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  • Storming of the Stasi Headquarters on January 15, 1990

History in pictures

Storming of the Stasi Headquarters on January 15, 1990

For many, 15 January 1990 was the day the DDR's last bastion fell. These pictures allow us to look back at when protesters stormed the Stasi's HQ.

Photo: IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner

On January 15, 1990, demonstrators stormed the Stasi headquarters. Although the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, the Deutsches Demokratische Republik (DDR) itself officially existed for another year.

It wasn’t until German reunification that the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED) finally folded. This gave the Stasi, as the official state security company of the SED, plenty of time to destroy compromising material. In retaliation, activists held a demo at Stasi headquarters calling for the immediate investigation and the closure of all facilities.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Rolf Walter/RHG_Fo_RoWa_05_25-01

But the events of January 15 had already been set in motion before the Wall came down.

In 1989, just four days after the fall of the Wall, the entire cabinet of the SED resigned and Hans Modrow was subsequently elected as the new head of government. It was clear that there’d have to be a different path for the DDR but the Stasi continued to work behind the scenes.

As things became more and more desperate for East German officials, DDR leadership tried to blame the Stasi for the state crisis. It was an absurd move, as everyone knew the Stasi had always acted on behalf of the SED.

In November and December 1989, high-ranking Stasi officials absconded, staff tried to destroy incriminating documents and carried out dubious financial deals.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Rolf Zöllner/RHG_Fo_RZ_0274

As a result, anger and resentment grew among normal East German citizens. Frustration grew in cities across East Germany, with protestors occupying Stasi facilities in Greifswald, Templin, Jena, Weißwasser, Wernigerode, Stendal and other cities.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Siegbert Schefke/RHG_Fo_SiSch_02_094-20

The doors of the facilities were blocked by protestors and citizen-guards were posted to prevent the further destruction of files.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Siegbert Schefke/RHG_Fo_SiSch_02_094-26

Under the head of the DDR government, Hans Modrow, two new intelligence services were set up: the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, both used as face-saving fronts by the Stasi.

To many citizens of the DDR, this simply meant the re-establishment of the secret service. Frustration grew, and on 11 January 1990, about 20,000 people demonstrated in front of the DDR Volkskammer.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Siegbert Schefke/RHG_Fo_SiSch_02_098-04

While tension increased throughout the country, Stasi staff in Berlin continued to work feverishly until mid-January 1990. To many, the Stasi headquarters on Normannenstraße in Lichtenberg seemed like a fortress, which citizens still didn’t dare to approach in the first weeks after the fall of the Wall.

Photo: Robert Havemann Society/Siegbert Schefke/RHG_Fo_SiSch_03_043-32

But the mood soon turned and the Neues Forum (founded in September 1989 as the first independent political movement to be recognised by the SED) called for an assault on the Stasi headquarters. They wanted the official command structures between the SED and the Stasi to be revealed and for special payments and privileges for former Stasi employees to be prohibited.

On January 15 1990, protestors entered the compound of the Stasi Headquarters, started blocking the doors and tried to negotiate with officials to have the area handed over.

Photo: IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner
  • On January 15 (11am – 6pm), you can visit ‘Chronicle of a night: 34 years storming of the Stasi headquarters’ at the Stasi Museum. Click here for more information.

Want more East German history?

Have a look at our list of Berlin’s best Stasi exhibitions, or get an ostalgic taste of DDr cuisine, or get a unique perspective from East Germany’s former top athletes. You can also experience the sound of DDR-era punk and learn a bit about multicultural in the East.