The starting point: the grounds of the Gestapo headquarters
The historical society “Aktives Museum, Fascism and Resistance in Berlin” emerged in 1983 from a citizens’ action group that organised a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the Nazis’ seizure of power on 30 January 1933. In the first years, the society’s work focused on the grounds in Kreuzberg where the Gestapo, the Nazi regime’s main instrument of oppression, had its headquarters until 1945. These grounds between Wilhelm Strasse and Prinz Albrecht Strasse (today Niederkirchner Strasse) had become wasteland, used as a rubbish dump and for driving without a licence. No trace of the Gestapo, SS or Reich Security Main Office remained. Throughout the 1980s, the Aktives Museum society sought to bring the public’s and the authorities’ attention to this fact and took part in several actions and demonstrations together with other initiatives and groups calling for a memorial site on the grounds. In 1992 the Topography of Terror Foundation was established to maintain the grounds and an on-site documentation centre. Since then, the society’s board members and directors have continued to play a role within the Foundation’s committees and work groups.
Historic sites: sites of remembrance
Soon after the society was founded it became clear that there were many more sites in Berlin with historic significance relating to the Nazi period that should be marked out as places of remembrance. The society’s field of activity, described in its constitution as being “to provide information and education on the history of Germany, and especially Berlin, during the Nazi era, and the developments that enabled the National Socialists to assume power and the consequences and continuities after 1945”, quickly broadened as a result.
Since 1990 the Aktives Museum has also sought to conserve and mark traces of recent German history in the former East Berlin and lay new markers of remembrance here. By installing alternative memorial plaques and signs providing background information to street names changed after the fall of the Wall, the society aimed to help make the drastic historical and political changes that took place from 1933 tangible to the public and preserve awareness of them and their far-reaching consequences.
Since 1990 the Aktives Museum has received institutional funding from the Federal State of Berlin. The society’s office is housed in the German Resistance Memorial Centre, where it also holds a reference library and a documentation archive.