MfS Memorial Museum, Leipzig
The building is located on the site, where around 1000 the first German castle was built in a mainly Slavic / Sorbic populated area. The old city wall of Leipzig ran just outside this place. 1911 to 1913 the new office building of the “Alte Leipziger” Fire Insurance Company was built.
Rumour has it that the house was used by the Gestapo in the time of National Socialism. In April 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War, the American army moved into the “Runde Ecke” quarters, temporarily. A few months later Leipzig was handed over to the Soviet military administration and the building apparently became the property of the Soviet occupying force and was used by the Soviet secret service, NKVD, and the predecessor of the Stasi, “K 5”. In 1950, the building became the district headquarters of the Stasi until 1989.
For nearly 40 years the “Runde Ecke” was a threatening stronghold in the middle of the city. All conversation ceased when people passed this place. During the Monday Demonstrations this building became the target of the anger and outrage of the demonstrators.
On the evening of the 4th December 1989 Leipzig citizens occupied the building. Several weeks previously the Monday demonstrators had demanded “Krumme Ecke – Schreckenshaus, wann wird ein Museum d’raus?” (“Crooked Corner – horror house, when will it become a museum?”). In August 1990 this demand became a reality with the opening of the permanent historical exhibition “Stasi – Power and Banality”.
Today the Leipzig office of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the Ministry for State Security of the GDR (Bundesbeauftragte für Stasiunterlagen, abr. BStU) uses a large part of the building for archiving Stasi files and doing research on them. There are ten kilometers of files in the building! Any citizen can request a search to determine whether the Stasi had a file on him, and can inspect it, if one exists.
Those who want to get an impression of the work of the Commissioner’s office and the handling of the records can visit the archive.
Listening and surveillance devices, counterfeit stamps, badges and passports, equipment for opening mail, a disguise workshop and body-scent archives – these are just some of the manifold artefacts of the Stasi displayed by the Citizens Committee in the permanent exhibition of contemporary history, called “Stasi – Power and Banality”. The original working material of the Stasi documents its history, structure and methods of operation, using the Leipzig district headquarters as an example. They are supplemented by selected photographs and documents.
The exhibition gives an introductory outline of the development of the Stasi, its ideological roots, its interior structure and the activities of fulltime employees and unofficial personnel (“Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter“, IM). A second section is devoted to the activities of different departments of the Stasi, for example, M (checking post), 26 (telephone surveillance) or VIII (observation and investigation).
You can also see the faithful reproduction of a cell from the former Leipziger Stasi-detention for prisoners awaiting trial. The entrance area is dedicated to the history of the Peaceful Revolution which overcame the 40-year dictatorship. Another part of the exhibition is concerned with the death penalty in the GDR, which from 1960 onwards was carried out in Leipzig for the entire GDR.
The permanent exhibition is presented in authentic surroundings: Leipzig is the only place in Germany where original rooms of a district headquarters of the Stasi have been preserved and can be visited as a memorial. The linoleum floors, the lattice bars on the windows, surveillance cameras and, not least, the typical GDR smell, which still lingers today in the former offices, are all reminders of the former use of the building.
A tour of the exhibition “Stasi – Power and Banality” brings home to the visitors how the SED developed its surveillance state and how it systematically robbed GDR citizens of their basic rights. The exhibition is designed to create an awareness of the significance of the achievements of the Peaceful Revolution. The Citizens Committee wants to sensitize the young generation specifically, who no longer know life in the GDR from their own experience, to the dangers of dictatorship and wants to encourage them to act democratically.
The museum is a place of warning, commemoration and learning. It has also become established as a much-visited site of political and cultural discourse. The Citizens Committee regularly offers discussions, film evenings, readings, and numerous other events in the “Round Corner”.
Well, I can just say go and visit this museum when you are in Leipzig as you will learn a lot about the STASI in former East Germany (GDR). The exhibition show also how the STASI performed passport control at the borders and how they faked passports and stamps for conspirative actions.
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