By Ian Neubauer
A German bar named and themed after the Stasi — East Germany’s dreaded secret police — has enjoyed a publicity blitz after drawing protests from historians and victims’ groups.
Standing a stone’s throw away from the Stasi’s former headquarters in East Berlin, The Firm evokes the state of fear East German’s lived under during the communist period.
Decorations included listening devices, shredded documents, old typewriters, a dummy dressed in an East German police uniform and a poster that welcomes drinkers to the capital of the German Democratic Republic. Regulars can even become ‘Stasi informants’ to receive a 10 per cent discount.
"We mean it in a satirical but serious way. We respect the victims. We do not want to brush it under the carpet," co-owner Willi Gau, who grew up in the communist state, told Reuters news service. "After 20 years we should change the way we talk about that topic."
But Gau’s claim has been shot down by detractors, who have derided the venue for its tastelessness.
"The many people who know about the inhuman methods of the Ministry for State Security… won’t enjoy their beer in this bar," Stasi archivist, Marianne Birthler, told the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper.
"Many people still tremble when they think about the Stasi. They suffer from insomnia and physical problems," victims’ organisation spokesperson, Peter Alexander Hussock, told the Bild newspaper, adding that the issue was too serious to turn into a joke.
Commonly known as the Stasi, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security was widely regarded as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world.
When the Berlin Wall fell and the two Germanies merged in 1989, the Stasi had more than 90,000 staff and informers on its payroll.