Page 51. " on the site of the old Palace of the Prussian Kings pulled down by the Communists, is the parliament building of the GDR, the Palast der Republik "
Palast der Republik in the 1980s
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePalast der Republik in the 1980s - Credit: Lutz Schramm

The Palast der Republik, constructed in 1973, was the seat of the East German parliament, with the additional amenities of two large auditoria, art galleries, a theatre, restaurants and a bowling alley. However, the history of this central square begins much earlier, as the site of the Stadtschloß (the Palace of the Prussian Kings).

Closed to the public in 1990 due to asbestos, the interior was gutted but the skeletal structure remained throughout years of debate, indecision and various set-backs. Its eventual dismantling was complete by 2008 and, fascinatingly, much of the steel frame was shipped to the United Arab Emirates for use in the construction of the Burj Khalifa.

There is currently a massive project in place to reconstruct the facade of the original Stadtschloß, down to the very last detail. The interior will house the Humboldt collection of non-European art.

In the meantime a temporary art gallery is showing exhibitions, events and films in response to this incredible site with all its complex history.

Page 52. " The trams are western now - they were among the first things to cross over here after the Wall came down. They are a flash of sighing yellow suspended from strings, shifting through this greyscape. "

A mural in Berlin-Lichtenberg: bus, train, tram
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumA mural in Berlin-Lichtenberg: bus, train, tram - Credit: Susannah Worth


Page 55. " I catch the underground to the national Stasi Headquarters at Normanennstrasse in the suburb of Lichtenberg. "

The Stasi Headquarters in the suburb of Lichtenberg are now open to the public as the Stasi Museum and memorial. This film gives an overview of the museum and exhibits.

Page 56. " And, deep inside this citadel was the office of Erich Mielke, the Minister for State Security. "

Erich Fritz Emil Mielke (1907–2000) was Minister for State Security from 1957 to 1989. Forced to flee Germany after the murder of two anti-communist police officers in 1931, he was exiled in Moscow, along with other German communists. Despite his consistent and dedicated involvement with the Stasi, it was only for these two murders that Mielke was eventually convicted in 1993.

Of the six year sentence, he served only two due to poor health, and died aged 92 in a Berlin nursing home.

For further information and sources on Erich Mielke's life, see Anna Funder's endnote on page 283.

Page 56. " People come here to read their unauthorised biographies. "

Timothy Garton Ash, a British historian wrote The File: A Personal History when he discovered the file that the Stasi had kept on him while he was studying in Berlin.

Page 58. " Mielke was an invisible man, but Honecker's picture was everywhere. "

Erich Honecker (1912–1994) was the leader of the GDR from 1971 until its demise in 1989. He was imprisoned for crimes committed during the Cold War, in particular for implementing the shoot-to-kill policy for anyone who attempted to cross the East German border, leading to the deaths of around 125 East German citizens. Honecker was diagnosed with terminal cancer during the trial and died shortly after his release from prison.

The famous image of Honecker kissing Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev is shown and discussed in the Bookmark for page 172. 

Page 64. " On 7 October 1989 the GDR celebrated its forty years of existence with lavish parades in Berlin. "

The film Goodbye, Lenin! (2003) opens in the year 1989, and includes some great shots of former East Berlin, from the architecture to the Trabant cars, and later the parades on 7 October, celebrating 40 years of the GDR.


Page 64. " In Leipzig the extraordinary courage of the people didn't waver "

For its persistent demonstrations in 1989, Leipzig became known as the 'City of Heroes'. Candle light was used to emphasise the policy of non-violence, and this was remembered for the 2009 anniversary events.

Page 65. " 'It will come into my knowledge, immediately,' he said. "

At a press conference on 9 November 1989, Günter Schabowski mistakenly brought about the immediate end to restricted travel from the GDR. This clip shows him searching his notes, front and back; with no confirmed answer for a date when this loosening of the restrictions would come into action, the answer he gives is "sofort" – immediately.


Page 65. " 10,000 people were at the Bornholmer Bridge checkpoint on foot and in their Trabant cars, thronging the Wall "

A Trabant car passing the Berlin Wall in 1990
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA Trabant car passing the Berlin Wall in 1990 - Credit: Wolfgang Lemmerz
The Trabant car was produced in East Germany. Its huge popularity there has made it an icon of the GDR, though it was also exported to countries both in and outside the communist bloc. Though compact, light and affordable, it was a mediocre machine but is regarded with nostalgic affection. The Trabi (as it is affectionately known) achieved iconic status as part of the graffiti which covered remaining sections of the Berlin Wall.