In the energy domain of 1–2 GeV kinetic energy per nucleon, HADES has measured rare and penetrating probes in elementary and heavy ion collisions. Our results demonstrate that electron pair emission in C+C collisions can essentially be explained as a superposition of independent N+N collisions. HADES results on e+e− production in Ar+KCl collisions, however, show a strong enhancement of the dilepton yield relative to a reference spectrum obtained from elementary nucleon-nucleon reactions, signal the onset of medium effects beyond the superposition of individual N+N collisions. Intriguing results where also obtained from the reconstruction of hadrons with open and hidden strangeness. Analyses of the experimentally obtained hadronic yields measured in Ar+KCl allows to extract the chemical freeze-out conditions in the T -µB phase diagram of strongly interacting matter. While the measured abundance of all reconstructed particles are well described assuming thermalization, the also reconstructed double strange baryon ≡− appears about ten times more abundant than expected. This result will be discussed in the context of the exploration of the nuclear matter phase diagram in the region of finite density. Further investigations to search for significant medium effects, will be followed over the coming years with an upgraded HADES detector.