1945–1952: Remand prison of the Soviet secret police (NKWD/MGB)

In spring 1945, the Allied troops ended the Second World War in Europe and liberated Germany from National Socialism. Great Britain, the USA, and France occupied the western parts of the Federal Republic of Germany as it is today, and the Soviet Union took control of the regions between the Elbe and Oder rivers. The last political prisoners in Lindenstrasse were liberated by Red Army troops in April 1945.

During the Potsdam Conference, which was held at Cecilienhof Palace from 17 July to 2 August 1945, the Soviet military administration confiscated the entire court and prison complex in Lindenstrasse. From 1945 to 1952, the Soviet secret police used Lindenstrasse 54/55 as the central remand prison for the State of Brandenburg. Soviet military tribunals were held in the assembly hall. The bodies responsible for pursuing the cases in question – the Soviet secret police, the East German secret police (Stasi) and the police – worked hand in hand. A network of detention centres evolved that included the Lindenstrasse remand prison, the prison run by the Soviet counter-intelligence agency SMERSH in Leistikowstrasse and the Potsdam police prison. The cellars of requisitioned houses were also used as prisons.

Whereas investigations in 1945 and 1946 mainly focused on former Nazis and war criminals, from 1947 onwards the Soviet occupying forces shifted their attention towards political opponents.

The criminal law of the Soviet Union was in force, and this was also applied to German citizens. Prison conditions were comparable with those in the Soviet Union under Stalin: the cells were generally overcrowded, cell windows were boarded over, and the lights were permanently on. There was no medical care, no access to sanitary facilities, and inmates were not able to change their clothes. The food supply was poor.

The interrogations took place mostly at night. The military tribunals sentenced large numbers of detainees to 20 or 25 years in work camps. After sentencing, they were taken to “special camps” on German soil (such as Sachsenhausen) or to gulags (penal camps) in the Soviet Union (for example Vorkuta). There were many death sentences. Between 1950 and 1952, more than 100 people were sentenced to death in Lindenstrasse. They were transported to Moscow and executed in Butyrka prison. Their ashes were disposed of in Donskoye cemetery. Families received no notification concerning the whereabouts of their relatives, and many waited in vain for the return of those that had disappeared.