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Deutsche Demokratische Republik All things related to the German Democratic Republic 1949-1989

View Poll Results: Would you like to have lived in the DDR/Did you like living in the DDR?
No, I would absolutely never have lived there/I hated it when I lived there... 125 39.56%
I would like to have lived there, but only for a short time to get to know the place 134 42.41%
I would love to have lived/I did like living there 46 14.56%
I don't care one way or the other 16 5.06%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 316. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-25-2006, 03:13 PM   #31
Kozlov
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
I grew up in the US midwest in the 60s and 70s and had a simular experience. We were poor, but I didn't know it at the time because I though everyone lived that way.
Your description of your childhood is exactly the same as the UK was for me.

The ultra consumerist world hadn't happened by then, that was to come later with the 80's.

I actual sometimes speculate that much of this stuff would have come to the Eastern Bloc, even under Communism, given time.

Anyone looked at China lately? Those cute blue and white teasets of little shacks and peasants in rags arent exactly where they are at these days...

Anyway, I don't believe for a minute that we had a lot more in the 70's than the East Germans did - oh apart from we had massive unemployment and untold industrial disputes as the wheels fell off of British industry.

This is a really good thread!
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Old 04-25-2006, 03:16 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torstenbel
People in the DDR were not poor and did not feel to be poor. Living standards were relatively good with pretty much every family having a car, fridge, colour TV, etc. What we did not have were the relative 'luxury' goods, .
Actually Torsten, I guess thats what I meant. It only seems now to be poor with the post 1980's "greed culture" that has swept the world.

Things were very much different then.

My son has just had his tenth birthday and I did sit there thinking that I would have been not believing if I had had just one of his presents for my 10th birthday.

Times change!
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Old 04-25-2006, 05:45 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kozlov
This is a really good thread!
Yes, I also like this thread....it is good to talk about everyday life things for a change... Cheers, Torsten.
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Old 04-25-2006, 08:02 PM   #34
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What is being discussed and shared on this forum, is exactly what I am going to regret most about not being able to go to Berlin this May. I know many of you that are going are looking forward to seeing Bunkers and such. But that was not what I was looking forward to. I was looking forward to sitting down with you Dag, Dirk Torsten and Andreas and really getting to know you, and your former country and culture, from your heart, sole and eyes. I really regret that I'm not going to be able to go until September. Now, for me it will be just another routine trip to Berlin. I really had looked forward to meeting all of you, and getting to know each of you in person.

I too am glad this thread has been resurrected.
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Old 04-26-2006, 05:19 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torstenbel
it is good to talk about everyday life things for a change...
Its actually all really useful stuff to myself and my Comrades as we are as much interested in the culture and the way of life of the DDR as we are in the uniforms and the baubles.

Knowing how the people lived is very important to us as "living historians"
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Old 04-27-2006, 06:52 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torstenbel
People in the DDR were not poor and did not feel to be poor. Living standards were relatively good with pretty much every family having a car, fridge, colour TV, etc. What we did not have were the relative 'luxury' goods, like the bananas and other tropical fruits, but there was plenty of any home grown produce...butcher shops and bakeries were full and cheap, there was no problem getting clothes, although they may not have been to Western fashion standards of the day,.
Hmm??I have to disagree with some of the points you've made.
I know for sure,to have a Car and a Colour TV in the DDR wasn't normal at all.Then,you must have had a very good payed Work.My Parents worked both, 3 shift Systems in a big Factory for Optical Stuff and we were not able to safe enough Money for a Car nor a Colour TV. Colour TV's did cost 5000+Mark and was also not affordable for us.My Grandparents bought their first TV in the late 60's.Before they had just Radio like pre1945.
Another Example would be to have a Telephone. I come from a town with 30.000 people and in our Neighbourhood(100 Familys),only one Family had Telephone.
It really was a priveleg to have a Telephone or you was in the MdI/MfS,they all had a Telephone.But it also depended,if you have lived in a big City or in a rather small Town.
Yes,we had a lot of Homegrown Products but I cannot say it was all cheap.The Basic Food was quite cheap but then,you had not much choice to choose from.
The Bakeries Shops,usally had one sort of white Buns and 2 sorts of Bread,that was it.No dark Buns with Wreat(Körner) or sesam etc.etc.,like today.Butchers had 4-5 kinds of different types of sausages that were affordable for everydays life.Meat was quite expensive.
I gained lots of weight after 1989,without kidding.
Because there was so much choice now and everything tasted good and then,there was Mc Donalds and I kept eating on and on..
No Joke,I enjoyed the "new" Food so much and still have the Belly from 1989 onwards I remember it very well,1989-91 when the Konsums(Shops) slightly exchanged the DDR Stuff with West Food.Each morning before School,I went in the Konsum and bought a Fanta and some Choclate for the way to school.It was still very expensive then but I did get 2 Mark Pocket money every third day and did spend it on West-Food

Back to DDR Times,
Choclate was very expensive.Cheap for example was Ice Cream or Drinks,15Pf for one Ice Cream Ball and I think it was 30Pf for a Coke.
When it was Christmas,everything that was Christmas related food was counted for each individual.
Each Customer did get a Bag with 1 Orange,some apples, 2 Choclate Santa-Claus etc.So no one could buy more or less.
Again,I have to say it probably all depended on where you have lived,if you have lived in big Citys like Berlin or Leipzig,Things were much different compared to smalller Towns.I can remember we specially drove to Berlin just to get some Melons and Choclate Spread from the Delikat-Shop. Nudossi(Choc-Spread) did cost 6Mark.That was a lot Money then.
Good fashionable Cloth,you only did get in the so called Exquisit-Shops.And like the name says,it was "Exclusive" and therefor very very expensive and just a very few young people could afford to buy a Jacket or Trousers in such Shops.Same with Intershops.

I 200% agree with you on the Things like Health Care/School System/Kindergarten and FDGB Holidays The whole social system was absolutly perfect!

But if you watched west-TV Channels (Westfernsehn) in DDR Times,you did get the feeling to be poor(from the material point of view not from the social feeling).I think there is no doubt about it.
Lots of people didn't watch West-TV Channels but we did and for me,I can say you did get the feeling to live in a poor Country,as sad as it may sound.There was the feeling to be a 2nd Class type of Human.
Regards

Last edited by Thälmannpionier; 04-27-2006 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 04-27-2006, 07:47 AM   #37
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to be honest, I had not really been into any shops since 1987, when the army started to take care of my catering... anyhow, until that time there were no problems in Schoenebeck with regard to a decent choice from bakeries and butchers (a lot more than 5 different types of sausages/meats!!), but supply situations were radically different in different parts of the DDR...I would not know why, but it may be that your area was not as well supplied...??

Re telephone, that was rare and neither we nor most of my family, apart from one uncle (he was an LPG boss and needed it for work reasons), had a phone...my parents got our first colour TV at the beginning of the 1980's and changed once again during ddr times and pretty much the whole of my family, uncles, grandparents, etc. had colour tv's. as far as i recall there were not many families with children that did not have a car...different story for single parents and unmarried people of course...but families with children pretty much all had a car...and if they did not have one, than more out of choice rather than lack of opportunities

scoops of icecream were 10 to 15 Pfennig depending on what icecream...most expensive cola to buy was QUick Cola, which cost 35 Pfennig per bottle (small bottles) the other colas were I think between 21 Pfennig and 25 Pfennig per bottle...1/2 a pint of beer was 49 Pfennig for Helles and 51 Pfennig for Pils in the pub...you got the cheapest type of breadroll for 5 Pfennig, then you got a slightly larger breadroll for 7 Pfennig and then you got Tafelbroetchen for 10 Pfennig...a loaf of bread cost 93 Pfennig and so did a 5kg sack of potatos. a 1/4 pound of coffee (Rondo) cost 8,75 Marks (quite expensve!)...I think a litre of milk was about 20 Pfennig or so...true there was not much choice for different types of bread..you got white bread and dark bread and that was about it...but the bakeries always had a lot of choice in cakes and they were ususally between 25 Pfennig and 50 Pfennig a piece...if I remember correctly, then our school meals were 55 Pfennig a day...a pack of decent cigarettes (F6 or Cabinet) was 3,20 Marks for 20 cigs, but you could also get 20 cigs for 2,50 Marks (alte Juwel) and I think Karo was 1,60 Mark and then there were some strange cigs that went up to over 6 Marks for some reason (like Duett).

prices for goods were uniform throught the ddr...no matter if you were in Rostock or in karl-Marx-Stadt, but the supply situation was definitely not uniform with Berlin being very much favoured in the supply of goods and with Berliners being very much resented for their privileges by the rest of the DDR.


But, like I said in a previous post...these things are all relative and how you see them today or how felt about them at the time all depends in your own experiences and your own life and I am not surprised at all that we both differ in our perceptions Andreas... Cheers, Torsten.

Last edited by torstenbel; 04-27-2006 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 04-27-2006, 07:59 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thälmannpionier
But if you watched west-TV Channels (Westfernsehn) in DDR Times,you did get the feeling to be poor(from the material point of view not from the social feeling).I think there is no doubt about it.
To be honest if you watch a lot of modern Western TV you could easily think the same. The shows with the "ordinary family" living in a massive house with all the stuff...

There is little "reality" (or at least my own reality) in much of this TV, even today.
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Old 04-27-2006, 08:35 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torstenbel

But, like I said in a previous post...these things are all relative and how you see them today or how felt about them at the time all depends in your own experiences and your own life and I am not surprised at all that we both differ in our perceptions Andreas... Cheers, Torsten.
Hello Torsten, thats right, it all depends in your own experiences.
Just another Thing I'd like to add is, there was this feeling to live in a poor Country.But because everyone was pretty much in the same Situation you didn't really spend to much Time thinking about that or felt dissapointed.No, you still felt comfortable in your own Country because there was no envy around you,like it is very much today.The Social Life and Community Activities were alot better and more friendly than today.Because today..there is none!
Regards
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Old 04-27-2006, 10:03 AM   #40
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Some random observations from an outsider visiting East Berlin in the 1980s over 20 years ago.

- The absence of traffic in most of the Mitte
- Most everyone I met was friendly, even VOPO. The one exception, shop clerks, there was no such thing as customer service. I thought this was because I was US military but I learned from German friends that this was generally the norm.
- Just about everyone on the street appeared to be carrying a string bag.
- I frequently saw lines for common things things like auto parts, clothing, etc... One Dec in the the Centrum Dept Store I saw this huge line snaking up from the first to the second floor. What were they waiting for? Christmas decorations.
- I don't recall many overweight East German citizens. Several had an undernurished gaunt grey pallor.
- I don't remember many folks just sitting around relaxing, most were going somewhere or doing something.
- Allied solders were treated very well in restraunts, it was embarrising as most of the time you would be escorted past long lines of East German civilians. I distinctly remembered one upscale restraunt where the piano player started playing the Marine Corps Hymn when our party entered. I also remember the novelty of pay toilets, sand paper like toilet tissue and the putzfrau cleaning while you were doing your business.
- When you entered a restaurant where NVA personnel were eating, they generally immediately got up and left.
- Eating Schweinehaxe and drinking East German beer at a small stand not far from the TV tower.
- It was very rare to see Russian military personnel in the Mitte, they were more often seen in Karlshorst. The Russian embassy was massive and imposing.
- NVA military personnel I saw in Berlin were mostly field grade officers.
- Lots of decaying, WWII shell marked building just a few blocks from Unter der Linden. Lots of plattenbau the farther east you went from the Mitte.
- The Soviet memorial at Treptower Park was huge and very moving. I still remember the statue of Mother Russia weeping for her dead.
- Alcohol was inexpensive and there was a variety of beer and other spirits. I still have russian vodka at home with East German labels.
- Russian and East German cigrettes smelled awful.
- I loved the many cultural aspects of East Berlin, musuems, monuments, cathedrals, opera, etc... which were inexpensive and world class. Still remember many trips to the Pergamon and Altes Museum.

Last edited by ehrentitle; 04-27-2006 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 04-27-2006, 10:36 AM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
One Dec in the the Centrum Dept Store I saw this huge line snaking up from the first to the second floor. What were they waiting for? Christmas decorations.
Yes,Probably... Christmas Decoartions was also one of the Goods that were counted for each Customer.So no one could buy more than the other.My Mother told me this today,when we were talking about this Thread.

Toilet Tissues = Sandpaper That hits the nail on the head!!
Yes,that was aweful Stuff but you had no choice.Take this or use old Newspapers.The Trick was,you had to fold it to a Ball and then unfold it again..made it much softer ..okay enough of this now!

Kevin and also Michael,
It is very very interesting for me and probably the other East Germans here as well,to read your early Experiences with the DDR.
Thanks for that
Regards
Andreas
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Old 04-27-2006, 11:50 AM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
Some random observations from an outsider visiting East Berlin in the 1980s over 20 years ago.

- Most everyone I met was friendly, even VOPO. The one exception, shop clerks, there was no such thing as customer service. I thought this was because I was US military but I learned from German friends that this was generally the norm.
- Just about everyone on the street appeared to be carrying a string bag.
.
congratulations on your observations....excellent and spot on... shop assistants were generally very unfriendly and unhelpful with a few exceptions....and yes, we all did have these nets or string bags for carrying shopping around...plastic bags were virtually unknown...although, there were some, but these were not given out by shops...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
- I don't recall many overweight East German citizens. Several had an undernurished gaunt grey pallor..
there were a fair few overweight people, but certainly not as many as today...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
- When you entered a restaurant where NVA personnel were eating, they generally immediately got up and left.
.
they had to get out and leave and submit a report about their 'Feindkontakt' on their return to base...that was all in the instructions and regulations given out about going on leave...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle
- Russian and East German cigrettes smelled awful..
I usually smoked F6 or Alte Juwel and of course, at the time DDR and Russian cigarettes were all I knew...Most of the old DDR brands of cigarettes are still available in east germany now, but to be honest when I do smoke them now I do not recall if they are still the same as they were upto 1989...they certainly are not much different now compared to western brand cigarettes...

Cheers, Torsten.

Last edited by torstenbel; 04-27-2006 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:11 PM   #43
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Torsten/Andreas - Enjoyed your comments. We still have several hand blown glass Christmas decorations from East Germany which we put up every year. Every once in a while we will run across VEB marked clothing items our children wore when they were very young. My wife still has an East German bycycle which she refuses to give up even though it has been sitting outside rotting for years. I have a couple of packs of Russian cigrettes mixed in with my boxes Soviet insignia. My wife always gives me a hard time about the smell when I bring those boxes out. Some of my medals still have the original East German paper envelopes that they came in when I purchased them from the coin store in East Berlin. All recycled paper, like just like most wrapping paper I'd get with books purchased in the East.

Some other random observations -

* Russian soldiers generally appeared to have no respect for the East German population. I remember a number of incidents where Soviet vehicles or convoys sped through intersections without reguard for pedestrians or civilian vehicles.
* Walking through Checkpoint Charlie at night was an experience. I only did it once before my car arrived in Germany. Very reminicient of those old Cold War movies.
* I remember waking across Alexanderplatz and seeing someone wearing a blumentarn jacket and almost asking them how much they wanted for it.
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:41 PM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrentitle

Some other random observations -

* Russian soldiers generally appeared to have no respect for the East German population. I remember a number of incidents where Soviet vehicles or convoys sped through intersections without reguard for pedestrians or civilian vehicles.
.
no, they were just bad and reckless drivers....I was in the Russian language club at school (and I was the FDJ GOL Sekretaer at school, which also meant that I had to represent the school on official occasions including going to the red army garrison from time to time) and I was the liaison officer with a Russian Artillery Regiment while in the army and I have had quite a lot of exposure to Russian troops in the DDR...in my hometown there was a full Russian Tank Regiment stationed...but the vast majority of east germans had no direct contact with the russian soldiers at all only saw them in the streets from time to time and also there were always a lot of Russian troop movements through the ddr, usually in the middle of the night with tanks driving through the centre of towns regardless of the damage they did to the roads and regardless of how much the population was annoyed by being woken up in the middle of the night, although for us children it was quite exciting to watch an entire tank regiment roll past our bed room window at 3am in the morning... the russian privates were treated very, very badly by officers and i have personally witnessed several beatings of privates by their superior officers for quite trivial reasons, usually with the officer having been very drunk...but if you could communicate with them in their own language then i found russian officers and privates to be extremely friendly, funny, welcoming and so on and for my own experience, I have nothing bad to say about the russian soldiers that i met and i am also not aware of any problems caused by russian soldiers in the towns that they were stationed in...on the other hand, there were also a lot of foreign guest workers in the ddr and in my own hometown there were some very large tractor works (biggest in eastern europe outside of the soviet union) and shoe factories, diesel engine factories and so on with very large numbers of people being employed there and those factories also had a lot of guest workers...mostly from cuba, mozambique, vietnam, yemen, laos, algeria, poland and yugoslavia and all of them were also ok and very friendly apart from the algerians and the yugoslavians who caused a lot of problems including mass fights in the middle of towns with knives, etc. girls being obducted and gang raped and so on...not good and these people were not respected at all...when i was in year 12 at school i took part in a project to teach german to a group of these foreign workers...my group mostly included vietnamese, laotians and a couple of people from yemen and those people were just really, really friendly and open, etc...ah well, probably enough my remembering as tere is just so much more that i begin to remember and i would probably never stop if i did not force myself to stop now... Cheers, Torsten.
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Old 04-27-2006, 04:23 PM   #45
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Torsten - Again a very interesting discussion. I didn't mean to put down Soviet troops in East Germany. My contact with them was very limited. Mostly the private you handed you papers to at each of the Soviet checkpoints on the way to West Germany from Berlin and at huge Soviet parade at the Soviet War Memorial in West Berlin each May.

I also saw them on occasion sitting outside our facilities in "tour cars". They had the same rights to enter West Berlin as we had to the East. There were generally three officers and a senior NCO driver and they were doing much the same thing that the US Military Liasion Mission was doing in East Germany. They were also the source of much of the Soviet insignia and uniforms in West Berlin. They would load up their car trunks with this goodies and sell then to West Berliners who would in turn sell them at the various flea markets in W. Berlin. The reason I knew this is that I was at the store of a vendor I know well one Saturday when they came in dragging a Soviet flight suit complete with helmet and survival raft.

They were a terror on the road as I witnessed on my two trips to the DDR. I also remember briefings on how brutal the Soviets were to their new recruits and how poor their barracks conditions were.

I used to do inspection rides on the US Duty Train to West Germany and had some interaction with the Major who stamped the identity documents for personnel on the train. Or rather he had a private stamp them while we drank tea and he proceeded to tell us what western goods he was interested in buying (hint, hint, nudge, nugde...it was a big no no to do this and we never did any trading).

My most interesting experience with the was at a Russian Orthadox Church near the Battle of Leipzig monument (Völkerschlachtdenkmal). A Russian Major and his wife entered the church. He stood at the door while she purchased a candle, lit it and proceeded to pray at the alter. He didn't go more than one meter into the Church, while his wife was there. I'd always assumed that this was because he was a member of the Communist Party and it would not have looked good if he were worshiping in public.

Yes they were friendly, just like we were with the West Germans. But I imagine that some may have had the same kind of "we won the War we can do what we want" occupation mentality that many U.S. soldiers had.

Last edited by ehrentitle; 04-27-2006 at 04:28 PM.
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