What has been preserved from the 40 years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or East Germany? Although many exhibitions have dealt with single GDR themes such as the Berlin Wall, State borders or the infamous Stasi, it wasn’t until the DDR Museum opened on July 15, 2006 that the multi-faceted particulars of everyday life in the GDR were finally gathered under one roof in the City Quartier Dom Aquarée. With its sworn mission of objectivity in its approach to facts and subjectivity in relating personal experience, the DDR Museum has welcomed over half a million visitors from all over the world, keen to dip into authentic everyday GDR living culture. How does it feel to live under surveillance? Whose nickname was Sudel Ede? How comfortable was a flat in the typical Plattenbau – the concrete slab prefabricated housing blocks common in the GDR - and how did it feel sit at the steering wheel of the tiny Trabant?
These questions and many others can be explored at Berlin’s DDR Museum in a lively and interactive fashion. The museum doesn’t simply cater for “Ostalgie” fans. It sees itself as a column in the social analysis and cultural preservation of the former DDR. It offers a more popular perspective with a local history approach in addition to the more standard Wall or Stasi exhibitions. The Head of Research Dr. Stefan Wolle took on the task of ensuring that the museum would stand out as an important repository of German cultural history, to be passed on to future generations.
Visitors are invited to broaden their knowledge, to see through stereotypes and clichés, to rethink and to experience history at first hand. The museum’s exhibits are interactive. The idea is to take part with all one’s senses gathering experiences as you go along. The permanent exhibition draws attention to 16 main areas of life in the GDR. Housing, Work, Leisure, Fashion and Culture are amongst the themes to explore. Over 300 former GDR citizens contributed to the collection with exhibits and by donating personal effects and belongings resulting in an authentic mix of memorabilia. An Erika Typewriter, the Karat Schrankwand, the Stern radio, photographs, clothing are vital elements which bring the visitor face to face with day-to-day reality behind the Iron Curtain. The five most popular highlights are the Trabant, the authentic Plattenbau living room, a school satchel with school material including school reports and children’s exercise books, a cupboard full of authentic GDR clothing and the area dedicated to the Stasi.
All the text panels and information material are available in German and English, including the comprehensive Museum Guide for 5,50 Euros. Guided Tours are available in 12 European languages and Japanese but need to be booked in advance.