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The other side of the wall


The times where there were two German states fall more and more into oblivion. Therefore, I'd like to encourage all "Wessis" and "Ossis" to send me your memories, emphasizing everyday life.

GDR (DDR) - East Berlin - Trabi
Trabi in East Berlin 1984

Eigene Erinnerungen an die DDR:

My own memories of GDR:

With the obligation to change 25 deutschmarks into 25 East German marks every time you went to East Berlin, you were in a way forced to spend that money the same day. Once I had the idea of buying table tennis bats and balls. The department store "Zentrum" at the Alexanderplatz offered a large variety of them. When I came back to East Berlin a year later, I had the same idea of buying some balls. This time, however, I couldn't find any table tennis accessories. I inquired about it and was told: "Why should we? We offered them last year already!"

GDR (DDR): GDR our motherland
Dresden 1985 - National patriotism everywhere

In 1985 I visited my friend Maria in Dresden. She worked at VEB Anlagenbau (plant construction) Otto Buchwitz at that time and asked me whether I'd like to come with her one day, for she wasn't too busy there anyway. I was a bit afraid, but it sounded interesting as well. So I joined her. Without camera - which was unusual for me, but I wasn't especially keen on being arrested for spying.

I knew how a factory looked like from the inside because of various summer jobs, for example at BOSCH in Stuttgart-Feuerbach. But this one in the GDR was completely different. It didn't look as if they really produced something in that factory. There were half-processed rusty parts everywhere . Maria took me to the "development department" and showed me their computer. At that time the Commodore VC 20 was state-of-the-art in West Germany, after that they launched the C64. But what I saw there was huge and heavy and the capacity was ridiculous. The electronic brain still had to be fed with hex code. They had to improvise a lot. There weren't any new circuit boards, instead they were pottering about with a pile of remaining spare parts. The workers, which indeed had nothing to do because of the lack of raw materials, were tinkering around with their Trabis on the works premises.

I felt a bit queasy during the entire visit, but this funny feeling changed into pure anxiety when Maria unexpectedly did have to be on duty. She had told me before that I should pretend to be an apprentice from a branch office. So when she was gone, I was a Wessi sitting among Ossi-strangers in the research lab of a public-owned factory, bearing only one goal in mind: keeping a low profile until Maria's return. Everything turned out all right. That experience belongs to the most exciting adventures of my whole life.

GDR - Dresden - Nürnberger Street
Dresden 1985:
That surprised me completely back then:
A main road without a single car parked on it!

Even more memories: Using the subway in East Berlin:
A trip costed 20 East German pfennigs (very social[istic])!GDR (DDR) - East Berlin - Ticket for a underground ride Especially impressive: The ticket machine had a slot for the money and an ejecting device for the tickets. Both devices of this machine, however, worked independently of each other.
That is: You could get as many tickets as you liked, regardless whether you had inserted (enough) money. Of course you could also insert money without taking a ticket. Yet they checked the passengers at random!


Right, over to other people's memories:

Kati Lindemann

Kati Lindemann, Frankfurt/Oder, born in 1978

"When there was the rare opportunity of buying Negerküsse (small, cream-filled chocolate cakes), you would become aware of it either when you happened to drop by the shops or when somebody told you that they sold something special again. Anyway, you had to hurry, for the Negerküsse were rationed, i. e. there was a limited amount allowed per customer. They were sold in brownish paper bags and tasted delicious, even though they were much smaller than the ones of the brand Dickmanns."

"I did gymnastics since I was 5. The government's 'searchers' came to kindergarten already in order to get petite and sporty girls and boys interested in serious sports and train them on a long-term basis. I still remember that we've been jealous over and over of the older children, because - unlike the younger children - they received sherbet. Apart from that, the older children and those who performed better were allowed to do voluntary excercises, while we had to do the compulsory ones for a long time."

"I still remember that one of the villagers sold us - at not exactly cheap prices - photographs he had copied from the BRAVO. For many of us that was the only chance of getting a photo of our favourite stars."

GDR (DDR): Plant collection point for reusable waste materials

"Being Young Pioneers, we were urged to collect used material. In order to do so we walked from door to door with bags (or, if you were smart, with a wooden cart) and asked for used bottles and newspapers. We either gave these to SERO-collection points for recycling of reusable waste materials or we collected them as part of a competition with other classes, for which we received tokens. These were counted at the end of the term and the most diligent collectors got class prizes.
(We got rather annoyed about pupils who were far ahead of us just because they came from large families or their parents drank a lot)"

"Our relatives living in West-Germany sent us packages for Christmas and for our birthdays every year. These contained coffee, chocolate, silk tights, LUX-soap, worn clothes like velvet pullovers or blue jeans, velcro fastening trainers, gingerbread with jam centre, fountain pens, cocoa, Barbie dolls, Mamba fruit chews, shampoo, chewing gums and, of course: a list of contents."

"During the first couple of days after the wall had come down, many people feared that they would close the border again soon. This is one of several explanations for the fact that so many people went to the west very quickly in order to have a look at everyday life over there."

"If you had plastic bags from the west, you often had to carry them inside-out."

"If you were able to get some west currency, you could change it into 'Forumschecks', which served as means of payment in special shops that sold western goods, called Intershops. We bought Matchbox cars, correction pens, felt tips, rubbers and chocolate ."

GDR: Certificate - collective of German-Soviet friendship
Window display of a state-owned food store in 1984.
A certificate saying:

For exceptional achievements
in respect to friendship
and collaboration with the Sovjet Union
within the socialist competition, we award to the
Karl-Marx-Allee 57
the honorary name

GDR: East Berlin - polling appeal "vote for the National Front candidates"
East Berlin 1984: polling appeal on an advertising column:
"Vote for the National Front candidates"

DDR Ost-Berlin Hackesches Viertel
East Berlin, Hackesches Viertel in 1984
nowadays a trendy quarter swamped with tourists