Until the reunification of Germany, the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) exercised control over the population through espionage and fear. To this day, the legacy of the Stasi and their effect on East Germany still casts a shadow over the country.
Now housed in the old headquarters, the Stasimuseum is an incredible place to visit. Unsettling, frightening and completely fascinating, the museum gives an in-depth look into the workings of the organisation. As well as artefacts and profiles of the workers in the Stasi, there are also heartbreaking testimonials from those whose lives were irreparably affected by their actions.
The exhibit that affected me the most was perhaps the cross-section of a door from an East German home. Within the door itself is a makeshift recording device, planted there by the Stasi to spy on the family who inhabited that home. Most shocking of all: said family did not discover this recording device, or knew they were being spied on, until 17 years after the wall fell.
Away from the exhibits, the top floor of the old building is preserved much as it would have been during the 1980s when it was used as an office for the Ministry of State Security. It's a bizarre time capsule, complete with a bust of Lenin in one of the meeting rooms.
In 1990, the headquarters were occupied by civilians who saved the Stasi files that would otherwise have been destroyed. Eventually, the records were made available to the public and it's predicted that the Stasi once held records on 6 million East Germans.
It's often difficult to visit places like the Stasimuseum, as confronting cruel and inhumane parts of human history is naturally uncomfortable and frightening. However, it's important to remember what can happen when a country rules through fear.