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Any questions about life behind iron curtain?

  • #2
    Registered Users Posts: 214 ✭✭ simplybam


    Hi all,

    I just thought of doing something constructive by offering my services here. I was born in 1971 in East Germany (DDR). I grew up there, went through the whole education system (all the way to the end), was part of the peaceful protests from day 1, spent a few years in West Germany (when it wasn't that anymore, because Germany was united by then), then left the country and moved around the planet for a few years.

    I returned to Germany around 2004 but just couldn't hack it anymore. In 2005 I left the country again to come to Ireland. Been living here since, don't know for how much longer, but definitely won't be going back to Germany.

    So any questions, queries, etc. regarding Germany, East & West, cold war, education, politics & policies, or whatever else you can think of - just shoot!


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Comments

  • #2


    Tell us something about the demos that you were at, which city it was in and what you saw at them! Danke!


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    I went to the demos in Karl-Marx-Stadt as it was known at the time. It's previous (and now-again-name is Chemnitz). This is one of the three main cities in the state of Saxony - the other 2 being Dresden and Leipzig. At the time there was a saying in Saxony about it's three main cities, which went along the lines of: Chemnitz makes the money, Leipzig trades the money and Dresden spends the money (more on that in another post).

    Now to answer your question: The 'Montags-Demos' as they were called (Monday demonstrations, since they were held every Monday) started on Monday, 4th September 1989 in Leipzig. In the second week of the demonstrations, on September 11th 1989 a few other cities in East Germany also joined the Demos. This was also the first one in my home town and I joined it - more out of curiosity really (I had just turned 18 the previous month and was still attending school). It will surely sound like a major anti-climax these days in a democracy, but there were basically just a few thousand people (I'd say maybe 5-7 thousand) who met at 'the Nichel' (a massive granite head of Karl Marx) on Karl-Marx-Allee - now Brueckenstrasse (here) at 8pm that they. We then all proceeded to walk down the main street for about an hour shouting 'Wir sind das Volk' (we are the people). At the time and considering the state it was then, it was absolutely exhilarating. Everybody knew that there were 'Stasi' guys (east German secret service) aplenty among us and nobody knew what would happen. Considering the last uprising in East Germany was back in 1953 there basically hasn't been any protest against the government in any numbers ever since and here we were - thousands of us protesting against our rulers!

    There was no violence, no looting, no damaging of anything at all. It was just a few thousand people marching down the street shouting a slogan. And I tell you, it was a lot more exciting and scary than being in a proper riot (i.e. in the UK recently).

    Just considering the stakes at the time - either way it was gonna change my life! Either we would win, the wall would come down and we'll all be free or we'd lose, the wall would stay and most of us would spend a good few years in a prison (or work camp or who the heck knew where) and never be able to get any kind of career. And I was 18 and just starting out in life - just bleeding amazing!

    Hope that answers it, if not, I'll be happy to clarify.


  • #2


    Thanks for that, simplybam. I didn't know that there were also demos in Karl-Marx-Stadt.


  • #2


    Thanks for that, simplybam. I didn't know that there were also demos in Karl-Marx-Stadt.

    It originally started in Leipzig, but there were actually demos all over the DDR. As far as I know the biggest ones were generally in Saxony - most likely because - apart from Berlin - the three big cities in Saxony (Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz - aka Karl-Marx-Stadt - were the biggest cities in East Germany by population. As far as I remember according to the last census before the fall of the wall it was approximately 500.000 for Dresden, 400.000 for Leipzig and 320.000 for Chemnitz. I wouldn't put any money on those figures (or my memory, for that matter) but they're certainly not far off.


  • #2


    simplybam wrote: »
    Hi all,

    I just thought of doing something constructive by offering my services here. I was born in 1971 in East Germany (DDR). I grew up there, went through the whole education system (all the way to the end), was part of the peaceful protests from day 1, spent a few years in West Germany (when it wasn't that anymore, because Germany was united by then), then left the country and moved around the planet for a few years.

    I returned to Germany around 2004 but just couldn't hack it anymore. In 2005 I left the country again to come to Ireland. Been living here since, don't know for how much longer, but definitely won't be going back to Germany.

    So any questions, queries, etc. regarding Germany, East & West, cold war, education, politics & policies, or whatever else you can think of - just shoot!



    I have a few questions if you don't mind.

    a)
    I have always wondered if there was much local animosity from regular citizens towards those working directly for the regime ?

    b)
    Probably before your time but (you may have heard from Grandparents etc) I am also thinking there must have been many people who were fervently of one opinion (ie NSDAP party), who after the war then did a 180 degree turn and became fervent supporters of the new regime. How were they looked at or were there efforts to ostracise and isolate them. Not to be rude but there must have been too many people to totally exclude so I would expect some overlap.

    c)
    In addition to those I am thinking of youger people who ended up working for any state organisations, not just stasi, but any kind of local minor political representatives/employees and what did everyone else really think about them ? Were they feared or ignored or respected etc ?

    D)
    Per above - I am referring both to the time when they had power and after that when they lost power and influence.


    e)
    Also if you look at modern 'celebrities' with links to that period and place . . like Merkel and Putin who both have a history (merkel's father if I recall was a minister who was free to travel and lectured on how rosey it was for religion in a communist state), Putin who lived in and worked in East Germany for the KGB. Do those higher profiles people still in power come in for much criticism ?


    f)
    Also, the whole nudist thing, I might be the only person thinking this but wasn't there a BIG naturist movement there in the 60's and 70's ? Was anti-religion a factor in any of that, was it orchestrated or encouraged or just a German thing in General, what was that all about and is it still a factor ? I know for example in Munich today you will see naturists in the parks so I think this may be a more common German thing.

    g)
    Was it really as much of a bureaucratic nightmare as it is painted ?
    f)
    Was there much motivation/barriers for people to start businesses & how easy was it to employ others to work for you ?

    h)
    As a kid how often would you see a big shiny car (not just the peoples trabants & workers models I mean the luxury limousines) ? Also western TV, music, advertising, culture and art were there outlets for those that the state ignored or were unable to repress? Did people internally frown upon those or were they snapped up ?

    I)
    How do you relate to the 1970's education system in terms of your current life view, do you think it was a great disservice, had a lot to offer, was superior in some ways etc ? Did you ever (then or now) feel there was an element of political indoctrination involved? How closely allied were education and state, for example did you ever have cynical teachers who were not in line with state thinking ?

    I know that's a lot of questions but the forum is quiet anyway, feel free to refer to some or all. Thanks.


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    Morlar wrote: »
    I have a few questions if you don't mind.

    I know that's a lot of questions but the forum is quiet anyway, feel free to refer to some or all. Thanks.


    I wasn't gonna quote your entire post, since this will be long enough as is, but I'll try to answer all questions. So, here goes:

    a) This one is almost impossible to answer because you couldn't exactly run around complaining about officials. So long story short, there was much discontempt about the officials, but is was mainly kept within the family or your circle of friends.

    b) You're right, slightly before my time, lol. But, here's what I know (or can deduce from growing up in the GDR). There must have been a number of rank and file members of the NSDAP who ended up living in East Germany, but to my knowledge (and I've done a bit of research on that too) there wouldn't have been any high-ranking NSDAP members leading any kind of comfortable life there. Most of the 'big' Nazis who 'got away with it' and got good jobs or government posts and the like after WW2 did so in West Germany. The GDR was rather efficient (and proud of it too) in hunting down - or helping others to do so - any leading figures of the Hitler era. Especially when you consider that the GDR was merely a satellite or puppet state of the USSR, I don't think they would have gotten away with it, if they had tried.

    Another thing to keep in mind here is that many members of the NSDAP weren't Nazis by conviction. There were lots of people who joined the Party for opportunism or even just to make their life easier (same as happened in the GDR with so many people joining the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany - the ruling party in the GDR). Being a party member just made your life easier, since you got preferential treatment in most instances.

    c) Again, for most people it was simple opportunism. 2 examples from my personal experience here:
    1. My dad never joined 'The Party'. In fact he was jailed for 3 years for an attempt to escape the country when he was 19 (that was in 1963 and we didn't find out about this until after his death in 1989 - the year the wall came down). Because he never joined the SED, he could only go so far in his job. His last position in the company he worked for (pharmaceutical distribution and logistics - they delivered medication and pharmaceuticals to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals) was 'dispatch manager' in a local distribution center. He basically determined the routes and time for each truck to deliver the days consignment. He couldn't advance any further up the ladder, because he was not a member of 'The Party'
    2. My best friend in school. Both his parents were doctors (a GP and a dentist) but they were doctors for the Stasi ('State Security') and employed by the Stasi. They were 'loaded' - and not because they were doctors but because they were Stasi-doctors. They gave my mate a motorbike on his 16th birthday (an MZ ETZ 150) That was the latest and best motorbike available in the GDR and was available in 3 colours (red, blue and - the 'export-version' for extra money in silver) and there was a 4-year waiting period for this bike. My friends parents managed to get him this same bike in BLACK within 2 weeks of ordering it.

    So, as I said above, everybody kinda tried to get an 'official' job, or join the party, or do whatever necessary to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Pretty much the same as it is these days, you just had to do different things there.

    I don't know what the size limit is for posts here, so I'll post this now and then try to answer the other questions.


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    d) There were loads of 'turncoats' of course after the wall came down. The vast majority of them would have had their lifes turned around 180 degrees (from being the privileged ones one day to being the shunted lepers the next).

    In the lower ranks (i.e. city council employees and the like) a lot of people managed to hold onto their jobs, my brother's in-laws for example. Most big party figures weren't that lucky, but still too many of them got away with it - in my opinion. The vast majority of the former 'party heads' didn't actually get prosecuted (since they were following official legislation at the time). As far as I know there are a lot of former officials now though that live on social welfare, because they're 'unemployable'

    And the percentage of the people that do so now is fairly proportional to the place in the hierarchy they had before.

    e) I can't really answer that question since I moved to West Germany within weeks of the unification in 1990 and left Germany for good in 1994. I've only been back there once now in 2006 or thereabouts and then it was only for a few weeks to visit family etc. So, sorry, can't help with that one.

    f) Now, you could read pretty much anything into the nudism thing (i.e. it was the one legal way for the people to express their openness) but it is just a general German thing. It's never really been an issue - as long as I can remember there have been nudist beaches right beside 'regular' beaches pretty much everywhere. It's just part of 'Koerperkultur' (body culture) and has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. There's just always been a rather blase attitude to nudity in Germany, it's simply not considered as offensive as in other countries.


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    g) Germany (East or West) has always been and will always be a bureaucratic challenge. Germans (sorry, but I'll exclude myself from this statement, and if you doubt it, ask my girlfriend, lol) just love order! No 2 ways about it. As an example, I'm currently having problems getting a new passport. My current passport expires in March next year. Now if I was a citizen of any other country I could just go to my embassy and apply for a new one. My problem is that I didn't tell the authorities back home when I left the country (or that I intended to in the first place). This is something you're legally required to do in Germany. When you do that you will receive a 'Abmeldebescheinigung' (de-registration certificate or 'proof of de-registration').

    Now in order to get my new passport issued by the embassy here in Dublin I'll have to present to them this 'Abmeldebescheinigung' which I don't have. So it looks like I'll have to go back to Germany to apply for my new passport, since I apparently never left the country, so I can't possibly get a passport here. Go figure!

    f) Starting your own business was almost impossible. The state guaranteed every citizen a job (not necessarily the job you wanted, but you were guaranteed a job, nevertheless). The only kind of 'private' business that was really tolerated, were businesses they couldn't really nationalize (i.e. hair dressers, garages, butchers and the like). Most of those were forced into so-called PGH's (production co-operative of the trades) in order to ensure supplies etc. (since all these came from state-owned factories). Some very close to free businesses were butchers, bakers, blacksmiths etc. but even they were far from free enterprise. Since wages were basically all government-set and the same was true for prices, there wasn't much scope nor interest in private enterprises.


  • #2


    h) That one's quick and simple. The only big shiny cars I ever saw were the one's of the government (or a friendly government visiting - pretty much the same cars though). No 'celebrity' ever found their way to an industrial city like Karl-Marx-Stadt.

    As far as western TV and music was concerned - there was no lack of it. We were always able - as far back as I can remember - to receive West German Free-to-air-TV and radio. And especially the youth oriented radio stations in East Germany played some west German music (and also the classic stuff like The Beatles, Queen, and the like - basically all the 80's music - which was the period when I actually listened to music).

    i) Now here comes the big one - as far as I'm concerned, anyway. I went to school from 1978-1990 (did year 12 in the year of unification and am very happy about that as I will explain).

    In general, I would say that the education system in the GDR was superior, and before anyone wants to slaughter me for this statement, let me explain.

    As I said above, I did my entire 12-year school term in the GDR. I then moved to West Germany (ok, FRG from now, to make this easier) in order to do an apprenticeship. This apprenticeship was done in the standard German 2/3 system (2 days theory in school and 3 days work in the actual job per week for a period of 3 years). And I found the vast majority of my fellow apprentices (there were 2 of us from the East and 13 from the West) to be absolutely appalling, both in their general knowledge and in specific basics like maths.

    Ok, let me now explain the education (good and bad) that I received (while pointing out why I'm glad I did receive it before the wall came down)

    Sorry, but again, I don't know how long a post I can write here, before I loose part of it, so last post on this follows now:


  • #2


    When I went to school, we had to do every subject until year 10 of school. No picking and choosing what I like - especially at a time when I don't know what I wanna do later in life - keeps all options open! (subjects were German language, literature, maths, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, arts, music, language - for me Russian, English and French, PE, History and political science)

    Al those subjects (apart from 2, but more about that in a mo) were taught completely objectively - and how could they have done any other way? The only 2 exceptions were History, which was taught with heavy political bias once we hit the 20th century, and of course 'political science' which was all about how Karl Marx and Lenin were the greatest people ever.

    In year 10 we got a choice to drop either arts or music and in year 11 we could drop either chemistry or biology. All else was still compulsory and we had to do exams in it.

    However, we had to do all our tests and exams (even in 1990!) without calculators, computers or anything the like. We were given calculators by the school in 1987 (if memory serves me right) but as I said - we couldn't use them in tests and exams. And I still think it should be like that now - make the kids use their brains.

    As far as indoctrination was concerned, we had a whole subject for it - Staatbuergerkunde (basically political science) - all about Marx, Engels and Lenin having it all worked out. Also History, once it hit 1871 and the birth of Germany it was all completely biased (as in 'it could only end up in the state of the GDR and the victory of communism in the long run' kinda thing). Though up to that point - and that's from the cavemen, via the roman empire, genghis khan, the french revolution and anything in between it was all completely objective and historically correct.

    As far as teachers are concerned I never heard of any that were openly adverse to the system, but then I guess they would have just chosen to teach a subject where they wouldn't have to think about it either way.

    Wow, I hope I answered at least most of your questions. I certainly tried and did so 'to the best of my knowledge'

    Thanx for the questions though, and if you - or anyone else - got anymore, just shoot.


  • #2


    Thanks for that. Very interesting to hear it all first hand. I had friends who visited the Soviet Union in the 1980s and I think you can learn a lot and get a good feel for things in the sorts of first hand anecdotes that you don't tend to read in books. Cheers.


  • #2


    These are very informative answers Simplybam. I hope you don't mind some more queries!

    The Stasi are one of the most prominent features of any review of East Germany in the 1970's and 80's. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall did you have any experience of them?
    Did they have a prominent role in general life? You mention that your father had been caught trying to escape- Did your family recieve any type of extra monitoring because of this? Did you ever become aware of anything like this post 1989? Generally speaking were you or your friends when growing up warned about the Stasi or fearful of them?
    Finally the protests lasted for several months in 1989 before the wall fell. Did the Stasi try and prevent protests that you attended? I would have expected that they would do so and am interested in how they did this or if not then why?


  • #2


    They were definitely prominent, considering that estimates range from 1-10% of the entire population were IM's (inofficial informants, basically just people who reported others for something in order to get some kind of advantage out of it).

    Basically everybody knew that the Stasi was literally everywhere. Ironically (or even paradoxically?) that actually led to people worrying less about them. It wasn't really as bad as it is sometimes made out to have been. We were still telling jokes about the regime and the leaders thereof quite freely. People also still fairly freely complained about certain things (i.e. certain shortages, etc.) without being arrested or punished in any other way.

    I myself was in a rather odd situation. I always had a real big thing for flying and planes in general. Because there was no civilian pilot training (that I knew off - afaik all Interflug - the East German State Airline - pilots were ex-air force pilots) in the GDR, I decided to join the air force pretty early on - when I was around 12 or so. That made me a BOB (Berufs Offizier Bewerber, or army officer applicant). Since the regime was always very keen to get people to join the army schools were rated by the number of BOB's they had. So I actually got away with a lot more in school than I should have (I have always been academically pretty good, but apparently my discipline left much to be desired - or so they said, lol).

    Being a BOB I had to attend regular interviews (annually at the start and more often in later years) at the local recruitment center. They were just meetings between me, one of my parents and 2 or 3 guys from the army (or so they said, 1 of those guys was always from the Stasi). These meeting were always fairly informal and just a kind of question & answer game. Since it wasn't particularly hard to work out what they wanted to hear, it was never terribly exciting. To get to the point though, one of the things I had to do (or not to do, for that matter) was watch West German TV or listen to West German radio. Of course we constantly watched West German TV at home and I always listened to West German radio (recording the weekly top 10 with my tape recorder, etc.) And despite me having to sign forms that I don't do any of that - and they would have had ways to proof I did it anyway - it was never even mentioned.

    So despite all this and my dad having been imprisoned for trying to escape and even my best mates parents both working for the Stasi, I never really noticed any particular attention being paid to us by them. I never met anyone who actually feared them either, it was more like everybody being aware of them but more or less resigned to the fact 'well, if they come for me - tough luck, but I won't change who I am for them'

    As for the Stasi during the protests, they were everywhere and not exactly inconspicuous, but they were quite obviously only there to observe and report (and take photos, etc.) Most likely in case the current regime did manage to salvage the situation for themselves and THEN there would have been major repercussions. Fortunately they saw that they were at the end of their era and it didn't come to that.

    Again, all these are just my personal experiences and opinions. I'm sure there are people out there who would paint an entirely different picture, but that would be for them to paint.

    Thanx again to all for the questions.


  • #2


    Are there any known cases where former Stasi detainees - and I mean people who were imprisoned for reasons that would not be considered crimes nowadays - tracked down those who instigated their imprisonment and confronted them?


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    Fascinating stuff OP,thanks for posting this here.One slightly nerdy question-were you old enough to vote in the municipal / district elections in early 1989?I believe there was something of a concerted campaign to vote against the official candidates (SED and bloc parties).Hans Modrow,Dresden party chief and reformist communist later faced prosecution in relation to electoral fraud as far as I know.Were you aware of any of this at the time?


  • #2


    Are there any known cases where former Stasi detainees - and I mean people who were imprisoned for reasons that would not be considered crimes nowadays - tracked down those who instigated their imprisonment and confronted them?

    Sorry I didn't reply earlier, but was rather busy lately and had to prioritize a bit. I personally don't know of any such cases, though I'm pretty sure it must have happened here and there - just by considering the numbers of people that were involved on both sides. There was an interesting article in the 'Spiegel' a couple of years ago:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,623008,00.html

    Sorry I don't have any more info on this.


  • #2


    Benny_Cake wrote: »
    Fascinating stuff OP,thanks for posting this here.One slightly nerdy question-were you old enough to vote in the municipal / district elections in early 1989?I believe there was something of a concerted campaign to vote against the official candidates (SED and bloc parties).Hans Modrow,Dresden party chief and reformist communist later faced prosecution in relation to electoral fraud as far as I know.Were you aware of any of this at the time?

    Unfortunately I wasn't old enough to vote (I turned 18 in August 1989, the elections were in May though). Pretty much everybody in the GDR was aware that there was electoral fraud going on in pretty much every election since the inception of the state (it was really quite obvious, since the SED got 97%-98% in every election). However, I don't think the issues surrounding Hans Modrow were widely known at the time. He was actually found guilty by a court of election fraud, but was not sentenced or even fined for it.


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    Hi there
    Your posts are very interesting. How did East Germans feel, in general, towards other Eastern European countries and the Russians? Was there a general sense of being seperated from the West Germans?

    regards
    Stovepipe


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    Thanks simplybam!

    No worries and thanks for the reply. I actually had posted something myself here in reply to what you said, but I deleted it afterwards because I didn't want to be hijacking your thread.

    Thanks for the article that you linked to. It's just that I always wondered what would happen when a regime change suddenly happens and people who were in authority were suddenly no longer suitable are cast aside, fully powerless. If there would be people queuing up to settle old scores on more equal terms. I do remember, though, years ago reading about a former Stasi guy who was the last occupant in a block of flats in Magdeburg which was to be demolished and he refused to vacate. He was interviewed by the newspaper and they even printed his photo. He didn't seem to be in fear of reprisal, but then again he may well have worked for the Stasi, but for all we know he might have been in charge of ordering in office supplies and have made no enemies.

    I understand you in that you found it difficult when you moved back to Germany. Not that the problem is Germany, the problem is actually you! :) Don't get me wrong, that's not criticism. I too lived abroad for several years and found it very difficult getting to grips with the way things work back home after experiencing it differently abroad.

    Ich habe sogar eine Zeitlang in der Stadt mit den drei Os gelebt, obwohl sie schon zu der Zeit wieder auf Chemnitz umbenannt wurde. :D

    That's a kind of joke and it had to be written in German. Just saying that I actually know the part of Germany that the OP comes from. I could offer my views on having lived there if anyone was interested.


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    Thanks simplybam!

    No worries and thanks for the reply. I actually had posted something myself here in reply to what you said, but I deleted it afterwards because I didn't want to be hijacking your thread.

    Thanks for the article that you linked to. It's just that I always wondered what would happen when a regime change suddenly happens and people who were in authority were suddenly no longer suitable are cast aside, fully powerless. If there would be people queuing up to settle old scores on more equal terms. I do remember, though, years ago reading about a former Stasi guy who was the last occupant in a block of flats in Magdeburg which was to be demolished and he refused to vacate. He was interviewed by the newspaper and they even printed his photo. He didn't seem to be in fear of reprisal, but then again he may well have worked for the Stasi, but for all we know he might have been in charge of ordering in office supplies and have made no enemies.

    I understand you in that you found it difficult when you moved back to Germany. Not that the problem is Germany, the problem is actually you! :) Don't get me wrong, that's not criticism. I too lived abroad for several years and found it very difficult getting to grips with the way things work back home after experiencing it differently abroad.

    Ich habe sogar eine Zeitlang in der Stadt mit den drei Os gelebt, obwohl sie schon zu der Zeit wieder auf Chemnitz umbenannt wurde. :D

    That's a kind of joke and it had to be written in German. Just saying that I actually know the part of Germany that the OP comes from. I could offer my views on having lived there if anyone was interested.

    Thanx for the comments (especially the Korl-Morx-Stodt - lol). Don't worry, I'm defo not afraid of any hijacking. I actually think that 2 opinions and 2 answers to certain questions will surely be even more appreciated by any interested posters, so please feel free to answer questions in this thread as well.

    And I'm well aware that it was me who was the problem when I moved back there. Just wasn't used to the German ways any more - and I honestly think I'll ever get used to it again. That's why it is highly unlikely I will ever move back to Germany


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    Hi I have a question. Thanks in advance.

    Did you have regular/normal access to western music, movies, and television growing up?

    I recall reading that for an earlier generation to you people like Dean Reed filled a western pop culture niche but I wonder by the time you were coming up was there ready access to western pop culture?


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    I just thought of another one. Growing up, did you visit many other Eastern Bloc countries on holiday? What was the level of contact between the Warsaw Pact states, culturally, etc?


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    simplybam wrote: »
    Thanx for the comments (especially the Korl-Morx-Stodt - lol). Don't worry, I'm defo not afraid of any hijacking. I actually think that 2 opinions and 2 answers to certain questions will surely be even more appreciated by any interested posters, so please feel free to answer questions in this thread as well.

    And I'm well aware that it was me who was the problem when I moved back there. Just wasn't used to the German ways any more - and I honestly think I'll ever get used to it again. That's why it is highly unlikely I will ever move back to Germany

    Oddly enough I still have my difficulties after having lived where you come from and now being back in Ireland. We both have the same problem! :pac:

    I think I'll leave the answering of questions to you. I didn't actually live there at the time, you did. I'll have a think about what I thought of living in both places and post about it. Tell me what you think!

    You might also be able to add something to this thread, by the way...


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    This is an awesome thread, thanks OP.
    Some questions:

    You said that you had planned to be in the Air Force; how did you feel when the wall fell and that plan was ruined? Were you OK with the complete uncertainty surrounding the future?

    Have you, or has anyone you know, requested to see their Stasi file?

    What was the extent of the black market in goods and services? Were people who sold things on the black market tolerated by the authorities?

    What were your first impressions of the west when you finally got to go there?

    Would you ever have considered trying to flee to the west somehow, had the wall not fallen?

    Did your dad ever speak of his time in prison? What was that like?

    That's all I think. ...For now :)

    [Also, the word limit for posts is huge, you probably don't need to worry about going over]


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    If most people posting in this thread are located in Dublin perhaps we could meet up for a few beers...

    ... mal eine konspirative Kneipe anschaffen... mit den Führungsoffizieren treffen...

    ... and spend an evening discussing Cold War politics...

    Who'd be on for that?


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    Stovepipe wrote: »
    Hi there
    Your posts are very interesting. How did East Germans feel, in general, towards other Eastern European countries and the Russians? Was there a general sense of being seperated from the West Germans?

    regards
    Stovepipe


    As far as I was concerned I didn't have any problems or issues with our Eastern neighbours. Far from it really, I went to Czechoslovakia fairly regularly - mainly to buy REALLY cheap booze and smokes (it was even cheaper there than in East Germany - and that's saying something!). Spend some great times there, including a few holidays. I found the Czech people to be very friendly towards us too. Had similar experiences in Poland. I guess it was really a case of 'we're all stuck in the same mess, so there's no point of us fighting each other'

    It was a slightly different story with the Russians. I've never been to Russia myself, but I had a lot of contact with Russians living in my home town (mainly military personnel and their families) due to my being an officer applicant (see one of my previous posts in this thread). Nobody I knew really had any time for the Russians - after all they were still an occupational force in our country. Of course we were all taught that they were our friends and brothers, keeping us safe from the evil people of the capitalist world, but after all - we weren't that thick, lol.

    The sense of separation from the West Germans I think was more prevalent in people who actually had relatives across the border, which I didn't. Another group of people who might have had strong feelings about this were the older one's who actually lived through the whole separation. I was born in 1971, so never really knew anything different and therefore it never really bothered me.

    Hope that answers your questions.


  • #2


    Hi I have a question. Thanks in advance.

    Did you have regular/normal access to western music, movies, and television growing up?

    I recall reading that for an earlier generation to you people like Dean Reed filled a western pop culture niche but I wonder by the time you were coming up was there ready access to western pop culture?
    I just thought of another one. Growing up, did you visit many other Eastern Bloc countries on holiday? What was the level of contact between the Warsaw Pact states, culturally, etc?


    We always had access to western music and tv - at least as far back as I can remember. We could always receive the main (state) TV channels of West Germany (ARD and ZDF) and quite a few western radio stations. My mum was actually addicted to 'Dynasty' which was shown on one of the West German channels - maybe that's why I hate any soapies with a passion ;)

    Even some East German radio stations (specifically DT64 - a radio station aimed at teenagers in East Germany) played a lot of western songs. They actually had a weekly show where you could record the songs onto your tape player (yes, that old thing with the magnetic tapes where you pressed 'play' & 'record' simultaneously to record straight to your tape from the radio). They would play a number of international songs but as far as I know they always had to play a certain percentage of East German music (mainly Karat and Die Puhdys, both of which I still like today, by the way). I do remember Dean Reed as well, but his kinda stuff was more aimed at my parents generation (along the lines of Engelbert & co) and I never really had any interest in his stuff.

    I hope that answers your first post, not onto your second one.

    The only countries I visited while growing up were Czechoslovakia and Poland. I went to Poland a few times but quite regularly to Czechoslovakia, since it was only about an hour's ride on my motorbike across the Erzgebirge ('Ore Mountains'). Part of this I just answered in my reply to the post before yours.
    However, I just remembered one (very funny for us at the time) incident. We had our 'end of school trip' in 1989. It was at the beginning of our last year, since upon our return we had to get ready for the exams, etc. Our trip was to Sofia (capital of Bulgaria) and we were to fly out of East Berlin on 11/11/89 - 2 days after the wall 'came down'. There were 4 of us who decided to take the train to Berlin on the evening before our flight and to just have a good time in West Berlin for the night - which we definitely did have!
    We just about managed to make it to the airport in time and flew off to Sofia (being rather drunk but in VERY high spirits :D). The day after we arrived in Sofia we went for a bit of sight seeing etc. and noticed that there were always throngs of people following us and asking us to exchange money with them. We figured out rapidly that they thought we were from West Germany and they wanted some 'hard' currency. The 4 of us who went to Berlin the night before our flight all got our 100 DM 'welcome money' (until the official unification West Germany gave every East German 100 DM on arrival in West Germany - incl. West Berlin. That was free money! and during our entire night in West Berlin we didn't pay anything but were constantly invited by people to go for a drink with them).
    So we played a little game and let those throngs of people follow us until we got tired of it and told them we were from East Germany and they all disappeared in an instant. Every now and then we haggled with one of these lots and got a simply ridiculous exchange rate off them. In the end the 4 of us managed to have a brilliant week in Sofia - going to nightclubs, eating out, buying LPs (yes the vinyl version of an album) and basically didn't spend any of our own money (only the 100 DM we got from the West German government).
    Now condemn me all you want but do keep in mind we were 17/18 at the time and who of you people wouldn't have done the same in the circumstances? :)


  • #2


    andrew wrote: »
    This is an awesome thread, thanks OP.
    Some questions:

    1. You said that you had planned to be in the Air Force; how did you feel when the wall fell and that plan was ruined? Were you OK with the complete uncertainty surrounding the future?

    2. Have you, or has anyone you know, requested to see their Stasi file?

    3. What was the extent of the black market in goods and services? Were people who sold things on the black market tolerated by the authorities?

    4. What were your first impressions of the west when you finally got to go there?

    5. Would you ever have considered trying to flee to the west somehow, had the wall not fallen?

    6. Did your dad ever speak of his time in prison? What was that like?

    That's all I think. ...For now smile.gif

    [Also, the word limit for posts is huge, you probably don't need to worry about going over]


    Ok, I'll answer in order of your questions.

    1. My plan of joining the air force was ruined just before all the demos, etc. happened. I was actually severely annoyed with the people in charge then, and here's why:

    I always had a 'big thing' for flying since early childhood. At the age of about 12 I figured out that the only way to become a pilot in East Germany is to join the air force, since there was no civilian pilot training. All East German airline pilots (Interflug) were former air force pilots. So I joined the 'BOB collective' (literally translated to 'professional officer's applicant' collective) in order to be able to fly planes. Now I had meningitis when I was five and as a result of it I'm deaf on one ear. This was known to the officials from day one. They still accepted me (I guess they were hoping I'd take any job in the army despite my application being specifically to become a pilot) and my school (who knew about my obsession with planes and flying) was just too happy to go along, since they got extra brownie points for every pupil who signed up for the military. In 1988 I had to go to the air force test center for an assessment. I passed every test (including no less than 5 eye tests, a centrifuge, EKG, ECG and loads of others - this was a 5-day stint of medical and physical tests for 8 hours par day!). The only thing I failed were the hearing tests - funny that! So after 5 years of going along with all their rubbish the only thing they failed me on was something they knew all along. So, yeah, I was severely p***ed off.
    So to me there was a complete and utter uncertainty then - a year before the wall came down. I never really was into the whole political thing they had going there - I just wanted to fly planes! In this respect all the changes that followed were to my advantage, since I didn't really have a fall back plan. When the wall came down I personally had a lot more possibilities.

    2. I have never requested my Stasi file. I know for a fact that I have one (just because I wanted to be an officer in the NVA). But since I never had any problems, repercussions or the like, I didn't really see any reason why I should bother - there's quite a bit of bureaucracy involved, which I can't really be bothered to go through, considering it'll be something that will in no way affect my current or future life. And since I left the country shortly after unification, I don't really know personally any people who have done so.

    3. The black market was thriving and a good place to get things if you either had LOADS of East German currency or ANY West German currency. If you had any (West German) DM you could get pretty much anything. If you had lots of East German currency you could easily exchange it at approx. 10:1 for DM (that was the going rate most of the time - give or take a bit) and the again buy pretty much anything for DM. As far as I remember, this whole black market was kinda frowned upon but never really discouraged.

    4. Part of that is answered in my last post about my 'end of school' trip. Basically I was blown away by just the colours and the 24-hour mentality when I went to West Berlin in November 1989. Admittedly, the atmosphere was a one of a kind (giving the time and occasion). However, when I moved to the West (a small town called Kirn) in 1990 it was far from the same experience. Didn't really feel that different.

    5. I never really considered fleeing to the West. I only finished school (equivalent to leaving cert here, methinks) in 1990. I'm pretty sure I would have tried something if the whole 'peaceful revolution' wouldn't have kicked off when it did (especially after I got kicked off the officers applicant collective - as mentioned above). They way and timeline of the events happening though did really work for me.

    6. My dad never actually mentioned anything about the whole issue. My mum didn't find out about him ever having been in prison until after he died in '89. And even that was only by accident when he had to apply for certain forms in order to get her widow's pension. The officials had to sent her forms regarding her husbands employment history. Only then did she find out that the 3 years he officially spent in the army were actually spent in a prison for attempted flight from the state ('Republikflucht'). So, sorry, can't tell you anything about conditions there, etc.


  • #2


    If most people posting in this thread are located in Dublin perhaps we could meet up for a few beers...

    ... mal eine konspirative Kneipe anschaffen... mit den Führungsoffizieren treffen...

    ... and spend an evening discussing Cold War politics...

    Who'd be on for that?


    Anytime and anywhere! Would be so much easier to just answer the questions in words, rather than having to type all this ;)

    Let's organize something - in a nice quiet pub please, since I don't wanna have to yell over some ****e DJ, lol


  • #2


    Was there a lot you had to "unlearn" i.e. a lot of propaganda inserted into educational school books etc- if so, how did you feel realising there was another side to the story or indeed, a completely different side to the story?

    Any examples you'd care to share?


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