The Challenges of a Christian East German Childhood

Tilo offers an engaging and personal account of growing up in East Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He begins by describing his early childhood in a rundown building in Prenzlauer Berg before moving to a new prefab neighbourhood in Lichtenberg. Tilo’s grandfather on his mother’s side was a  pastor in the Lutheran … Read more

Gymnastics and Pills: An East German Childhood

Sirka offers a comprehensive exploration of life in East Germany, detailing the experiences of growing up in Neubrandenburg, the influence of the East German state and the Stasi, and the societal impacts of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. She also talks of her intensive gymnastics training and being … Read more

Gunfire in the Woods: A foiled escape and imprisonment in East Germany

This is part two of Henrik’s story. You can hear the first part in episode 307. It’s the late 1980s and Henrik and his friends plan to escape from East Germany via Czechoslovakia. Henrik provides a very vivid account of their discovery by Czechoslovak border guards in a forest near the Austrian border. He … Read more

Growing up in the East Germany’s Valley of the Clueless

Henrik was born in the late 1960’s near Dresden in East Germany. The area was sarcastically known as the Tal der Ahnungslosen  or Valley of the Clueless, as the area generally was not able to receive TV  from West Germany from the mid-to-late 1950s. He describes his childhood growing up in a Uranium mining area. … Read more

Cold War number stations

You might remember listening to short wave radio during the Cold War and coming across weird transmissions of metallic voices reciting random groups of numbers through the ether.  These are number stations, shortwave radio stations characterised by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which were being sent to spies operating in foreign countries. Number stations were used … Read more

Ralph – A prisoner in an East German jail

This is the third and final part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. In this episode, we hear his time in the Stasi prison in Cottbus which with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’. It’s a chilling insight into Stasi prison conditions and the … Read more

Ralph – Arrested and interrogated by the Stasi

Ralph Hänel continues the story of his life in East Germany. We hear of Ralph’s arrest by the Stasi and subsequent interrogation for 10 months. Ralph describes in some detail the arrest and his early days of imprisonment. He also details the techniques used to try and make him break and the pressure the Stasi … Read more

Ralph – DJing and Kung Fu in East Germany

Ralph Hänel tells some unique, strange and funny short stories about childhood and youth in East Germany. We talk about the experiences of his parents in the closing stages of World War 2, his schooling, and how he became a DJ, winning a trip to the Soviet Union. Ralph is a great raconteur with virtually … Read more

My father was a Stasi spy…

Werner Stiller’s spectacular defection to the West in 1979 inflicted one of the Cold War’s most serious blows to the Stasi. At the time he was working as a case officer for the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, the Stasi’s foreign intelligence division, where he was in charge of scientific espionage in the West. We speak … Read more