"Wenn du nicht willst, zwingen wir dich" (If you don´t want to, we will force you to)

Berlin, Leipzig 2010

The Berlin Wall fell when I was six years old, way too young to understand all the consequences. For many Germans though, it meant that the oppression they had to endure was over. Since then a whole generation has grown up with the self-understanding of prosperity and safety in a reunited Germany, the first to not experience constant political conflict and ideological struggle.

For a responsible handling of history the young ones, who never experienced the former GDR themselves, rely on the older ones to pass on their memories and thereby keep them alive. However, for many people without an urge to grapple with the imminent past of our country, the events of that period of history become romanticized and distorted.

In my work "Wenn du nicht willst, zwingen wir dich" (If you don´t want to, we will force you to) I therefore focus on the former East Germany’s Ministry for State Security which, by the end of the 1980’s, had infiltrated almost every aspect of GDR life.

Image descriptions

Jörg Drieselmann was arrested in 1974 when a poster was found in his possession which indicated the casualties alongside the inner German border. He was sentenced to three years and four month of imprisonment for being the leader of a subversive association while
he was only 18 years old.

Michael Bradler was arrested in the beginning 1982 when he told the border guard at a checkpoint in Berlin that he wanted to leave the country. He was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for treason and espionage. The federal republic of Germany paid a ransom to free him by the end of 1982. Read the full story in a Spiegel online article.

The interrogation rooms in the off-limits area Berlin-Hohenschönhausen were part of the Stasis huge apparatus. The Interviewers were highly skilled in psychological methods in which they were trained by the Stasis own University in Potsdam.

View of the interrogaters aisle in the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen.

View into a prison cell in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. Most of Hohenschönhausens inmates
were there for political reasons and under permanent observation as part of the psychological torturing.

Room of the committing magistrate in the Stasi's secret detention centre in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. The detainee was sitting on the other side of the bars and the magistrate’s favorite holiday resort can be seen above the window.

Surveillance was one of the former Ministry of State Security main areas of concern. Under the false pretense of counter-intelligence a huge archive was created in which almost every citizen had a record. The photographs show examples of hidden cameras.

Taperekorder and Wristwatch with built in microphone to record conversations. These artifacts show how a government can use invisible force to control its populace and spread a feeling of diffuse fear to impose control about the public behavior.

Such moulds were used to conduct secret house searches.

There is no evidence that the Stasi was ever involved with an assassination attempt, but finds as this briefcase, in which a sub-machine gun could be concealed and fired from, show the willingness of the regime.

During interrogations the interviewed person had to sit on a chair with a special cover that could be removed and preserved afterwards. With the help of such scent konserves and specially trained dogs the stasi could identfy persons involved with unwanted actions.

The central of the Stasi Archives in Berlin, holds about 300.000 meters of shelf space in
revised files.

This work was made possible through the friendly support of: The Stasi Museum in Berlin, the Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen, Runde Ecke Leipzig, Michael Bradler and Jörg Drieselmann