DThe assault on the headquarters of the GDR state security on January 15, 1990 in Berlin had a long history. So he didn't come too much of a surprise. Since the beginning of December, some of the district and district administrations of state security all over the GDR had been occupied by civil rights activists. The reason for this was smoke from the chimneys, and the smell of burned paper. Word got around quickly: State security tears up and burns its files. The civil rights activists wanted to prevent this and intervened.
The pattern for this was, as it were, the occupation of the Stasi district headquarters in Erfurt on December 4, 1989. Leipzig, Suhl and Rostock followed. Citizens' committees were formed everywhere, which from then on guarded these facilities around the clock and began to examine the files. State security no longer resisted, since the wall's opening on November 9, its fate had been sealed anyway. Especially since the actual GDR state security, as the "shield and sword of the party", the SED, no longer existed. Since November 17, 1989, the GDR secret service was renamed "Office for National Security". The dreaded former Stasi chief Erich Mielke, who had been in service since 1957, was under house arrest in their settlement in Wandlitz, just like the other Politburo members, including Erich Honecker.
The "storm" on the building
The new office, however, showed no real interest in repositioning itself. At this point there were supposedly 30,000 layoffs (with a total of 85,000 full-time employees), but the structures remained the same. The mistrust was correspondingly great. The initiative to finally intervene in Berlin also came from the GDR districts. The matter was discussed at the Central Round Table on January 15th, with cameras running. Civil rights activists, the police, the public prosecutor and the government agreed on a so-called security partnership.
The Stasi employees in Berlin-Lichtenberg were asked to leave the site between Normannenstrasse and Ruschestrasse by 3 p.m. The New Forum called for an "action rally", 100,000 people came. The main gate opened at 5.17 p.m. after some of the demonstrators climbed over the fence – how exactly that happened has not yet been finally clarified. Therefore, the rumor continues to this day that state security had staged everything itself. But that's nonsense.
The first thing people wanted to storm in the building was the canteen and shops. There was everything that GDR citizens didn't get otherwise: tropical fruit, salmon, shark fin soup. The glass panes withstood all projectiles, the demonstrators moved on. When they reached Mielke's former office wing, there was almost something like reverent or perhaps even timid silence. There, too, so to speak, in the sanctuary of the suppression authority, there was no longer a Stasi employee, just a few police officers. After this "storm" some rooms were devastated, the GDR evening news showed the pictures. But that was comparatively little damage. The site encompassed seven hectares, on which there were around forty buildings, which still looks impressive today.
Nevertheless, the "storm" had achieved something special: From then on, there was no longer any destruction of files, and state security under the government of Hans Modrow was now officially dissolved. And a week later the Central Round Table decided where representatives of the SED sat together with civil rights activists that a "Memorial and Research Center on GDR Stalinism" should be set up in House 1. The centerpiece of the historic site is the Mielke office floor, which has been preserved in its original state. Since January 2015 there has been a permanent exhibition "State Security in the SED Dictatorship".
Great interest in viewing the Stasi documents
It was even more important, however, that when the files were saved, there was also a call to make them available to the public. Chancellor Helmut Kohl had originally planned to hand over the files to the Federal Archives, he did not want a dispute over them in order not to endanger social peace, after all the main goal was German unity. But the civil rights activists wanted everyone to be able to see their files. They prevailed after a second “storm” on Normannenstrasse and a hunger strike in September.
In the end, a separate authority was founded for the 111 shelf kilometers of State Security files, officially the "Federal Commissioner for the documents of the State Security Service of the former GDR". The corresponding law was passed by the Bundestag in November 1991. The first representative was the future Federal President Joachim Gauck, followed by Marianne Birthler. Roland Jahn has been in office since 2011. All three were civil rights activists in the GDR era. Jahn is likely to be the last in this role, because the documents are now actually to be transferred to the Federal Archives following a decision by the Bundestag in September 2019.
This Wednesday, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was a guest on the site in Normannenstrasse – and also spoke about the future there. Actually, the entire complex should become a "place of German dictatorship and democracy history". But the buildings have different owners, and the demolition excavator is already rolling at one point. There is still great interest in viewing the Stasi documents, with 56,000 inquiries in the past year alone. And new things are still being discovered. The NDR has just shown in a documentary how adolescents have already been turned into unofficial employees and are still suffering from this abuse, which also made them victims.
. (tagsToTranslate) Erich Mielke (t) Erich Honecker (t) State Security (t) Ministry of State Security (t) SED (t) Secret Service (t) Police