Thursday, 9 August 2018

Berlin day two (part one)

Brekkie is included and we duly trundle down to the breakfast room around nine.

It’s been a hot night. Even with two fans and windows wide open. Dolores hasn’t had the best night’s sleep. While I had just enough beer inside me to slump into unconsciousness despite the heat.

What’s that smell? Is it what I think it is? The happy morning smell? Yes it is: there’s bacon. Me and Alexei immediately get stuck into it. And the scrambled egg and meatballs. Dolores goes for a health food breakfast, with fruit and stuff. Though there is cake and jam, too. Andrew just stares glumly at a cup of coffee. He isn’t much of a morning person.

Despite most guests being middle-aged or older, there are plenty of dodgy tattoos on display.

“You should get a tattoo, Dolores.”

“No way. They look awful.”

“But don’t you want to look young and trendy?”


“Is that a maybe.”


Dolores is a woman of few words, at times.

Having limited time this trip, our schedule is rather full. We’re meeting people at the beer festival around noon, but before that intend fitting in a visit to the Stasi museum, which isn’t far away.

As it’s already pretty hot, we take the U-Bahn. It’s only three stops.

The museum is located in one building of the former terrain of the MfS (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit). The complex is enormous, at least a couple of dozen different buildings. Each of which housed different department. They were clearly very keen on state security.

The museum is in the headquarters building, where the minister and the top officials had their offices.

“It’s all a bit tatty looking.” I remark to Dolores after looking around the minister’s office suite.

“I know. Did you see the room where he slept? Not very fancy at all. Though he did have a tiled bathroom. No-one in the DDR had that.

The “posh” rooms all have the cheap wood panelling I’ve seen in other official communist buildings. It hasn’t aged well. It looks like they never renovated the building after its initial construction in the late 1950s. Considering this was where one of the most important people in the country worked, it’s pretty grotty.

It’s hot inside. As well as the crappy décor, they obviously couldn’t afford airco. There’s occasional relief by an open window.

The heat is getting to be too much for Andrew. He’s looking even whiter than usual. So like a whither shade of milk. We worry that he’s getting heatstroke and sit him down. While Dolores makes sure he doesn’t pass out, Alexei and I continue through the museum.

He’s dead impressed by all the hidden cameras. And the guns, obviously. Though there aren’t many of those. From the 1960s on the Stasi went in for psychological rather than physical violence.

The sheer number of people who worked for them as “unofficial agents”  is staggering. Which has me wondering how many people I met who were in their employ. Statistically, it must have been at least half a dozen. Probably more. Just as well I kept going on about peace and socialism, however much eye-rolling it caused in Dolores.

The gadget section includes apparatus for opening letters. I wonder which one they used for my correspondence with Dolores? I know for certain that they opened at least some, because there were photocopies of some in Dolores’s Stasi file.

“I always assumed all our letters were being read and was very careful about what I wrote. Not too much praise for Stalin. It’s a bit like the internet, Lexie. Nothing is private.”

“Yes, dad. You keep saying that.”

“Doesn’t make it any less true.”

A passing stranger gave Andrew a bottle of coke and it seems to have perked him up. That and sitting outside in the fresh – if warm – air. But we can’t hang around recuperating. We’ve a beer festival to go to. And we’re already late.

Thankfully the U5 will take us directly to it. Which it does.

Find out what happens when we arrive next time.

Ruschestraße 103, Haus 1
10365 Berlin.
Tel: +49 (0)30 - 553 68 54


Matt said...

"The sheer number of people who worked for them as “unofficial agents” is staggering."

As this article points out, Stasi full-time agents as a proportion of East Germany's population were something like one in a hundred, but that dropped to about one in half a dozen when those working for them as informers was included. The KGB and Gestapo never got anywhere near even the lower figure.

Anonymous said...

The Stasi had a file on Delores? They really were a bunch of cut rate punks, weren't they.

Ron Pattinson said...


Obviously the Stasi had a file on Dolores. They had one on me, too.