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