DDR Museum

Published Categorised as Germany, History, Popular Posts, Retro Stuff, Travel 1 Comment on DDR Museum

I’m fascin­ated by the history of the Cold War. Both the polit­ic­al side, and the social history of people’s every­day lives. I’ve always been extra fascin­ated by the former DDR, both because I can speak the language and because they tried so hard to be a “model” Iron Curtain soci­ety. You read about people being “intern­al emigrés”. Being a good comrade and work­er on the surface, but intern­ally escap­ing to their own world via drink or just plain daydream­ing. I suppose that’s what I’d do in the situ­ation. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but I’m currently writ­ing a zine about the trip this summer, so I’ll save them for there.

While I was in Dresden, I went to the DDR Museum in nearby Rade­beul with my work colleague Hazel. It advert­ises itself as a “time travel exper­i­ence”- it’s basic­ally a huge office block filled with every­day objects from the commun­ist days. They have rooms set up as a typic­al office, school, shop, flat etc with inform­a­tion about the daily life. Unfor­tu­nately most of the inform­a­tion is only in German, and so I had to do a lot of trans­lat­ing for my friend, who doesn’t speak the language.

trabi sm


Good old Trabant. The Russi­ans made off with all the steel presses at the end of the Second World War, so they made the cars out of fibre­glass instead. The engines are essen­tially a motor­bike engine, and they are very cheap to run, are surpris­ingly safe and go on forever, but they are pollut­ing and can’t go fast enough to go on the motor­way. The features are very very minim­al- there is no petrol gauge, you just use a dipstick. Appar­ently you shouldn’t leave them unac­com­pan­ied around hungry pigs- see this film for details. I’ve seen students and old people in Budapest driv­ing them as an economy car, but I didn’t see any in Saxony, where they were made.

bikes sm

I liked the bikes. I wouldn’t mind that saddle bag myself.

lawnmower sm

This was my favour­ite thing in the museum- a kit for turn­ing your elec­tric drill into a lawn­mower. If the shops never seem to have what you’re look­ing for in stock, and get things on a bizarre deliv­ery sched­ule, things like this will appeal. I bet it didn’t work very well.

kitchen sm

Kitchen. You weren’t supposed to listen to West German radio, but of course people did, and just kept quiet about it.

post office 12

Post Office. The ones in West Germany and the current reunited Germany use the same lurid shade of yellow too.

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Office. Check out Lenin super­vising things. There was a photo of Eric Honeck­er on the other wall. I always think he looks like a combin­a­tion of the Two Ronnies.

vending machine sm

Office vend­ing machine. In the compart­ments are sand­wiches made by the tea lady and put on a plate. Pretty much all the options are bread + saus­age.

typewriters sm.

Type­writers. You had to have a licence to own a type­writer, and the Stasi kept sample pages of all type­writers in their forensics depart­ment, so they could tell who had been typing anything they didn’t like. There wasn’t actu­ally any large-scale organ­ised resist­ance move­ment in the coun­try. The sort of level of point­less dili­gence you come to expect from them.

adding machine sm

Adding machine. They were prob­ably using this right up to 1989. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and keep on produ­cing it in the heav­iest mater­i­als you can find.

computer sm

They did have computers though. Prob­ably guar­an­teed to not work with anything else on earth. Good brand name though.

printers sm

Print shop. You can bet they kept a very close eye on who was allowed to work here. What if people made some illeg­al leaf­lets?

newspapers sm

Magazines and news­pa­pers.

bank sm

The bank. Where people kept all their spare cash they couldn’t find anything to spend on. No adverts for loans here. When I lived in Budapest, a Hungari­an friend told me that in the commun­ist days, every­one used to have an envel­ope of cash for impulse purchases on them. The rent, food and trans­port were all very cheap, and wages were decent, but the shops were often very badly stocked, so there wasn’t much to spend the rest on. So people would carry cash around in case they suddenly saw some­thing inter­est­ing or useful which the shops had in for once.

supermarket 1 sm

The grocery shop. Some of these products are still avail­able- the nice ones. Most of the others are long gone.

supermarket 2 sm

Mocca-fix is still a popu­lar brand of coffee in E Germany- although I imagine it has a high­er percent­age of coffee over chicory than it did in the DDR days.

supermarket 4 sm

You can still get Argenta chocol­ate too. It’s pretty nice. The meat salad can is one of the most unap­peal­ing things I’ve ever seen.

supermarket 3 sm

The beers are still going strong too.

hairdressers sm

Hairdress­ers. The hair­cuts cost about the same as 2 or 3 of the work sand­wiches.

sinks sm

Toiletries. I have a book about East German product design. The tampons were frankly terri­fy­ing.

dresses sm

Lots of staticky poly­es­ter going on in East Germany.

suit sm

Even the suits.

washing machine sm

I used to have this same wash­ing machine in Budapest. It was incred­ibly loud, and walked across the floor when it was on, despite the brick the land­lord had given me to try to stop that happen­ing. I usually went out when I wanted to put the machine on. It has an inter­est­ing array of clamps to stop the water getting out too.

laundry sm

More laun­dry stuff. I don’t know how long people kept on using mangles in East Germany, there was no inform­a­tion.

bags sm

Shop­ping bags. No plastic carri­er bags here.

blue chairs sm

I like these chairs.

reel to reel 12

Reel to reel tape machines. Don’t record anything subvers­ive on them- the Stasi are listen­ing! (Prob­ably via your nan, next-door neigh­bour and cous­in)

music posters sm

As well as their own home-grown acts, an eccent­ric assort­ment of West­ern acts were allowed through too. Born in the USA was allowed, inter­est­ingly, because it was criti­cising Amer­ica.

instruments 2 sm

Vari­ous organs.

instruments 1 sm

I used to have a made in the DDR guitar amp. It cost me £3 in a char­ity shop and was thor­oughly terri­fy­ing. I’m amazed that thing never blew up. It appeared to be stuffed with lead too.

puppets sm

Puppets- Sand­män­nchen and friends. I actu­ally used to have that exact queen puppet when I was a kid. I wonder if the set came from East Germany.

restaurat sm

Dreary replica cafe. We made the mistake of eating in the actu­al museum cafe. The food there was as histor­ic­ally accur­ate as the museum exhib­its. It wasn’t fun.

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