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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.