From the Jewish Museum to the Stasi Museum

The Jewish Museum in Berlin

The Jewish Museum in Berlin

The building is shaped like a dislocated Star of David. Gray, with a zinc-clad facade and little openings that provoke a strong sense of claustrophobia. The museum is not only the objects on its walls and in its display cases, the museum is all of it, each space one can move through and even the voids — with no human presence — that can be glimpsed through certain gaps. There are family photos, books with their gold-embossed covers, medical instruments, and images of young people in their bathing suits. It is life, the life of German Jews before the Holocaust. One might expect to see only the testimonies of the horrors, but most dramatic is finding yourself facing the testimony of everyday life. Laughter captured — years before the tragedy — is as painful to look at as are the emaciated corpses and piled up cadavers. The proof of those moments of happiness make the tears and pain that follow more terrifying.

After a time between the narrow corridors of the place and amid its bewildering architecture, I go outside and breathe. I see spring greenery in Berlin and think: we can’t allow this past to ever return.

And not very far from there, stands the Stasi Museum. I enter their cells, the interrogation rooms. I come from the perspective of a Cuban who was detained in the same place, where a window looking outward becomes an unattainable dream. One cell was lined with rubber, the scratch marks of the prisoners can still be seen on its walls. But more sinister seeming to me are the offices where they ripped — or fabricated — a confession from the detainees. I know them, I’ve seen them. They are a copy of their counterpart in Cuba, copied to a T by the diligent students from the Island’s Ministry of the Interior who were taught by GDR State Security. Impersonal, with a chair the prisoner can’t move because it is anchored to the floor and some supposed curtain behind which the microphone or video camera are hidden. And the constant metallic noises from the rattling of the locks and bars, to remind the prisoners where they are, how much they are at the mercy of their jailer.

After this I again need air, to get out from within those walls. I turn away from that place with the conviction that what, for them, is a museum of the past, is what we are still living in the present. A “now” that we cannot allow to prolong itself into tomorrow.

A tiny window, the only source of light in a German Stasi cell.

A tiny window, the only source of light in a German Stasi cell.

60 thoughts on “From the Jewish Museum to the Stasi Museum

  1. Pingback: Visiting disturbing places like museums | The Road Below Me

  2. Elizabeth, did your “Civil rights Activist and humanitarian” mother not teach you that it is wrong to murder other people in cold blood?

    Because that’s what the murderers, that you mentioned in your previous posts, did.

  3. Yoani, I hope you read the comments under your posts. They are very revealing and will tell you exactly who your supporters are. I was born a dissident, and my mother was a Civil Rights Activist and a humanitarian. Those who support you do not take stands against injustice worldwide. They are only interested in influencing your beliefs, as you have a difficult time getting information because you have limited access to the internet. You do, however, have access to books that discuss cruelty worldwide. Start by reading the writings of Rigoberta Menchu. It is time for you to take a break from writing and to continue your education, which is a never ending process.

  4. @Hank #54

    “Convicted” in the US does not mean much.

    It depends of the funds the suspect had for his defence. Almost every month we hear stories of persons released after X years just because somone got the money to search for evidence or to hire a top-lawyer.

  5. @sandokan #55

    Yea, “the classification, organization and conservation, especially of 160,000 pre-1959 records” might be a problem.

    But not for the police.

    For the cementary administration.

  6. Jorge Luis Garcia Vázquez author of the blog STASI-MININT, is a Cuban exile living in Berlin. In his blog he provides lots of information about the relationship between the STASI & the MINIT. In his article “El Archivo del MININT y el asesoramiento de la STASI.” (The MININT Archive and the advise of the STASI), he provide the followings statistics (translation):

    Until 1980 the MININT had prepared a total of:

    2,088,571 records or documents of the State Security
    6,056,847 records pertaining to Internal Order

    This total quantity of documents: 8,145,418, was the main problem of the Minint, their classification, organization and conservation, especially of 160,000 pre-1959 records….

    The Stasi report describes the exact location of the Archive, the status of the personal Card Index, which contains “all the Counterintelligence materials, for example the data on informants, operations carried out or documents of operational importance.”

    In this card index alone were registered 4 million people with the following personal data: surname, first name, date of birth, gender, skin color, codified fingerprints and registration number.

    The officers of the Stasi, who have came to have 180 kilometers of records and documents on their citizens, delivered gladly to their allies and students in political repression their experiences and technical resources, to monitor and liquidate any opposition or dissent.

    Here you can read the whole document in Spanish: http://stasi-minint.blogspot.com

  7. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your posts.

    I could not disagree with you more, but it is great that you are here on this forum and can express yourself freely so we can discuss these issues.

    You are factually incorrect on at least the following point: Yoani did not meet with President Obama, much as I would have liked for that to have happened. If you have evidence to the contrary, please let us know.

    Why is it that you align yourself with convicted cop killers?

    Also, what do you mean when you say Yoani laughed at people when she was in NY? Please elaborate.

  8. LOL, you’ve got to be kidding, Elizabeth? Dissidents? Both of the losers that you mentioned are cold-blooded cop killers.

    A “refugee”? Please!!!!

  9. @Elisabeth #45

    The list of people Yoani redused to see is longer.

    Cuba is a Caribbean island and Yoani did not include any Caribbean country on her trip. Nor did she go to any Central American country, to any natural neighbor of Cuba.

    All countries of the region suffer from not only from the current crisis but even more from globalisation as such. Check yesterdays speach of dominmican ex-president Fernandez (not a socialist).

    Yoani does not care what Cuban neighbors cope with, how they solve their problems, what the Caribbeans could learn from each other. Insted, she jets arond the globe with her “police pulled my hair” stories.

    You judge if she can be taken seriously.

  10. Nick,

    You treat everything that Castro and his propaganda network says as “facts”. The only thing missing from your “facts” are some real facts.

    Maybe, just maybe, the Cuban 5 came to the US to kill peaceful dissidents and infiltrate military bases that have nothing to do with Cuba, because that is exactly what they did.

    Besides killing people, Cuba collects classified information which it sells to third parties like Iran and China. They’ve always done this and it’s very good business.

    OK, maybe Brothers to the Rescue shouldn’t have dropped leaflets on Cuba, but here in the USA peaceful dissidents distribute leaflets without getting assassinated by command of the president.

    I’m sure if Bush ordered hit men to blow up anti-war demonstrators, you wouldn’t regard Bush as a hero.

    Just the facts, sir.

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