Stalking the Stasi
A great big windowless ruin overlooks the bustling tourists, shoppers and idlers on Alexanderplatz. Haus der Statistik sneers down on them all despite its own lamentable state.
Back when it was operational in DDR days, it used to look down on them too, though it wasn’t just tourists and shoppers it was interested in – the Stasi were watching over everyone.
Haus der Statistik was East Germany’s former statistics-gathering headquarters, and the top three floors of the main building were used exclusively by the omnipresent Stasi, the DDR’s dreaded secret police.
After German reunification in 1990, Haus der Statistik hosted the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, allowing people to come and see things they were probably better off not seeing. Germans made 520,000 requests to check their Stasi files in the first year, and that jumped to 2.2 million by 2004. Civil rights activist Joachim Gauck, who later became German president, was in charge as the first commissioner.
Haus der Statistik was abandoned in 2008, though someone left the electricity on. I got a shock in 2010 when my companion – a stranger who only got in touch the day before – flicked a switch and a light came on. The security cameras were working too, showing the corridors we had roamed and our escape route on a bank of monitors that sent waves of terror down my spine.
ORIGINAL POST (2010)
The stranger’s note arrived without ceremony. “I have a route into the big Stasi building on Karl-Marx-Allee.” An invitation to meet up the following day. “Not sure how long it will remain.” Of course, I jumped at it.
Warning bells went off when he asked if I’d a chain cutter, but we met as arranged the next day opposite the great hulking building at Otto-Braun-Straße 70/72.
“We don’t need it,” Chunko assured me.
A high wall with overhanging ledge above the roof complicated matters but we scaled it before squirming under the ledge on our bellies. I grabbed his foot as he dangled precariously below to grab the construction barrier; lower, lower, lower – thoughts of losing grip and him plummeting to the ground – before he finally grasped it and I hauled him back over. The makeshift ladder was put to use again: up to a broken window; it swung open, I swung in, feet crunched down on broken glass, and we were in!
I looked around. An office, unfurnished, totally bare, remarkably unremarkable. We inched our way to the door, out to the corridor, completely dark, completely silent. We stopped.
“Just remember this is our escape route,” he whispered. “This door here.” I looked. Door 1043. All looked the same in the dark. As I was about to find out, they all look the same in the light. He flicked a switch; light came on. The electricity was still running!
We went on, around the corner, down another corridor. My shoes were squeaking like hungry guinea pigs – wiiieek, wiiieek, wiiieek!! Stupid rubber soles. I rubbed them with paper to desqueak de squeak but to no avail. Tiptoes from then on.
Tiptoeing towards the stairs, following signs for the library, suddenly there was the sound of whistling from below. Fuck! We froze. It stopped. We weren’t alone.
We waited, waited for another whistle, but there was none. Perhaps they were waiting too, waiting for a squeak. We inched our way back, conferred in whispers – it must be security – but decided to try the other side of the building. Again on tiptoes, we pushed on. My heart was in my mouth – I was sure we’d be caught – but on I went. May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
On the laminate corridor floor, a chilling catchphrase: “Fiend ist, wer anders denkt.” The enemy is whoever thinks differently, perfectly betraying the philosophy of the Paranoia State. The Stasi motto repeated over and over and lining the floor as if marking a murder scene. In a way it was.
We were the enemy now. We passed door after door after door, opening office after office after office, all the same, all empty. Horizontal stacks of uniformity.
The stacks went up too. We were in a beehive of offices 11 stories high. Wooden paneled walls lined corridors with big empty carpeted rooms at either end. Prying, prodding and poking, we made our way around the first floor, stumbling across holding cells monitored by cameras, Stasi art and more propaganda – “Staatsicherheit, Garant der SED-Diktatur” – until we came back around to where the whistling had come from.
“That’s where I think the canteen is – down there,” said Chunko. “We’ve got to get down there!”
Tentative toe-steps brought us closer and closer, and before I knew it we were down there. I examined a bottle of water left on a counter to see the best before date – it was still in date.
Chunko wandered in a bit when I stuck my head in another doorway. Shit. My heart stopped dead. Waves of alarm surged through my veins. I couldn’t move. Stunned. A bank of monitors in front of me flickered showing the very corridors we had just wandered, the gates outside, the windows, the entrances the exits… A desk stood before me, chair pulled out, and sets of keys labeled and arranged on hooks on a huge board on the wall. LEDs blinked as the monitors projected wavy images at the panic button in my brain.
That was it. I signaled to Chunko to get the hell out of there. Whoever was manning the surveillance was obviously just around the corner. It was them who whistled earlier. Let’s go! Communication broke down with my frantic signals, however, and so he came back to investigate.
So, so carefully, we made our way in, into the lion’s den, barely breathing lest we make a sound. In slow motion we made it through to another room, bare and white, a huge desk and single chair, out to a corridor on the other side.
There was nobody home, not for now anyway, but I still just wanted out. Doors to the elevator were open and lit up just around the corner from the security office.
Chunko, the lunatic, wanted a look in the basement. As he made his way down an internal alarm sounded in the office. LET’S GO! Back up to the first floor, to our way of escape, and there… we decided to go on exploring.
Walking past door 1043, I thought, “This is the point I’ll remember later when I’ll say to myself I should have left then.” The point of spurned return.
On we went to the Far Side, up, up, up – up to the 10th floor, the very top, where more offices awaited. These offices were brighter than the ones below, with stunning views of the city. Alexanderplatz was spread out like a picnic cloth below, the Fernsehturm a candle in the middle. People-ants scurried around and tiny cars made their way to intersections to give way to little trams. No doubt the Stasi took great pleasure in observing their subjects below. I could have spent hours there.
But we still had to make our escape. We made it back down to the seventh floor, where office doors still had their workers’ names advertised, many with pictures of dogs underneath for reasons unknown even to the Stasi.
Chunko, who I’d ascertained by now was as mad as a sleepless squirrel in a Berlin winter, suggested the lift back down to the first floor. A potential kamikaze move – the lift was just around the corner from the surveillance office on the bottom floor. It could open to reveal security guards – but what the hell – may as well be hung for a Honecker as a Merkel.
Button pressed, and we waited for the lift. It arrived with a ring, doors opened slowly. It was empty. Thank fuck. We jumped into the copper mirror-plated interior. Chunko pressed ‘1’ and we descended, inexorably slowly. It was then I knew security was waiting for us below. They’d observed us this whole time, discovered our escape route with the surveillance cameras, and would nab us as soon as the lift arrived. Dread swept over me.
Down we went. An eternity later, the lift beeped again, doors parted – no one there. I couldn’t believe it. We hurried to our door (not before trying all the others), scampered quickly out the window, ran along the roof, jumped down onto an electricity generator and off onto the pavement.
Walking hastily away, we headed back towards our bikes. We’d survived! The niggly feeling persisted though. It felt like we were still being watched. In fact, the feeling persists – they are watching me. And now they’re watching you too.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Haus der Statistik, former statistics-gathering HQ of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or DDR, depending on how good your German is), with the top three floors given over exclusively to the Ministerium fur Staatssicherheit, better known to you and me at the Stasi. I’ve written about these guys before.
Following German reunification, the building became Die Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR, housing the Stasi files where natives could check the dirt dug and dished on them in East German times.
For legitimate visits to former Stasi buildings. I wholeheartedly recommend both the Stasi Museum and Stasi Prison. A tour of the latter is unforgettable.
- Where: Otto-Braun-Straße 70/72, 10178 Berlin, Germany
- How to get there: Walk from Alexanderplatz. It couldn’t be more central. Here’s a map.
- Getting in: This is the tricky bit. It was tricky before – involving scaling a high wall north of the giant coffee cup, trying to squeeze under the ledge without falling off and dying, then sliding onto the roof and using a ladder or ladderish device to get in through a broken window – but now it’s even trickier with construction workers milling about.
- When to go: Daylight is best for the views from the top floor, though there are probably nice views at night, too.
- Difficulty rating: 9/10. Difficult, and dangerous. Probably even more difficult now.
- Who to bring: Someone to hold your leg. Preferably someone who isn’t as mad as an insomniac squirrel at hibernation time.
- What to bring: Camera. Quiet soles. I guess you should make sure the camera is quiet too.
- Dangers: Security. Builders. Lingering Stasi snoops just itching to catch someone doing something verboten. Watch out for anyone and everyone who isn’t you. Fiend ist, wer anders ist.
Haus der Statistik has a simple message for anyone who’ll listen. “STOP WARS” it has been demanding in letters as big as elephants since autumn 2016. The photo above is from October 2016.
The red letters were freshened up with a new coat of paint after Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
SAVE HAUS DER STATISTIK
Haus der Statistik was headed for the demolition ball until Berlin bought it back in 2017 under sustained pressure from local activists.
Now it’s a destruction/construction site with cranes sitting over it like vultures feeding on a carcass. The buildings’ insides have been gutted and all the windows removed under the guise of refurbishment. Time will tell if these broken eggs make an omelet.
Plans envisage renovating the existing buildings and adding another 66,000 square meters for the complex to find new life as a mix of residential, office, educational, cultural and art space, as well as a new city hall for Berlin-Mitte. That was presumably to get local politicians on board.
The STOP WARS letters are to be removed as the building façade is spruced up, but Allesandersplatz will remain on the roof.
Work is due to be completed in 2024 – which is only next year! Of course, it won’t happen. Dit is Berlin.
The bid to turn Haus der Statistik into an arts and cultural center was launched during Berlin Art Week in September 2015. Members of the artist collective called Alliance of Endangered Studio Spaces (Allianz bedrohter Berliner Atelierhäuser or AbBA) hung a banner declaring that the buildings would be repurposed for cultural, educational and social use.
As John Peck of Degraded Orbit notes, the group stated the transformation was “gefordert von Land Berlin,” which can mean both “supported by” or “demanded from” the city of Berlin.
Further events took place in the space including in 2019 the installation of the white letters spelling Allesandersplatz, meaning “everything different square” in a play on words on Alexanderplatz.
“Eventually, in an only-in-Berlin twist, a half-decade after the initial action the declaration has become reality, with a wide coalition of artists and activists having convinced the city and various nonprofits to collectively save the building from demolition,” Peck writes.
It’s a pity it didn’t work for Tacheles, but maybe that shameful capitulation to greed prodded artists to fight even harder for Haus der Statistik.
They would have gotten a good eyeful of East Germany’s biggest protest at Alexanderplatz on Nov. 4, 1989, when half a million demonstrators (or a million, depending on who you believe) helped bring down the Berlin Wall a few days later.
Consisting of buildings between nine and 11 stories high, Haus der Statistik was built more than 50 years ago on what was called Hans-Beimler-Straße, to plans from architects Manfred Hörner, Joachim Härter and Peter Senf as part of the socialist rebuilding program for Alexanderplatz.
Construction of the new 46,000-square meter headquarters of the central statistics administration (Zentralverwaltung für Statistik) of East Germany began on March 8, 1968 and it was inaugurated in time for the DDR’s 20th birthday on Oct. 7, 1969.
Three days previously, a bit further to the east, VEB Kulturpark Plänterwald (later Spreepark) also opened for the DDR’s 20th birthday. Germans take their birthdays very seriously.
Some 2,900 employees worked at Haus der Statistik, including workers from the trade ministry, and the environment ministry from 1972.
The nerds handling statistics were supposed to provide the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) with information to facilitate five-year plans for the DDR. I assume the main plan was just staying in power.
But East Germans had other ideas and effectively paved the way for West Germany to take over through a peaceful revolution that seems unthinkable now.
The “Jagdklause” was another eatery beside the café that was “perfect for fans of game dishes,” according to the Neues Deutschland newspaper.
There was also a shop for hunting and angling products, and another store called “Natascha” selling products from the Soviet Union.
*For legal reasons I does not refer to me, nor does I wish to have his or her name known. Any apparent similarities to real events, people or, indeed, illegal activities is entirely coincidental. I – in this case referring to me – cannot condone any sort of illegal activity (for self-explanatory reasons) nor would I – in this case referring to the author – want to. I stress once again: I ain’t me.
For similar legal reasons we is not us, nor is us in anyway connected with me, whoever me is. See the previous disclaimer, referring to I. Again, I is not included in we, who have nothing to do with us, whoever they happen to be. He/she/they (the author) refuses to accept responsibility for any grammatical errors in this disclaimer, and neither do I (as in me).
East Germany checked out right before the Stasi could check in. Their hotel was never completed. Now it’s just a great hulking ruin between the trees.
Stasi spy station
The Stasi spy station Quelle 1 in Rhinow tapped fiber cable going from West Berlin 250km across the DDR to enemy state West Germany. Sneaky.
Schloß Dammsmühle was a playground for more unsavory types than you could shake a stick at, from Nazis to Stasi officers. Now there are plans to revive it.
I’ve of course seen the abandoned buildings- but never dreamed of entering. Gotta be the good little American girl! I’m inspired. Love the pics/advice
Shiiiit! Nice one. Best story you’ve posted yet. We’ve snooped in a couple of other places with your directions, but I don’t think we’ll be trying this one!
Thanks! I went back for another look yesterday, but that window was boarded up and another possible entrance was sealed up good and tight too. I wasn’t able to get in. We ended up going somewhere else, not quite as exciting, and had another look at the Stasi building when we came back, only to find a car in the carpark that hadn’t been there before. The carpark was there before – I mean the car hadn’t been. In other words, the place is definitely manned by security as well as being shit hard to get into.
Yess!! I was waiting to hear of someone else’s attempt to sneak in. Me and a friend last summer also made it successful inside and explored for about two hours or more until same deal walked right into a security near the old main entrance what a THRILL getting out of there I don’t know how we weren’t caught either.
“Feind ist, wer anders denkt” is just the title of a recent exhibition…
The building is probably used by the current officials, for purposes largely unrelated to those of the Stasi.
Hi Irish !
First of all let me say I love your blog ! Where abouts on the Emerald Isle are you from? I was born in Brussels but my family live in Killarney, Galway, Cork and Kildare.
Anyway I’m coming to Berlin early May and plan on exploring one or two of these great spots you tell us about. I was just wondering about the status of this building. Any news ? Is it easier/impossible to access nowadays ?
I’m from the Sunny South East.
As far as I’m aware that entrance is still boarded up, so there’s no obvious way in without breaking a window. And I certainly do not recommend that.
Thanks for the info and I look forward to reading more about your future urban explorations 🙂
I went to Berlin last week and I came across this building one night with some friends so we decided to try to enter it, and it’s FUCKING EASY! ha ha!
You just have to pull the door! They’re all closed exept one! You have to go through the buiding (there is a little tunnel and then you arrive on a parking lot, go to your left and you’ll see it).
The tricky part is in the building if you want to go upstair (I’m sure you don’t), the elevators don’t work anymore so you’ve got to take the stairs… and the door is locked. You’ll have to go through the little window of the door, use a chair, there was already one on the other side of the door so we found another one. Then have fun!
We just went directly to the top floor for the view so I don’t know how are the others.
Thanx for your blog Irish Berliner, a friend of mine fell on your article I don’t know how, it’s nice to see those pictures of the building! Some things have changed a lot and some haven’t! There is still electricity in the building but the camera room is devastated!
Where the door is (approx.):
Here some pictures I took
The stairs door: imageshack.us/a/img705/1955/18960267.jpg
Camera room: imageshack.us/a/img69/8509/87645217.jpg
Desk room: imageshack.us/a/img856/7876/88776903.jpg
Kitchen (With the same flowers! :p): imageshack.us/a/img191/6657/26205373.jpg
Chillin’ on top floor (the mess was already there): img835.imageshack.us/img835/400/59615544.jpg
If you visit it too share some of your pictures here I’d love to see more!
I am wanting so incredibly bad to get into this building… I found an opening to the left of the path leading between the building that has already had the window smashed, but is more than 70% closed by metal bars screwed across it. With a man’s help pulling on it, I am positive it will come undone easily.
Mate, just incredible. Been an avid reader for a few years and this is my favourite. My heart rate was up and I’m in Australia. Love your work mate.
hi, it’s a fact, that the security companies and house owners love to check this sites to get the informations where to seal the buildings again 😉
I very much doubt it is a “fact” as you say – I’m sure they’ve better ways of determining which buildings to secure – but what do you do? Keep everything secret so nobody knows where to go? Or tell people where the places are so they can find them?
I reckon the latter is the better option. If security companies agree then that’s fine too. They’ll be thankful for the work and we’ll have a chicken and egg situation.
You’re right. I want to say that’s no wonder that the doors locked again shortly later, than the description is to read here which exact doors to take. That’s no reproach to you! greetz Stephanie
here a recent update on the HdS:
there is a way to enter into the HdS but honestly it’s not really worth it; it is completely destroyed in there and there is nothing to see (no more cameras, destroyed corridors, empty rooms)… Some people have stolen everything, probably to re-sell it. To enter you either need to find a way to snick in or need to be lucky that a specific door in the building is open (it is only from time to time. You need to be patient).
Besides the main building there are also ways to enter into the warehouse and small buildings, in which there are many things left. Almost looked like the guys would come back working the next day.
And by the way, a security car/man and the police pass by pretty often.
**Anonymous • June 7, 2014 at 8:11 PM **||
I was there again about 3 weeks ago, and my route was banned
Seems Arlequin is right in what he said
I walked around a couple of days ago, and there is again a way to get in. But be careful, since the place looked to be secured
Do you mean the open window into the basement? I made it in there this evening, but didn’t get from there into the main building. Or were you referring to another way?
Yes I am talking about that window. I didn’t try it, but if it leads into the basement (and not just into a room with a closed door) then from the basement there was a way to the entire building.
It’s not the basement per se, but there’s no way from these bottom rooms into the main building. I* tried!
(*Previous disclaimers apply.)
I didn’t tried this specific window, but if it leads to the hallway and not to a no exit room, then about half a year ago, I have got from this hallway to the entire building. I have no idea about now, maybe they locked something inside
Yeah, the door at the end of the hallway is well locked! Or at least it was on Christmas Eve.
Tried to get in last week – unsuccessfully. 🙁
I was inside last week! It’s possible 🙂
how did you get in?
I also have the same question. we were there 2 weeks ago, its all sealed, the way through underground/basement (Keller) is not available anymore! I hope someone will finde (or make :-)) a new way.
Starting from the third floor they have recently removed all the windows of the building. Any idea why?
There is an entrance to the building on the backside… Find it !
It rottens faster, if it gets wet. And Nobody wants to sleep or dwell there, if it is cold, wet and windy.
It´s still possible, when you are in you come to all buildings inclusive all rooftops…tricky, risky, but realy, realy cool…follow the white jardin on the barb wire^^
Anyone knows the reason behind the giant coffee cup sign? Feels odd given the initial purpose of the building…
I’ve seen a way in, but isn’t the place crowded with homeless or addicted people looking for a quiet place to be? There was one at the back of the building and some stuff that looked like it could belong to a homeless person just near the entrance I saw.
So possibly there’s not only the police to fear, but also them.
So for those who where in – any experiences? And for those who got caught possibly reading this – would be helpful to know how.
Those 4 recently used a ladder on the small closed parking lot on the building next to it, maybe they were just seen, but something like cameras are possible and helpful to know.
I've been there by chance (saw the big letters “Stop Wars” from far away). It looks impressive! We’ve walked around the building but we didn’t try to get inside since we haven’t any equipment with us.
There are some broken windows in the first floor and as far as I can say, there is also an hole in the wall near the coffee sign at ground level – perhaps an access, perhaps only a dead end. As we’ve walked around, there was no sign of security or cameras. But we’ve met another urbex guy who meant that this area is used to host drug dealers and other dubious people. So if you want to enter this coloss (it is HUGE!), don’t go alone. And perhaps also take some protective measures with you.
I was there today (used the entry around back in the parking lot) i saw nobody and just explored the first 2 floors cause i wasnt able to find a way up. But i will try again … The building looked like as if someone was (or is..) there (bottles on the ground and i also was able to see some new footprints in the dust)
I tried the entrance at the barbed wire twice. Fairly easy to squeeze yourself in. From this point you’ve got access to the whole building (the stairs aren’t that far away) and you can get a view from the top floors to Alex’ too. No guards at all, seems like there are some homeless people though, since you can find loads of sleeping bags etc. Great place to go to though! Gonna try the roof next time I’m there 🙂
Because at floor level there were shops and restaurants. One of them was named ‘Mocca-Eck’ (Mocca Corner).
Went in last year autumn, we found an entrance close to the coffee cup. Slide away a wooden plank and you’re in. In March this year it was closed up, but there was another entrance on the street side of the building. When I went in it smelled bad, lots of proof of homeless people, very dark and quite scary. If you have the guts to move on, I still find the place rather scary. But when you move up,up,up, and you come to the roof, it’s a magnificent feeling.
Bring a torch and leave your valuables at home.
I have a friend who managed to get in through the basement of the small three story building in the car park behind, and somehow got up onto the roof from there
Easy to get in. Some refurbishing seems to be in progress.
I saw people in there today. Tried hard, intense and everywhere but couldn’t figure out how to get in. Any updates or tips? I just wish to explore the building before it gets its new and second life and before parts of it get torn down. Thanks and appreciation.
We went there today,no chance to get in.There is no Hole around the Building or the Parkinglot.
They fixed the Window in the Backyard of the Parkinglot.
If you climb over the Roof behind the Building you maybe get a chance.
We searched a bit on the Net- Soon they will be renovate the hole Building.I think because they fix everthing up.