The Erics weren't men to take chances. Eric H was the top man from the early 1970's and Eric M ran the secret police that tried to keep a nation's population in check. At one point depending on what figures you believe, the Stasi empire had over 90,000 agents and a further 170,000 informers. The word was that a significant percentage of the whole East German population was in the spying or informing business. The empire was controlled from the complex of tower blocks adjacent to Magdalenestrasse U Bahn and more specifically from Haus 1, where Eric had his office suites. The office is now the focal point of the Stasi Museum , where the original furniture is all retained and laid out as though the operation was still running. Eric didn’t live there, but his offices included a bed and bathroom and apparently his secretary had a note to confirm just how he liked his breakfast! Get the boiled eggs wrong and you are on the list! 5 Euros gets you a glimpse of the former life of East Berlin.
Eric also liked football and he didn’t like the idea of taking chances with results for his team. Dynamo
Berlin were notorious for those last minute penalties and dubious refereeing decisions, that clearly played a significant part in the run of 11 straight DDR Oberliga championship titles between 1979 and 1988. The majority of this football theatre was played out at the bowl of a stadium at the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg. The ground today is still the 2nd
largest capacity stadium in Berlin , after the Olympiastadion and is at the centre of the sports complex of artificial pitches at the far end of Bernauerstrasse and bordered by the Max Schmelling Halle. Turkiyemspor Berlin were the most recent occupants and have just gone bust, failing to fulfil their 2011 – 2012 fixtures. The old tenants have long since disappeared after they couldn’t pay the rent and the stadium is now used for the Berlin FA Cup Final and any games that the authorities deem need the higher level of security afforded by the fences and segregation. As a result, the current Berliner Fussball Club Dynamo get to come back and play the odd encounter – the most recent of which was a lively affair off the field in the 1st
Round of the DFB Pokal
In the old days the location was right next to the Wall, which still forms part of the colourful western perimeter boundary today. Despite the domestic success, Eric couldn’t quite get the general public to buy into the club and crowds remained low. Dynamo Berlin ’s public appeal probably paralleled that of a Syrian Army artillery in Homs . The attraction for most would probably have been the chance of an opportunity to make a break for freedom. As a result, tickets weren’t readily available for the seats close to the Wall except if you had close connections to the military, Stasi or were a trusted member of the wider population.
Eric’s influence didn’t extend to Europe . He might have got to a few referees over the years, but Dynamo didn’t overburden their trophy cabinet with European prizes. When Eric came up against Brian, it all went well in the first leg at the home of the Trees. Alas, Eric didn’t count on the conversion of Trevor to a super striker and Dynamo were dead and buried by half time. As a veteran of this watching football in Europe lark from the 80’s, the man
in the middle was disappointed to miss out on this trip at the time so a photo inside the Jahn Sportpark was essential. The gates were locked and there are plenty of CCTV cameras. The main in the middle tries some handles and found that the Sky TV equivalent truck men had left an entrance open after parking up to cover an event at the Max Schmelling next door. Job done, we were in!
We caught a couple of trams to Lansberger Allee in pursuit of the new home of BFC at the Sportforum. The current crop representing what remains of Eric’s favourite club turn out in front of their hooligan majority in a wide open arena that must make their fanatical 500 look a little lost. There was a small main stand with a few seats and a small cover and 3 sides of banked terraces. The Dynamo cafe was closed due to a lack of interest – some greats of the past adorn the outside walls. The FanArtikel hut stands to one side, looking as equally lost as their fans probably do. The deserted ground was covered in a layer of snow after a 3 hour deluge
on the morning.
The whole Sportforum complex is a run down former Communist sports complex. The former home of the Eisbarons Berlin ice hockey club stands out front near the main road and the judo, indoor gymnastics and other sports halls are tucked away behind. The nice man on reception (who looked as though he’d been in situ since the heady days when it was the Dynamo sports complex), let us use the facilities and study the photos of new champions on reception walls.
We’d spent the morning at the Wall Museum on Bernauerstrasse, sheltering from the snow. The exhibits are somewhat haphazard, but there are a couple of interesting films and slide shows of still photos. Bernaurstrasse was the line of the Wall and the scene of a number of escapes with East Berliners jumping from the flats into waiting West German blankets.
The end of the day before the light faded was spent walking down the East Side Gallery – a mile or so of the old Wall intact and painted with murals depicting the Wall and it’s demise – in the shadow of the new O2 Arena.
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