The collection of the DDR Museum contains numerous house books from various years. As an example for this article, we will use a house book from the early 1950s.
The cover of our house book is adorned with the »provisional« national coat of arms of the GDR, which was officially used between 12 January 1950 and 28 May 1953. The coat of arms shows a hammer in the centre and is surrounded by a wreath of corn. The hammer symbolises the »working class«, the wreath of corn the »peasants« in a country that saw itself primarily as a workers' and peasants' state. From 1953 onwards, a compass was added to the later coat of arms to represent the »intelligentsia«.
The house book served the state as an instrument for controlling and monitoring its citizens. If necessary, the house books could, for example, provide information about who was visited how often and by whom. This data often found its way into the investigation files of the People's Police or into the »operational processes« of the Ministry for State Security during operational investigations by the state organs.
Our house book with soft cover and booklet binding consists of a total of fifteen numbered pages, thirteen of which offer space for entries. On the second page, a kind of instruction manual for the house book is printed. Under the title »What every citizen of the German Democratic Republic must know about the obligation to register with the People's Police«, the use of the book is explained by means of simple questions. The following questions are printed, below which are summarised answers to them:
Citizens who move into the flat must register with the police within three days. When moving out of the flat, the police deregistration must also take place within three days. Anyone staying in the house for more than three days on a visiting basis is to be entered in the house book on presentation of their identity card and must register and deregister with the police.
The registration is to be made at the competent registration office of the People's Police after the entry has been made in the house book.
When moving in or out, the person is obliged to deregister at the local registration office, presenting his or her identity card and house book. When moving within a city, a new registration of the current residential address at the responsible registration office is sufficient.
In the event of a change of name, the house book with identity card must be presented at the registration office. In the event of a death, the house register does not need to be presented. The death is to be noted by the house owner in the column »Deregistered«.
The house owner or house manager is obliged to enter all persons staying in the house for more than 3 days in the house book and to check whether the obligation to register with the People's Police has been fulfilled.
The house book is to be kept by the house owners or managers separately for each house property. The house owners or administrators may also commission other persons living in the house to keep the house book, but only if they do not live in the house themselves.
Inspection of the house book may only be granted to members of the security organs of the state as well as to the street and house confidants, provided they can identify themselves as such.
Failure to comply with the obligation to register can result in both house owners and tenants/visitors being fined up to 150 marks or imprisoned for up to 6 weeks.
The third page of the house book contains the legal text of the registration regulations of 6 September 1951. This page also provides space for the first entries. Our house book is number 3710 and comes from Wismar in Mecklenburg, more precisely from Breitestraße street. According to the entries, the owner of the house is »Johannes V.«, the person in charge of keeping the book is »Hans V.«. The book has been kept since 14 December 1952. On the right edge of the page is a fee stamp of the German People's Police worth one mark. The stamp bears a date stamp of 10 December 1952.
The following pages are in tabular form and provide space for the personal data of the permanent residents of the house. In addition to the name, date of birth and place of birth, this includes data such as the occupation, the number of the identity card, the nationality and the exact place of residence in the house. There are also columns for the control note of the People's Police and signatures.
The last three double pages are for entries for visiting stays. Here, too, the usual personal data such as name, date and place of birth, permanent address, identity card number and nationality are entered. There are also columns for the expected duration of the stay, when the People's Police were notified and with whom the visitor is staying in the house.
Our house book from Wismar was used between 1952 and 1966, which can easily be seen from the dating of the entries.
Over the years, the layout of the house books has changed. In the beginning, the format DIN A4 was used, later books in A5 format were common. However, in order to meet the increased space requirements, the small formats had up to 64 pages instead of the 15-page large formats of the 1950s.