Sunday, Nov 1st, 2009
Wolfgang Arndt suffered the full force of the East German state’s attempts to destroy his personality. He tells Tony Paterson about his ordeal, and why he is determined to forgive his torturers.
The award-winning film The Lives of Others, which exposed the workings of East Germany’s hated secret police, always seemed a bit of a joke to Wolfgang Arndt. The 50-year-old does not need to be told what the Stasi did. He was spied on by its agents since his school days, arrested and detained, beaten and drugged by its officers and subsequently jailed for six years.
That was 29 years ago. But Mr Arndt still suffers panic attacks whenever doors are closed on him. “What do I think of that film? Well it was a deliberately toned-down version of the Stasi designed not to offend cinema-goers too much,” he said as he stood outside Berlin’s former Stasi prison this week.
Mr Arndt was just one of the Stasi’s estimated 250,000 political prisoners. He now works occasionally as a guide for the thousands of tourists and schoolchildren who visit the Stasi jail and interrogation centre in Berlin’s outlying HohenschĂ¶nhausen district each year.
The prison, in the middle of a vast high-rise residential suburb, has been left almost untouched. It still has its decaying grey concrete watchtowers, perimeter walls topped with barbed-wire, and subterranean complex called the “U-Boot”. The place is a communist house of horrors and a grim reminder of what could happen to those who opposed the system in the former East Germany.
This article was posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 8:26 am