The old Stasi prisons lost their purpose in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. They have now become the symbols and a daily reminder of what the unified Germany never wants to see again.
The fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov 9, 1989, brought about the end of one of East Germany’s most feared institution, the secret police, known as the Stasi.
Now, ten years later, what was then the Stasi's main prison in Hohenschönhausen in East Berlin, has lost none of its gloom. But with no more political prisoners to lock-up, this haunting symbol from the not-so-distant past has been converted into a museum.
Harry Santos is one of Hohenschönhausen’s former prisoners who now act as a guide.
“Back under the communist regime, people protested, they would stand in a square holding a banner that said they wanted freedom or free elections,” Santos recalls. “After just two minutes, they’d be arrested and locked up for years.”
Santos was originally caught while hatching a plan to flee to the West. To this day, he has not forgotten the total silence that reigned in the prison or the daily humiliations that were meted out.
“A lot of young people know almost nothing about this,” Santos says. “Our mission is political education, and I must say it is working.”