Egor Egorov (egorfine) wrote,
Egor Egorov

Stasi museum in Berlin

(Тоже самое по-русски.)

The Stasi was an Eastern Germany version of the KGB, established by the Soviets in 1952. Just like the KGB, the Stasi was mostly busy looking for enemies of the people, employing round-the-clock surveillance, and eavesdropping on German citizens. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, people assaulted the Stasi headquarters, dissolved the organization, opened its archives to the public, and created a museum in the main building.

I took some pictures of their spy gear.

Photo gear

The informant's main weapon against his/her own people was the camera. Lots of their cameras are on display in the museum.

For instance, this Pentacon camera with noise reduction had an extended film roll for autonomous work. These were permanently installed in public places like post offices:

Most of the time, spies used hidden cameras of all kinds. This looks like a dated coat:

The shutter was triggered by a silent pump in the pocket:

This is the camera's lens. It's really hard to notice unless you know exactly what are you looking for:

A camera could be disguised to look like a button:

Like a tie:

Like a handbag. Usually, the camera was triggered by pressing the bag in a certain way. Here, you can see the spring:

This is a camera with a portable radio in a handbag:

A clutch:

A wallet:

An even smaller wallet:

A somewhat ironic thought came to me: back in the day, a man with a tube was as common on the street as, say, a man with a laptop today. Can you walk down the street unnoticed while holding a tube in NYC nowadays?

Camera with an infrared flash in a handbag:

This is how an aperture looks in a handbag:

You could put a lot of gear into a typical case. A radio, an audio eavesdropping device and an IR camera with flash:

A tiny camera could be implanted into a felt pen:

The Stasi used both off-the-shelf commercial cameras and custom-made hardware. For instance, this consumer camera was very popular among spy engineers:

And here's how a custom-made focal plane with lens looks like:

It wasn't always necessary to hide cameras in portable things or clothes. Here's a camera installed in a ghetto blaster:

In a gas canister:

In a trash can:

In a watering can:

You couldn't expect privacy — even in a forest. Eyes could literally be watching you from inside a fallen tree:

From a nesting box:

A lot of surveillance hardware could fit into a tank:

When people took the Stasi headquarters by force, workers tried to destroy the gear in a rush. They did not succeed:

And this is a masterpiece of spy gear craft. A covert car shooting system, designed by Carl Zeiss Jena. The Trabant door's outer shell was rebuilt with Plexiglas that looked exactly like the original metal door. Behind the surface, a dozen of powerful IR flashes were mounted:

The camera itself was equipped with a revolutionary laser rangefinder autofocus, capable of working in complete darkness. Once the subject of interest crossed the focus, the system emitted a beep heard in the earpiece. The operator could then take a picture by pressing the button:

The cost of building one was staggering 215,000 deutsche marks. That was expensive, even for the Stasi. So only 25 of these were built, and rumor has it that it wasn't really popular among spies.

Communications and interior gear

People were wise enough not to destroy the interior of the headquarters; hence many indoor communication hardware survived intact.

Here's the secretariat of Erich Mielke, longtime head of the Stasi:

One of the earliest fax machines:

The telephone panel inside the secretary's table:

Erich Mielke's table had a similar one:

His telephones:

The phone panel of Hans Carlson, his first deputy:

Eavesdropping gear

Members of the Stasi were masters at eavesdropping. They had to bug everyone and record everything. If you'd like to know more about how the times were like, I strongly suggest you watch the movie The Lives of Others. It's really great.

Again, the Stasi tried to destroy the gear:

These are tiny microphones. The one in the middle is similar in size to an AA battery:

A mic and a separate transmitter. This one had to be connected to a telephone line, where it drew a specially provisioned 30 KHz modulated power. It transmitted speech back at double the frequency:

The Stasi drilled walls down to the wallpaper and placed mics inside tubes inserted in tiny holes. This one was a radio transmitter emitting at 940-980 MHz. You can see the mic at the tip of the tube:

Bugged phone outlets. Obviously, the Stasi did not need to eavesdrop on the phone conversations this way, because phones conversations were recorded separately in a centralized manner. Bugs were intended to hear people's conversations in the room, and phone lines only provided power supply and transferred speech back to the Stasi:

Bug in a wall plug:

To record a conversation with a suspect, a spy had to use a carry-on bug, which was made up of a separate recording device and a microphone disguised to look like, say, a pen:

Or a wristwatch:

The Stasi employed about 2,5% of GDR (German Democratic Republic) citizens full-time, and up to a quarter of all citizens were used as informators at one time or another. In terms of informant count, the Stasi outnumbered even the KGB.


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