Memorial site and centre for encounter "Leistikowstraße Potsdam"
In the summer of 1945, the Soviet military counterespionage unit seized a former evangelical church society’s parsonage and converted the building, located at Leistikowstrasse 1 in Potsdam, into a remand prison. The structure, which was and is colloquially known as the KGB prison, became a symbol of the Cold War with all of the era’s secrecy and paranoia. This was, however, a strange and cruel twist for a building established for completely different purposes.
Built in 1916 by the Protestant Church Organization, the structure was also the residence of the pastor, vicar, and the editor of the protestant newspaper. By the end of World War II, the building had been taken by Soviet Counterintelligence (SMERSH) and converted it into its central command prison for men, women and teenagers. It is thought that approximately 900 to 1,200 people served time in the detention centre’s isolation-type cells through the mid-1950s alone. While in the prison, many of the incarcerated were abused mentally and physically.
Today, the most preserved centre — the Memorial Leistikowstrasse - is a unique Cold-War document. It provides realistic impressions of the injustices done to thousands of detainees. The prison cells, original plank beds, as well as the detention room and grilled windows in the building’s cellar, authentically and gruesomely depict the violence and repression used against the inmates. Numerous wall marks and carvings in German and Russian language bear witness of the prisoners’ deprivation and isolation.
The building was used for storage starting in the mid-1980s. In 1994, when the last of the Russian intelligence service was withdrawn, the building was made available to the public. In 2004, Leistikowstrasse 1 became a historic monument. After renovation, the building was officially opened in 2009 as a memorial site with a permanent exhibition.
The memorial’s collection informs visitors about the history of the site, with a special emphasis on the inmates’ fates. At several media installations, former inmates provide visitors with information about the inhuman prison conditions and cruel interrogation procedures.
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