Berlin ‘Stasi bar’ draws protests

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3 Aug, 2008 Updated Sun 3 Aug 2008 18:11 CEST
Berlin ‘Stasi bar’ draws protests

A new Berlin bar is taking spy chic and East German nostalgia to a new – and some say tasteless – level by using the former state’s feared secret police, the Stasi, as its theme.


Called ’Zur Firma’ – ‘At the Firm,’ a play on slang for the Stasi – the pub near the former Stasi headquarters in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg is decorated with shredded files, a German Democratic Republic flag and an urn with fake remains of former East German leader Erich Honecker.

Regulars can get a ‘Stasi’ identity card that entitles them to 10 percent off their drinks. A sign outside announces to passers-by: “Come to us, or we’ll come to you!”

Co-owner Willi Gau, 60, told local newspapers the pub is intended as satire.

“We also want to provoke people on this issue,” Gau, who grew up in the former East Germany, told German newspaper Die Welt.

Gau and co-owner Wolfgang Schmelz, 53, who grew up in the former West Germany, opened two weeks ago and told reporters they hope to capitalize on tourist traffic surrounding the 20th anniversary next year of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The two dreamed up the idea for the pub after losing their jobs at a call centre, they told local newspaper Berliner Zeitung. Both had hospitality industry experience – Schmelz as a waiter and Gau in a hotel in the former East Germany. And upon visiting the Stasi museum down the street from the location they were contemplating for a bar, they found the representation of the secret service to be ‘one-sided,’ they told the paper.

Some 37 regulars have already registered for their ‘Stasi’ identity cards.

But to representatives of Stasi victims – and to many Berliners who grew up under the Communist regime – the idea isn’t funny.

“The tastelessness of this cannot be topped,” Marianne Birthler, the German commissioner in charge of maintaining Stasi records, told the Berliner Zeitung.

Some neighbors are annoyed as well.

“I don’t know what’s supposed to be funny about the Stasi,” a young woman shopping across the street from the bakery told the newspaper. “I’m sure I won’t ever go there.”


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