Based in Leeds, but exploring Berlin for the next two months.
Published March 8th 2019
Disturbing and profoundly moving: Hohenschönhausen Memorial
I won't dress it up: the memorial at Hohenschönhausen is not a pleasurable visit. When I took the tour at the old Stasi prison I left disturbed, upset and pensive. However, I don't regret my visit one bit. I think that it's one of the most important places I have ever been to and one that has had a profound effect on me.
Visiting Hohenschönhausen is not pleasant. However, it is fascinating, important, and a vital reminder of what happened to citizens of the DDR (East Germany) who fell foul of the secret police (The Stasi). Human history is cruel and disturbing, and it's now more important than ever to remind ourselves of what can happen in a country which puts up its walls and rules through fear and paranoia.
The artefact that stood out the most for me was the old van that was used to kidnap political prisoners. On the outside, said van was made to look like any other delivery wagon in the DDR. Seeing both the interior and exterior of the van was incredibly sinister, and a testament to the terrifying and insidious nature of the Stasi's regime.
I will give a trigger warning for those who will be affected by true stories of abuse and police brutality. During your visit, you will hear many such stories, from the horrors of the filthy old warehouse building to the purpose-built remand prison where psychological torment was used.
For the German tours, it is likely that a former prisoner will be guiding you around. Many former inmates work at Hohenschönhausen, reclaiming both the prison grounds and their own experiences.
For those who are interested in finding out more about the Stasi or want to remember those who fall victim to extreme regimes, Hohenschönhausen is a powerful place to visit. I can guarantee that it will affect you deeply, and will stay with you for a long time.