MU­SE­UMS & GAL­LERIES

Solveig Stein­hardt heads to the Deutsches His­torisches Mu­seum to learn more about ev­ery­day life in uni­fied Ger­many.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

The Deutsches His­torisches Mu­seum ex­plores the lives of ev­ery­day cit­i­zens in uni­fied Ger­many.

Spend enough time in Ber­lin and you’ll prob­a­bly hear dozens of fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries about how peo­ple lived in the di­vided city: from dra­matic es­cape at­tempts to tear­ful en­coun­ters with rel­a­tives on the other side, from stand­ing in line for food to sim­ply long­ing to see what was be­yond that wall, there are a mil­lion sto­ries that make that part of his­tory seem so much closer. One mis­take many of us make is iden­ti­fy­ing the fall of the Wall with the so­lu­tion to all th­ese prob­lems; we tend to for­get that 1989 was not just a eu­phoric mo­ment for two so­ci­eties, but also the be­gin­ning of a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion in which the two Ger­ma­nies had to get to know each other all over again and unify their views, an enor­mous ef­fort of ad­just­ment and in­te­gra­tion that is still on­go­ing to­day. Un­til 25 Oc­to­ber, the Deutsches His­torisches Mu­seum (p. 41) will be ex­plor­ing this dif­fi­cult in­te­gra­tion through rep­re­sen­ta­tive ob­jects and pho­to­graphs from the first few years of the 1990s.

The uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many wasn’t only cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal, it also deeply af­fected the per­sonal sphere. While many young East Ger­mans saw the end of com­mu­nism as a dream come true, the older gen­er­a­tions had to watch their whole world crum­ble be­neath their feet, the foods of their child­hood dis­ap­pear from the shelves, and their be­liefs shat­tered by the new sys­tem. Many peo­ple lost their gov­ern­ment jobs, and deep in­ter­nal con­flict be­came a com­mon feel­ing in the Eastern part of the coun­try, where cit­i­zens had to slowly adapt to the con­sumer habits of the West. Ex­plor­ing the first re­ac­tions of East Ber­lin­ers right af­ter the bor­ders opened, Uni­fi­ca­tion - Ger­man So­ci­ety in Tran­si­tion shows the des­tiny of many work­places, ex­am­ines in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­ena such as the “mo­bile banks,” Deutsche Bank busses trav­el­ing through the Eastern re­gions to bring Deutsche Marks to the East Ger­man pop­u­la­tion, and fo­cuses on sim­ple ques­tions per­tain­ing to ev­ery­day life. For ex­am­ple, what did the East Ger­mans do with the 100DM “wel­come money” they re­ceived from the Fed­eral Repub­lic’s banks af­ter the Wall came down? Many re­port­edly spent it on ba­nanas, think­ing there wouldn’t be any the next day, while oth­ers, like the par­ents of a 6-year- old girl called Katha­rina, bought her a Bar­bie doll, the sym­bol of West­ern child­hood.

“The uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many deeply af­fected the cit­i­zens’ per­sonal sphere.”

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