A couple of weeks ago we took a tour of The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Hohenschönhausen Prison was used during the Soviet Occupation and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1945 until 1989 for political prisoners. It's cold and grey here in Berlin. So the combination of grim weather and brutal prison made for a rather disturbing afternoon. We've heard stories from Berliners about life before the wall came down. "There was nothing to buy over there," or "There just weren't freedoms and options." What shocked all of us, in our southern California ignorance, was how the system dominated the population by oppression and paranoia. That evening, we watched Das Leben Der Anderen, a movie about a Stasi agent at Hohenschönhausen. This resulted in the toughest of us (not me) running from the room in tears when the movie ended. Good times.
Not to minimize the harsh reality, but we were also shocked at the wallpaper and linoleum. It really did look like stuff you'd expect from a Soviet prison. One of the downsides of coming from Los Angeles is that the rest of the world looks "themed." We say things like, "Oh, that little Bavarian village is so cute. Maybe a little over-themed." or, "Europe is just so European." The prison was the same for us. We deny the reality and think it can't be authentic. It must be a set for a TV movie about life in the GDR or Soviet Union, like The Americans when they have flashbacks.
I did, however, hear the best sentence I've ever heard, "And now, let's move on to the interrogation room." Perfection. Why not have an interrogation room in every house? It could be small with a single light bulb, desk and chair. "Janie, did you break that vase?" "You are lying! let's start all over again."