Burglars enter former Stasi headquarters in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Burglars broke into the former headquarters of East Germany’s Stasi secret police and stole collectors items including a Lenin portrait, a telephone and coal briquets, police said on Sunday.

The thieves forced open a window of the building in Berlin, where thousands of Stasi employees worked during the times of the German Democratic Republic and which today houses a museum, police said in a statement.

“The burglars apparently looked for items without significant material value but which might be interesting to collectors,” the statement said.

Among the stolen items were a coal briquet with an imprint reading “30 years GDR,” an ice hockey stick from Moscow, a wooden plank featuring a portrait of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin and a white telephone, it said.

The burglars, who had entered the building on the night from Friday to Saturday, had also broken into the room where former Stasi head Erich Mielke had his office.

Founded in 1950, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, was one of the communist state’s most powerful tools for controlling its population.

The Stasi was seen as one of the most repressive police organizations in the world. It infiltrated almost every aspect of life in communist East Germany, using torture, intimidation and a network of informants to crush political dissent.

By the time the country collapsed, the Stasi had some 91,000 full-time staff, in addition to a vast network of informants. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, demonstrators stormed the Stasi headquarters on January 15, 1990.

Reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich