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Stasi prison


Central remand prison of the Ministry for State Security

Founded in 1950, the Ministry for State Security (MfS) (commonly known as the Stasi) was tasked with securing the rule of the SED and eliminating opponents of the regime. To this end, the MfS took over the Soviet basement prison as its central remand centre from 1951. Up until 1989, around 11,000 people were imprisoned both here and in the new prison building, which was completed in 1960. 

In the 1950s, the prisoners included participants in the uprising of 17th June 1953, reform communists and politicians who had fallen out of favour, such as the former GDR Foreign Minister Georg Dertinger (Christian Democratic Union of Germany – CDU) and the former Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED Politburo) member Paul Merker. The MfS also abducted SED critics from the West: the journalist Karl Wilhelm Fricke was abducted from West Berlin in 1955 and interrogated at Hohenschönhausen for fifteen months. The Supreme Court finally sentenced him to four years in prison in a secret trial.

Labour prisoners erected the new prison building at the end of the 1950s. After the Berlin Wall was built on 13th August 1961, an increasing number of people who wanted to flee or leave the GDR were imprisoned here. But critics of the SED, such as the dissident Rudolf Bahro, the writer Jürgen Fuchs and the civil rights activist Bärbel Bohley, were also imprisoned here.

From the 1960s onwards, the MfS replaced the physical violence of the 1950s with psychological torture methods. The interrogators systematically created the feeling among the detainees that they were at the mercy of an all-powerful state: the location of their detention centre was concealed from them, and they were strictly isolated from fellow prisoners. The interrogations, which often lasted for months, were intended to force them to make incriminating statements.

The peaceful revolution in autumn 1989 led to the dissolution of the State Security Service and its prisons. When the GDR joined the Federal Republic of Germany on 3rd October 1990, the prison at Berlin-Hohenschönhausen was closed.


Publications on the Stasi prison.

View Publications (German website)


Fates of prisoners from the Stasi prison.

View Biograms