Photo. An art class for refugee children of the Curvy Street Center in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg, May 1953
&copy Landesarchiv Berlin

Thematic Area 5: “Enemy Object” Marienfelde

The thematic area “’Enemy Object’ Marienfelde” examines the role and influence of the Ministry for State Security of East Germany (better known as the Stasi) at the Marienfelde Refugee Centre.

As “lure of the West” and ostensible danger to East Germany’s inner security, the Marienfelde Refugee Centre was consistently in the sights of East Germany’s legendary state security agency, the Stasi. The Stasi’s presence at Marienfelde makes plain the political significance granted to the refugee centre in light of the East-West conflict. It also helps to explain the special atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust prevailing among the refugees, particularly during the 1950s.

At the beginning of this thematic area the visitor is introduced to the role of the Stasi as an instrument of rule deployed by the East German communist party (SED). Documents and training films produced by the Stasi illustrate the ideology, objectives and structures of the organisation. They also outline the methods used by the Stasi used in its attempts to infiltrate the Marienfelde Refugee Centre.

Of central importance to the work of the Stasi in Marienfelde was the building-up of a network of eligible informants; these informants were supposed to assist the Stasi in the collection of material that could be used in the struggle against those “fleeing the Republic”. Most important were the names of those eager to flee the GDR, which would then allow the East German state to foil attempts to leave. After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, information from Marienfelde about escape paths and “escape agents” (Fluchthelfer) increasingly allowed the GDR to identify weak points in the border. At the same time, the reports also helped to pinpoint trouble spots within the GDR itself. From the mid-1970s onward, more and more people attempted to leave the GDR by legal means, a development that came into the focus of the Stasi as well; in light of the growing number of applicants the Stasi was anxious to identify those eager to leave so that the state could prevent in advance the formal submission of applications.

A prominent example of the Stasi’s operations at Marienfelde is described here in detail: the case of the attorney Götz Schlicht (informant name “Dr. Lutter“). From 1957 to 1967, Schlicht was active in a liberal human rights organisation concerned with injustice in the GDR (Untersuchungsausschuss Freiheitlicher Juristen). In this position, he betrayed to the Stasi the intentions of many seeking to flee East Germany.