perspective?
    4. Considering that the Staci museum was quite formal yet with insufficient material and missing links between discourses and materials, our second question is: how to balance scientific research/experience with pedagogical perspective?

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