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Peering into the secret, spooky world of the Stasi

A hallway of an abandoned Stasi prison in Berlin
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/Courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
“Hohenschönhausen Vernehmertrakt 1” (detail). A hallway in a Stasi prison leads to interrogation rooms.
This article is more than 2 years old.

When the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago this November, the Soviet-backed regime that had ruled East Germany as a police state for 40 years quickly dissolved. What they left behind was an architecture of surveillance and control—office buildings and jails that were unremarkable from the outside, their interiors hidden from public view, except for the unlucky people dragged in for interrogations, confinement, or worse.

A decade ago, Daniel and Geo Fuchs, photographers who grew up in West Germany, began documenting the remnants of the German Democratic Republic. Some of the Stasi buildings were ransacked in the months after the wall fell. Others were left alone and remained in a state of slow decay.

The empty rooms still menace, but they draw the eye as well. With some of the photos, it’s even possible to squint and see an uncanny version of a 1960s modernist furniture catalog. Only the walls are cramped, the carpets worn, and the lights a little too harsh.

To mark the anniversary of the Berlin Wall, a new exhibition of the Fuchs’ photos is on view until October 5 at Nikolaj Kunsthal, a public gallery in Copenhagen, offering a rare view into these rooms. Here’s a selection of images from the show.

Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
A hallway in the “Mielke Etage,” after Stasi chief Erich Mielke, who occupied a whole floor of the secret police’s East Berlin headquarters.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
An office for Mielke’s bodyguards and chauffeurs.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
A room for visitors from the Bautzen jail in Saxony.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
An interrogation room at a Stasi prison in Potsdam.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
A hearing room in an East Berlin prison.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
The inmate library at the Stasi prison in Potsdam. The logo on the flag is of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, which was in power from 1946 to 1989.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
A wall of surveillance equipment in Hohenschönhausen, a prison in northeastern Berlin.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
The office of the directorate at the infamous Bautzen II prison, south of Berlin.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
An interrogation room at Hohenschönhausen.
Daniel & Geo Fuchs/courtesy Nikolaj Kunsthal
A cell in a Stasi prison in Potsdam.

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