Have you ever been to a prison? Could you imagine how it’s like to be in one? What about a dictatorship prison, one that was used to torture the political enemies of the Eastern Berlin Government till 1990.
They call it the Höhenschönhausen, it’s were thousands of people were held after they were accused of tyranny by the Stasi; the Shield and sword of the communist dictatorship in East Germany. Their official name was the Ministry of State Security, they hired 91,000 as full time workers that were assisted by 189,000 unofficial collaborators, all ready to spy on you and report any sign of rage to the regime. For something as simple as criticizing the government in a friendly gathering, you could be held in one of their 17 prisons located all over the country and controlled by the headquarters in Höhenschönhausen in Berlin. Till 1990 this place was unknown to the public, it was only discovered after the regime fell and it was turned into a memorial and a museum to record the brutality and inhumane actions in that era.
I visited the prison out of curiosity, how did it look like I wondered. I joined a tour conducted by a professional English speaking guide (if you were lucky your tour could be conducted by a former prisoner). It began by 30 minute informative video telling the history of the place. It was followed by a walk through the Submarine, that’s what the prisoners called it, the name resembled it’s position underground and it’s dark and damp conditions, which acted as a perfect niche for the torture applied to the inhabitants. Some people said they used to keep the cells flooded with water, 20 cms from the bottom to keep you freezing in the winter. In the summer thy mad sure you felt the extremely warm. You weren’t allowed to sit or sleep for days, just keep standing in your cell. You were allowed a disturbed sleeping cycle and interrogations at random times of the day.
After some years from the opening of the prison, they decided to change their strategies and try the psychological torture instead of the physical, so they built another building for that, equipped with better cells, but this time they are attacking your mind not your body. You were destined to become insane with a slow pace. When I visited we were allowed to see the cells and the interrogation rooms, everything looked original, I felt I stepped back to 1970 or something. There is also a third building in the place, which acted as a hospital back then, which could be visited on a separate tour. After I finished the tour, I entered the exhibition, which some remains of the soldiers including their uniforms, the equipment they used and weapons. That GDR prison is a thing you don’t want to miss while you are in Berlin and hurry while it’s still fresh.