The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial is a product of the peaceful revolution in eastern Germany. If the people of the GDR had not demonstrated in the streets in autumn 1989 and had not forced free elections, the site might still be the GDR's main Ministry of State Security (MfS) remand prison today.
Creation of the Memorial
In the early 1990s, former inmates took up the cause of turning the remand prison into a memorial. In 1992, the prison compound became a listed historical site, and in 1994, it first opened its doors to visitors. In December 1995, the Berlin Senate Department of Science, Research and Culture initiated steps to establish a foundation, marking the start of the Memorial's work as an institution. The Federal Government and the Berlin State Government contributed equally to funding the Memorial. A working group of scholars and researchers produced a report detailing the overall concept for the Memorial's future work. This report formed the the basis for the initiative passed by the Berlin State parliament in June 2000 that set up the "Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial" Foundation. For the first few years, the Memorial was headed by Dr. Gabriele Camphausen. Afterwards, Mechthild Günther took over as acting director until September 2000, when the Board of Trustees appointed the historian Dr Hubertus Knabe as the first Executive Director. From December 2018 to August 2019 Jörg Arndt headed the Memorial. In September 2019 Dr. Helge Heidemeyer has been appointed the Executive Director of the "Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial" Foundation.
The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial complex is comprised of a number of buildings: the former canteen block and food store (Old Building), which was first used as a detainment and transit camp in the years immediately following 1945 and later, in the 1950s as the GDR's main remand centre; the three-story prison building, which dates back to 1960 as well as the adjacent Interrogation Tract (New Building); the Stasi prison hospital, which was extended several times over the years; the Workshop Yard, containing workshops accommodating around 25 male prisoners, who were employed for a variety of skilled work and an extensive row of garages for those working there. There are also the external security structures including three watchtowers, an entrance with a security gate and a four-meter high wall topped with barbed wire.
© Reimer Wulff