Leipzig museum reveals the secret life of the Stasi -- including the Groucho Marx moustaches

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The East German secret police the Stasi ruled East Germany with a Big Brother like omnipresence until the Berlin Wall was knocked down in 1989.

That era of covert surveillance, spying and intrigue has been brought to life with the screening...of "The Lives of Others", the movie that won Best Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards.

But a visit to Leipzig, now a blossoming city in the heart of the former East Germany, also allows visitors to experience just how heavy the clouds were that hung over the country during the Stasi era.

East Germany was rarely a fun place under communist rule and Leipzig's Museum in der Runden Ecke (The Round Corner Museum) shows why.

The Runden Ecke is the former headquarters of the Stasi which had a simple brief: spy on the local population and discover what they were up to...

As the Runden Ecke's exhibits explain, surveillance often involved Stasi agents dressing up in disguise -- absurd fake Groucho Marx moustaches were considered high spy fashion. State paranoia was considerably higher in East Germany than in many other former communist countries. Opened letters, eavesdropping on telephone conversations and ripped-open parcels were considered a part of life.

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