Through the lens of state power

Football fans through the eyes of the German People’s Police and the Stasi


“Everything’s decided on the pitch” – it’s one of the most time-honoured sayings in football. But important struggles also take place off the field. All over the world, one of the most frequent clashes is between football supporters and security forces. In the GDR (the German Democratic Republic, also referred to as East Germany), this conflict took place under the shadow of a dictatorship. This exhibit reveals the visual and political history of football’s combat zones.

Fight chants, flags and banners have always had their place in peaceful stadium culture. Violence and destruction are another story. Football clubs and associations rely on the police for assistance to guard stadiums and prosecute perpetrators. This was true in both East Germany and West Germany. However, political and ideological considerations also played a significant role for the GDR when it came to deciding when to let law enforcement intervene.

The football scene both inside and outside the stadium offered spectators, fans and subcultures a wide range of opportunities to engage in so-called undesirable behaviour. The GDR interpreted political criticism of the SED regime (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, or Socialist Unity Party of Germany), civil disobedience and expressions of sympathy towards West German clubs as opposition to state socialism.

The Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or MfS) and the German People’s Police (Deutsche Volkspolizei, or DVP) took repressive and sometimes brutal action against football fans, subjecting them to surveillance and prosecution. MfS and DVP photo archives depict a pattern of intricate surveillance methods. This open-air exhibit tells the story of the ensuing protests and civil unrest through the lens of state power.

1: German People’s Police cadets undergoing training for operations at football matches at the Dresden Officers’ College Tactics Training Centre in 1983.

10.7. until 18.8.2024 Alter Markt Potsdam
10.7. until 18.8.2024 Alter Markt Potsdam
10.7. until 18.8.2024 Alter Markt Potsdam
10.7. until 18.8.2024 Alter Markt Potsdam

Accessible all day Admission free

Content of the exhibition