Raising a Glass to East Germany

A new pub aims to celebrate, with tongue in cheek, the old communist regime. Not everyone appreciates the joke

Hermann Bredehors / Polaris for TIME

Tourists at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie pose with an actor dressed as a U.S. soldier.

"I don't know if I ever hit anyone, it was always dark," says a 50-year-old truck driver and occasional DJ who gives his name only as Hans-Holger. He is recalling the days when, as a 19-year-old border guard for the old German Democratic Republic, he was required to shoot at fellow citizens trying to flee to West Germany. Later, he himself served a 17-month prison sentence for attempting to escape the GDR. Still, he's nostalgic for the old East, which is why he's a regular at "Zur Firma," an East Berlin pub whose theme derives from the GDR's feared secret police...