The close to three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been marked by a proliferation of urban legends and stereotypes about socialist East Germany. A closer look at the reality of everyday life in the GDR shows that while there may be some truth to some of these, others are complete fabrications. We’ve explored a few of the most prominent stories to help you untangle fact from fiction.
Image source: tiefpics – photocase
With constant shortages even of everyday items forcing people to improvise and make the most of what they did have, necessity was truly the mother of invention in socialist East Germany. The impetus to make up for the dearth of consumer goods available in the shops and to compensate for the gap in industrial and technological development between the GDR and its western neighbours gave rise to some ingenious innovations. Driven by the desire for economic self-sufficiency and a better standard of living, the willingness to experiment was reflected in the impressive number of patent applications filed with the East German Office of Inventions and Patents – around 130,000 by the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, compared to only 70,000 in West-Germany, which had a much larger population.
Image source: mischkaarndti – photocase
The GDR’s first adventure pool is a hulking colossus of a building. When the Sport- und Erholungszentrum (SEZ for short) opened in 1981, it was located at the corner of Leninallee and Dimitroffstraße. Post-unification, both streets have been renamed and are now called Landsberger Allee and Danziger Straße. Purpose-built to provide ample space for exercise and entertainment for the masses, the SEZ proved a massive attraction from day one, attracting 16 million visitors in the first five years – 10,000 a day during peak periods. Without exaggerating, the SEZ was no less important than the Palast der Republik for the people of East Berlin and the whole of socialist East Germany.
Source: skitterphoto.com, Unsplash