“The Berlin Wall Should Be Brought Back & Doubled in Height!”: Comments of East Germans

“Ostalgie” is a portmanteau of two words: “Ost” (East) – and “nostalgia”. It is a term that emerged after the collapse of the GDR and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Spreewald gherkins, the famous Ampelmännchen green and red traffic lights, and old Trabant cars dubbed “Trabi” were all part of people’s daily lives in the GDR.

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, most of these things disappeared and some people who grew up with them missed them greatly. Ostalgie, for many East Germans, is a desire for simple and good things from a bygone era. For a certain number it is a longing for a bygone political system and structure.

Those who grew up in the GDR often suggest that in East Germany:

  • There was practically no unemployment, the sense of community between people was much stronger than in the West, and there was also less sexism. Women in the GDR were capable of doing men’s jobs and no one looked at it obliquely.
  • If there was work, it had to be performed by someone. If this role was approached by a woman – “Vorwärts!” – go ahead! And they were paid on an equal footing with men.
  • In the GDR nobody walked on the streets and showed off their wealth. Yes, there were people who received more than others, but their income was deserved and not excessive, and they behaved modestly enough.

Those who grew up in the GDR often suggest that in East Germany:

  • There was practically no unemployment, the sense of community between people was much stronger than in the West – we had more time for each other and for the family, because there was a “ceiling” of income and few devoted all their time to work. We were engaged in sports, science, music, reading, and communication – not for the sake of money, but for the sake of the process itself. It was just interesting!
  • A shortage? Yes, of course there was. And there were people who wanted to look fashionable, according to Western trends. But first of all, there was never too much. And secondly, if one wanted, everything could always be obtained without giving the last pfennig for some trendy clothes or household appliances. And by the way, you may laugh, but that was one’s “buzz”.
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At the same time, things weren’t an end in themselves. If they weren’t practical or essential, most didn’t bother to purchase them.

On the other hand, in the simplicity of our choice and not rich assortment, there was also a “buzz”! There was no annoying marketing, advertising in all ears, and the like.

We came to the store for a light bulb, and we had a choice:

  1. Buy a light bulb that works.
  2. Don’t buy.

That’s all! Simple, isn’t it? Boring? But the key word, however, is “simple”.

As for the fact that with the fall of the Wall thousands of people found themselves unemployed, because the state-supported enterprises ceased to exist, there is even no need to say it… I will give below only a meagre part of what the Germans able to relate to the GDR say about the problem:

Klaus, Bonn: “I was 12 years old and I remember that time very well. My father, who worked at a factory in Dresden for 30 years, was now forced to go to the labour exchange and, every night back home, said the Berlin Wall needed to be urgently built again. Only this time make it twice as high!”

Maria, Berlin: “My father said that by the time of the collapse of the GDR he had only graduated from the institute where he had studied for 5 years. And it turned out that everything was in vain – his ‘eastern’ diploma simply was not accepted in ‘renewed’ Germany… I wasn’t born at the time, but my parents told me that they had to re-train and work at night, without any state support, in order to somehow survive. The next few years were very hard for them, and then for a long time their ‘eastern’ past affected their career.”

Andreas, Leipzig: “What? Stasi? Ha-ha, yeah, of course. Come on, frighten me with tales about the all-powerful East German intelligence services that surveyed us all! Just answer me a few questions first: Do you have a Facebook account? Google? I hope you don’t embolden yourself to the illusion that they’re protected from our current intelligence agencies? And how long ago did you, my distinguished German compatriots, communicate with our much-loved Tax Service? Well, now you can talk about the Stasi. Come on, what do you want to ask me?”


Budem, Zen Yandex

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