Episode 103: Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial

Location:

Genslerstraße 66, 13055 Berlin

Facts:

  • Soviet transit camp for about 20,000 people
  • Daily guided visits in German and English

The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial has a heavy history to tell. Or histories.

Originally used as a Nazi canteen, the building complex was taken over by the Soviets after the end of the Second World War in 1945. Until 1946, it was used as a transit and detainment camp, but from then on, the cellar was converted into a prison for the Soviet Secret Police. There, they would hold and interrogate those who they considered probable supporters of the Nazi regime and general political opponents.

With the formal end of the Soviet occupation in 1949 and the establishment of the GDR, Berlin-Hohenschönhausen transitioned to the hands of the Stasi in 1951. Under the new administration, the prison held, interrogated and tortured political opponents, those who tried or thought about trying to leave the country and even Jehovah’s witnesses for their religious beliefs. On the second decade of the prison under the Stasi, physical torture gave place to psychological terrorism. People didn’t know where they were, couldn’t see or talk to others and lived in very poor conditions. These techniques almost always culminated in confessions. And it didn’t matter if they were true or not: all anybody could wish for was to leave that place and go to a normal prison.

Heavy, right? Today you can visit the memorial with a guided tour and see first hand the horror many people had to endure during those years.

To listen to the audio version of this episode, check the link below:

Photo and episode: Roberta Caldas

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