State Security in the SED Dictatorship
After World War II, under the direction of the Soviets, German communists began establishing a dictatorial regime in the Soviet occupation zone in Germany. In 1946, also under Soviet pressure, the German Communist Party (KPD) and German Social Democratic Party (SPD) were merged to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The SED remained the centre of power in the GDR until 1989.
The rulers created a system of power based on force, threats, rewards and privilege. Individuals were taught to conform, comply and, whenever possible, participate. The SED, with unrestrained access to almost all areas of life - the churches remained an exception - was able to comprehensively control the population and to reward and reprimand as needed.
The Ministry for State Security (MfS) constituted the centre of the ruling apparatus. Under the SED leadership, the so-called “Shield and Sword of the Party” was responsible for protecting the “workers’ and peasants’ state” and securing the SED dictatorship.
The permanent exhibition “State Security in the SED Dictatorship” illustrates and explains the structure, development and operations of the MfS. It describes the people who worked for this institution and the methods they employed.
The permanent exhibition was developed by the ASTAK association in cooperation with the Agency of the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records (BStU), which was responsible for the exhibition content on the 1st floor.The offices of Erich Mielke, the last GDR Minister for State Security, are preserved in their original condition and form the centrepiece of the exhibition.
Shortly after the GDR was founded, the SED regime created the Ministry for State Security as an institution to secure its monopoly of power. This section of the exhibition describes the establishment and development of the MfS.
The employees of the Ministry for State Security were selected on the basis of strict criteria. In particular, their unconditional loyalty to the SED was examined and they were expected to avow themselves to socialism both at work and in their private lives.
MfS employees used various methods to carry out their work. In addition to technical surveillance methods, the unofficial collaborators, informers who spied on people they knew on behalf of the MfS, were its most important information source.
The Minister's Level
The rooms on this level were designed to meet the needs of Erich Mielke. Their function and interiors remained largely unchanged from the time the building was completed in 1961.
This area remained largely intact, even when the building complex was taken over by demonstrators on 15 January 1990. The many objects on display throughout the rooms were, however, later removed and archived.
This level is therefore preserved in its original form and visitors can see it today in the condition that it existed when it served as Erich Mielke’s offices.
The Stasi Takes Action
The main task of the MfS was to control the entire population of the GDR. Collecting information served as the basis for various decisions made by the SED power apparatus. In this way, the MfS was also able to identify any conduct that deviated from the SED norm. It could then use the many instruments at its disposal to examine its initial suspicions.
If the MfS discovered “subversive activity”, it employed various methods to try to stop it.
The End of State Security
In light of growing protest and changes in the ruling apparatus, the MfS began to consolidate its records and files and to destroy them bit by bit.
Courageous people responded by occupying the Stasi offices and creating citizens’ committees to prevent the files from being destroyed.