In Search of Lost Time

Dr. Hubertus Knabe is a German historian based in Berlin. He is an expert on East Germany and the legacy of communist Regimes in Europe. From 2000 to 2018 he was the Director of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, the former central prison of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi). Here you’ll find more Information about Hubertus Knabe and his work.

TED Talk: The dark secrets of a surveillance state

Stasi expert Hubertus Knabe at the TED Salon in Berlin in June 2014

Tour the deep dark world of the East German state security agency known as Stasi. Uniquely powerful at spying on its citizens, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the Stasi masterminded a system of surveillance and psychological Repression that kept the citizens under control for decades. Hubertus Knabe studies the Stasi — and was spied on by them. The Berlin-based historian shares stunning details from the fall of a surveillance state, and shows how easy it was for neighbor to turn on neighbor. Watch his TED Talk here.

Unsung heroes: A short voyage into recent history

The German historian Hubertus Knabe at TEDxVilnius Conference in April 2015

The true heroes in history and the present are not the great generals and heads of state, but the brave – and often unknown – people who revolt against injustice. Hubertus Knabe presents some of the “unsung heroes” of communism in East-Germany – men and women who were imprisoned in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen for political reasons. Dr. Knabe is the author of over a dozen books on German history. This talk was given at a TEDx event in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. You can find the video of his talk yhere.

Is Germany’s leader so soft on Russia because he’s an ex-Marxist who savaged Nato and bowed to Moscow asks leading historian Dr Hubertus Knabe 

Olaf Scholz at a demonstration against NATO missiles in 1982/83 in Bonn (Photo: private)

Senior politicians from all over the Western world have visited Ukraine in recent weeks. Boris Johnson took part in one of the most memorable foreign visits of his prime ministership when he walked around central Kyiv with President Zelensky last month, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen have also shown the free world’s support for an embattled democracy. Yet one senior Western politician has been strangely silent on a potential visit to Ukraine: Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz. More

From Stasi to NSA… and back?

Hubertus Knabe in the archive of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial (Photo by Michal Andrysiak)

Head of the Stasi prison memorial Hubertus Knabe knows a thing or two about state surveillance. He has fought tirelessly against the trivialisation of the crimes of the former communist state. He has also drawn ire for his staunch criticism of the German Left Party (Die Linke) and uncompromising rejection of Ostalgie in all its forms. After information about NSA activity in Germany came to light in the Snowden files, he filed a criminal complaint against the United States with the German Federal Prosecutor’s office for illegally collecting and analysing the data of German citizens. The Journal „Exberliner“ asked him why. Read his answers here.


Hubertus Knabe in conversation with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin (2017)

Hubertus Knabe is publishing analyzes and essays about East Germany, communism and the accounting for the past. Here you find summaries of some of his reports. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The GDR is Still Alive

One of the challenges after the end of communism was to eliminate its propaganda in the public sphere. But in fact, thousands of communist street names survived in East Germany especially in the countryside. Until today in most of the villages and smaller towns you find streets named after communist heroes as KPD leader Ernst Thälmann (613) or GDR president Wilhelm Pieck (90). Only a handful of street names are commemorating victims or resistance fighters of the communist regime. Read more

Hammer, Compass, Garland of Corn

In Germany the use of Nazis symbols is forbidden, but the signs of the communist regime are legal. Why are they treated so differently? When Germany was still divided the state emblem of the GDR and the symbol of the communist party were prohibited in the West. During the peaceful revolution in 1989/90 the freely elected East German parliament decided to eliminate the GDR state emblems in all public institutions. Only after the reunification of Germany the communist symbols were revitalized through a wave of nostalgic remembrance of the GDR. A report in two parts. Read more.


Hubertus Knabe was born in 1959. He studied German and History at the University of Bremen, and was awarded a doctoral degree in political science at the Freie Universität Berlin. From 1983 to 1985, Hubertus Knabe served as press spokesman of the Green Party in Bremen. Later he worked for the Academy of the Protestant Church and the Rowohlt Berlin publishing house. From 1992 to 2000 he was a leading researcher in the research department of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records. From 2000 to 2018 he was the Research Director of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Museum. Before the Berlin wall fell Knabe supported dissidents and opposition groups in the GDR. Because of his political activities he was surveilled by the Stasi and declared persona non grata in East Germany. In 1992 Knabe was one of the first people to be given acces to his Stasi files.


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