Life in the GDR - Everyday life in East Germany
Dr. Stefan Wolle
Head of Research
T: 030 - 847 123 74 - 3
F: 030 - 847 123 73 - 9
GDR citizens were cut-off from the outside world by a wall and barbed wire and the Ministry of State Security exercised blanket surveillance. What was life like under Socialism? Was it just about Spree Forest pickles, nudist bathing and high-rise flats? Or full employment and queuing for food?
The historical consensus is both clear and in little need of revision. The GDR was a Soviet satellite held together by the grip of its security apparatus. The planned economy proved itself inferior to the free market and the generous social system was not only unsustainable but contributed to the economic collapse of the GDR. The regime was removed by a democratic mass movement in 1989 and reunification with West Germany was endorsed by a large majority of East Germans.
"EVERDAY LIFE IN THE GDR" REPRESENTS THE LIFE OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE
Many seek to use this consensus to »close the file« on the GDR. Yet to do so would leave many questions unanswered. The GDR was more than an artifice of ideology and power; it involved the lives of millions of people. Growing up in the GDR, they went to school, served in the »armed organs«, and worked, lived and raised families. Life in the GDR could be very happy away from the often distant politics and ideology.
Nevertheless, living with the conditions of scarcity and the considerable competition for goods was far from ideal. All were forced to develop some response to the conditions; barter, moonlighting and the black market
thrived. Many retreated into their own private world, making the weekend home the symbol of life in the GDR. The exhibition focusses on life as it was experienced by the 16 million ordinary East Germans. Although all had to deal with the same structures of experience, they did not lead uniform lives.
THE DDR MUSEUM PROVIDES A "HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE" OF EVERDAY LIFE IN THE GDR
The history of everyday life needs to be experienced to be understood. This is the aim of the permanent exhibition in the DDR Museum, enabling total immersion in the history of the GDR. Start-up the Trabi, rummage through the kitchen or watch original GDR documentaries in authentic cinema chairs. Countless exhibits invite the visitor to learn through play. The section of the exhibition focusing on the Stasi even requires visitors to assume the perspective of both the victim and the secret policeman.