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Visitor Books and Memory – Evaluating the Bautzner Straße Dresden Memorial Site's Significance for Former Stasi Prisoners’ Individual Memories



Memorial sites document aspects of history. Thus, they represent a historical past deemed relevant by the initiators in the public sphere. The former Stasi detention center and district administration in Dresden Bautzner Straße is a memorial site that is dedicated to a critical representation of the communist dictatorship in East Germany. This does, however, not tell much about the historical site's meaning to the visitors. In order to get an impression of the visitors’ spontaneous reactions and thoughts, I systematically examine and categorize the memorial site's visitor books. Through these books, memorial sites offer visitors the opportunity to write down their thoughts thereby enabling an open channel of communication. My focus is on entries by persons who explicitly identify as former inmates of the very detention center they visited. They make up roughly 10 percent of all entries. I examine which thoughts former Stasi prisoners wrote down having visited their place of ordeal. What feelings and thoughts emerge after the visit? My aim is to shed light on the memorial site's significance and importance for the prisoner's individual memory by analyzing the entries’ type and content. The visitor books offer an authentic and intriguing access to former political prisoners’ mental world and their individual memory. This contribution connects the media representation of the communist dictatorship and its meaning for the former prisoners’ individual memory.