It’s funny how a name can mean so many different things to different people. Like Hohenschönhausen. To most, it won’t mean anything. To others, it’s the part of Berlin they call home. But to some (all too many), it’s a name that will forever haunt them. A name that speaks of imprisonment, cruelty and suffering.
It looks like a film set. Long corridors of identical looking, locked doors. And yet it’s not a film set, it’s reality. Or at least it was until German reunification in 1990. Hohenschönhausen was a remand prison run by the Stasi, the East German state security service. People were imprisoned for wanting to leave the country, for helping others escape, for opposing the regime.
Almost all of them ended up in solitary confinement, in cells like this. This particular cell is from the 1980s, in the early days, they looked nothing like this… Whatever the level of “comfort” was, prisoners were isolated. Isolated from family, from friends – from any kind of human interaction. Even the guards only knew them by their cell number, not their name.
The only contact with others took place here.
We do well to remember that this was going on not that long ago, not that far away.
Find out more about the memorial here.
For more of a context, The Lives of Others is a great film to watch.