Site Name: Leistikowstrasse KGB Prison
Sub Brit site visit 16th April 2006
Photo:1 Leistikowstrasse before it was taken over by the KGB in 1945
At the signing of the Potsdam Agreement, the administration of Germany
was divided between the main four Allied nations- a division which would
eventually become East and West Germany. Potsdam was in the Russian-controlled
part of Germany and thus effectively fell under control of the Stalin-era
Soviet Union immediately. Although Potsdam is in the East, it is very
close to the border with West Berlin and indeed not far from Checkpoint
Bravo. The nearby Glienicke Bridge connected West Berlin with Potsdam
and was used for spy exchanges, which also ties in with the prison's
Photo:Cells on the ground floor
Photo by Nick Catford
Prisoners were kept in very basic and unhygienic conditions. In the
early years some cells were literally bare, without a bed or even lavatory
buckets. Inmates were fed meagre rations of bread, soup and cabbage
or potato-based dishes. There were no washing facilities and no prisoners
were given access to medical care. Mostly they were kept in the cells
and had no exercise period, so weight loss and illnesses were very common.
Interrogations took place at night, and it was forbidden for prisoners
to sleep during the day. The lighting was kept on twenty-four hours
daily and was harsh and bright. Trials and interrogation were conducted
in Russian, with no translation or interpreter, so many people did not
know what they had been accused of. This made it impossible for most
to defend themselves.
Photo:1 Leistikowstrasse after conversion to a prison for the KGB. There was a security screen around the entrance to the building, the fence posts for this can be seen in the foreground.
Photo by Nick Catford
Some very basic facilities, such as buckets in cells, hard beds and
squat toilets, were installed in later years. The prison was also used
to temporarily hold those individuals who were being released to the
West in spy exchanges on the Gleniecke Bridge- the most famous such
inmate being Gary Powers, the pilot of the U2 spy plane shot down on
1 May 1960.
Click on a floor to enlarge
On one side of the main door is a former office now used for book sales and literature, and there are steps down to a spine corridor. Cells open off on both sides of this. The cells have heavy steel doors. The doors do not have spyholes, but there is a small hole in the outer wall of each cell. On the interior, these holes have had surrounding plaster chipped away to provide a surprisingly wide field of vision, a low-tech version of the fisheye lens. The three vertical strip lights on the cell walls are not original- the cells had overhead lighting. Each cell, which held up to ten people, is now used to house small exhibitions telling the stories of some of those who were held here and of the Gulag system itself.
For further information and pictures about 1 Leistikowstrasse click here here
Last updated 4th May 2006
© 2006 Subterranea Britannica