With the accession to the Federal Republic of Germany, the existence of the German Democratic Republic ended on October 3, 1990. At this time, the Ministry for State Security (German: "Ministerium für Staatssicherheit", commonly known as the Stasi) had largely dissolved itself and had shredded most of its files. In 1989, this authority had employed 85,500 regular staff members, as well as an estimated 174,200 unofficials, called "IM".
The Stasi had its own detention centers and acted largely uncontrolled with virtually unlimited financial resources. In addition to the very effective foreign intelligence, its activities of defense were directed mainly against dissidents in the own country, against so-called "hostile negative" forces. This task focussed especially on civil rights activists, religious and environmental groups, critical artists and propective emigrants that got targets for spying and repression of the Stasi.
The headquarters of this espionage apparatus was located at Normannenstrasse in Berlin-Lichtenberg. From 1950 on, the building complex was expanded systematically. From there, up to 21,000 persons coordinated the activities of the secret service. From 1955 until the dissolution of the Stasi in 1990 the authority was led by the Minister of State Security, Erich Mielke. He had his office on the second floor of house No. 1 in the center of the heavily secured complex.
During the occupation of the headquarters (staged by the Stasi) in January 1990, ordinary citizens entered the buildings for the first time. What they found was shocking but also surprisingly unsophisticated. The people of the GDR had expected the dreaded intelligence center to be modern and sophisticated. In fact, the interiors were almost unchanged since 1950, drab and worn, with hopelessly outdated technology. The rooms in that Erich Mielke had spent 30 years as head of the Stasi, where the fate of countless people had been decided, were backward and outdated.
Today these rooms are preserved as a museum. Whoever enters can hardly escape their effect. Stuffy bureaucracy and terror according to service regulations to protect a totalitarian state with its ideals long since turned to dust. Led by old men, backward-looking and rigid in their traditional conceptual worlds. Incapable of seeing the need for change.