The M13 tram snakes its way from Warschauerstrasse station through the uninspiring suburb of Lichtenberg. There are no signs for the Stasi Museum when you get off at the town hall. We had to ask directions in a bakery, and had almost given up when I spotted the modest sign.
The headquarters of the Stasi secret police – now a museum – is in a dull office block at the back of a medical centre where old folks have their knees and hips fixed.
The interior of the museum seems fixed in time, expect that the spookiness is tempered by the almost apologetic air of the staff – are they volunteers, perhaps? There’s no fancy till or flash tickets. In the café, a kindly lady serves filter coffee and marble cake as if at a church craft market.
In the entrance is a Stasi prison van, a people mover containing tiny cells, each with a hook for the prisoner to hang their jacket. Banal detail seems to have been the hallmark of the Stasi.
The middle floor comprises the offices of Stasi boss Erich Mielke and his senior staff, all fitted out in blonde timber and woolly seated chairs. The office technology looks dated even for 1989, when the Stasi was disbanded; it reminded me of the huge vanished wood radiograms I was proudly shown in Moscow in 1974.
The last exhibit we saw before walking back to the tram was a file card with a sketch showing how the monstrous Erich Mielke’s breakfast egg and coffee were to be set out each morning at his desk.
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