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East German material culture : building a collective memory Ysselstein, Geraldine Marion 2007

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EAST G E R M A N MATERIAL CULTURE: BUILDING A COLLECTIVE M E M O R Y  by GERALDINE MARION YSSELSTEIN B . A . , The University o f Guelph, 2005  A THESIS S U B M I T T E D IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T OF T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S FOR T H E D E G R E E OF M A S T E R OF A R T S  in  T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES  (European Studies)  T H E U N I V E R S I T Y OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A A p r i l 2007 © Geraldine Marion Ysselstein, 2007  A B S T R A C T  One way o f remembering life as it was lived in the German Democratic Republic ( G D R ) is through everyday objects. This thesis looks at the Alltagsgeschichte (history o f everyday life) to understand the interaction between the East German state and society through material culture. Museums have collected East German material objects and popular culture with the help o f the internet and television has assisted to both preserve and re-imagine the memories o f the past. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the cultural and economic significance o f material culture o f the German Democratic Republic both before and after 1989. It seeks to understand, how and why e x - G D R consumer objects have emerged as new historical markers o f the socialist experience and collective memory. Additionally, the thesis explores whether East Germany, a socialist country that was despised for its poor quality and quantity o f consumer goods can be remembered after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l as a genuine consumer society. While the G D R no longer exists, its legacy is still very much alive in the renewal and revival o f a number o f significant material objects. It has even manifested itself into what is called Ostalgie, nostalgia for all things from the former G D R , including such items as the Trabant (an East German car), the Ampelmannchen (traffic light figure) and Florena body lotion.  n  T A B L E  O F  C O N T E N T S  Abstract  ii  Table o f Contents  iii  List o f Abbreviations  iv  Acknowledgements  v  Chapter I  Introduction  1  Chapter II  East German Material Culture before the Fall o f the Berlin W a l l  2.1 The Challenges o f Consumption 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7  The Politics o f Consumer Culture i n the G D R , 1949-1989 East Germans Stores and Goods Availability o f Raw Products Packaging and Advertising in the G D R The Difficulty o f Shopping in the G D R . , Western Consumerism available to East Germans  Chapter III 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5  8 9 14 17 20 22 25  The Fall o f the Berlin W a l l and Ostalgie East Germans Shopping in the West Difficulties with the Fall o f the Berlin W a l l Reasons for Ostalgie Development o f Collective Memory and Ostalgie Criticisms o f Ostalgie  Chapter I V  East German Material Culture after the F a l l o f the Berlin W a l l  4.1 Reappearance o f Material Culture 4.2 Material Artifacts in Museums 4.3 Examples o f Material Culture Chapter V  29 32 34 37 42  Conclusion  44 46 49 64  Bibliography  72  ni  LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS BRD—Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Federal Republic o f Germany, F R G (West Germany). DDR—Deutsche Demokratische Republik, German Democratic Republic, G D R (East Germany). FDJ—Freie Deutsche Jugend, Free German Youth (East German youth organization). HO—Handelsorganisation, Trade Organization (East German state authority i n charge o f shops and stores). MfS—Ministerium fur Staatsicherheit, Ministry for State Security or " S t a s i " (secret state police in East Germany). N E S / N E S P L — N e w Economic System/New Economic System o f Planning and Leadership (a plan to modernize and introduce some market mechanisms into the East German planned economy in the 1960s). SBZ—Sowjetische Besatzungszone, Soviet Occupation Zone (the official name o f East Germany from 1945-1949). SED—Sozialistische Einheitspartei, Socialist Unity Party (ruling communist party o f East Germany).  iv  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to extend a sincere thank-you to all my advisors for your support in writing this thesis. Namely, Dr. Markus Hallensleben, Dr. Eagle Glassheim and Dr. Kurt Huebner. I would like to thank you for challenging me to succeed and to go beyond what is just acceptable. A special thanks to m y husband, Aaron Woolner, who gave me the space and time to work on this M . A . thesis in the beauty and serenity of the Sunshine Coast.  v  Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION When the Berlin W a l l fell in 1989, one o f the most published media images was o f East Germans' driving their Trabants over the border to West Germany and spending their 'welcome money' on bananas and jeans, items which had been previously unattainable. This image has also been depicted i n a mural painting by Birgit Kinder on the Berlin W a l l , which shows a Trabant crashing through the W a l l in the anticipation o f experiencing freedom and consumption.  The Trabant, otherwise fondly referred to as  the "Trabi", was a well-known but hard to obtain vehicle i n the former German Democratic Republic ( G D R ) . However, after 1989, its production was discontinued when East Germans could buy better quality vehicles from Western manufacturers such as A u d i or B M W . With the euphoria surrounding unification, it seemed as i f everything from the G D R was quickly exchanged for Western material goods and it appeared as i f the Trabi and everything connected to the G D R was destined for the landfill. For Western observers, it looked as i f capitalism had finally achieved victory over socialism through the guise o f consumerism. East Germans thought that at last their consumer dream had come true, they no longer had to be patient with the inferiority and shortage o f G D R material goods. Finally, with the change in monetary policy and exchange rate close to 1:1 in monthly income, East Germans could now enjoy the Western world o f comfort, wealth and prestige with their Deutschmark ( D M ) .  T o provide simplicity i n this article, I have capitalized "East" and "West" when used as a noun and adjective both before and after unification i n 1990. " A picture o f the w a l l mural can be found on Birgit K i n d e r ' s website. 1  1  Despite their initial enthusiasm for Western products, by 1,991 consumers began demanding that their old products and brands of the ex-GDR be brought back. Rising unemployment, political pessimism, economic recession, and a growing social anxiety instigated new nostalgia for the stability and solidarity of the old days. It even manifested itself into what is called Ostalgie—nostalgia for all things from the former GDR. Since the Wende (literally, the "turning point" in English, which refers to the changes associated with East and West German unification), the existence of the Trabant has evolved and become somewhat of a cult object for the GDR. Additionally, it has achieved a symbolic meaning far beyond its use and exchange value. This nostalgia exploded into the creation of numerous Trabi clubs both in East and West Germany, websites devoted to the car, and images of the vehicle adorning postcards, t-shirts, games, books, and calendars. The Trabant is an example of material culture that developed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it serves as a metaphor for the struggle of East Germans to maintain and develop their own collective memory of the GDR within the demands of the capitalist West. While the old GDR does not exist formally, its legacy is still very much alive these days in the revival of the Trabi and a variety of other significant products of material culture. This thesis looks at the Alltagsgeschichte (history of everyday life) to understand the interaction between material culture and the East German state and society before 1989, as well as the evolution of these material objects since then.  There have been  numerous debates about how to understand the history of the German Democratic Republic since the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in trying to find balance between "the 3  For an in-depth book on the relationship between society and material culture, see: Miller.  2  very real power o f the ruling communist S E D (Sozialistische Einheitspartei, Socialist Unity Party), and the experiences and actions o f the vast majority o f East German citizens" (Fulbrook 609). During the course o f the 1990s, a shift can be identified in the academic and political writings o f East German history to reflect upon the everyday aspects o f life i n the East, rather than a view o f the G D R as strictly a totalitarian 'Stasi state' (Cooke, Representing East Germany 103; Fulbrook 608-609). Although there is still no consensus whether this is the correct approach to recording the history o f the G D R , the study o f the everyday and more specifically i n this thesis, material culture in East Germany, does offer some insight into the lives o f East Germans and the particularities that made up the socialist state o f the G D R .  4  The word "culture" is complex and defies a single definition. Originally, "culture" derived from the Latin root colare, and was "associated with activities o f preservation, o f tending to and caring for" (Benhabib 2). For example, Romans viewed agriculture as a "cultural" activity. During the Romantic period, culture represented "the shared values, meanings, linguistic signs, and symbols o f a people, itself considered a unified and homogenous entity" (Benhabib 2). However with the emergence o f Western modernity as a capitalist commodity economy, with a rationalized scientific worldview, and a bureaucratic administrative control, the root meaning o f culture has changed. Since the late 19 century, culture has come to include material culture as a subset o f culture. th  Anthropologist Daniel M i l l e r writes, "In short, our culture has become to an increasing degree a material culture based on an object form" (Miller 3). M i l l e r suggests that:  4  F o r a comprehensive discussion on the methodology o f G D R history, see: Ross; Epstein.  3  . . . the very physicality o f the object which makes it appear so immediate, sensual and assimilable belies its actual nature, and that material culture is one of the most resistant forms of cultural expression in terms o f our attempts to comprehend it. (3) Additionally, given that culture (as it is often defined in terms of art, literature, drama and music) was so closely patrolled in the former East B l o c , the study of material culture has evolved as an alternative or different way of understanding the past. In the secondary sources used in this thesis, "culture" is used interchangeably with the term "material culture" because the cultural values, signs and symbols of East German people are expressed through objects of material culture. In many cases, culture in the form of music, literature and drama have become part o f this material and pop culture, or they have made a commentary on material culture. Therefore, material culture can be understood as the relationship between a society and consumer good that is bought, used, and consumed in a specific geography within a certain timeframe. Furthermore, historian Ten D y k e refers to material culture as "the set o f all physical things that people create, modify, exchange, store and/or use in the context of human society and culture," and she refers to "the social relationships, actions and meanings that are implicated in these processes" (254). The term is used in this thesis to sum up all the products that surrounded people in their daily lives within the German Democratic Republic, including such items as washing detergent, coffee, body cream, T V s , and cars. The physicality o f these G D R products, that they can be experienced through sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound are manifestations of culture  4  and have helped to revive collective memories of the past while creating new meaning and significance for East and West Germans, young and old. Concerning the connection between material culture and memory, E l i Rubin writes, "Objects in everyday life are the most important receptacles o f the memory o f that everyday life, (and) they are the most readily available link to that past" (Plastics and Dictatorship 6). Collective memory, according to Aleida Assmann, exists through the communication of memories in society and can be shared culturally through images, symbols, signs, and objects of material culture (31-50).  5  These objects help to elicit not  only the memory o f oppression in the G D R state that is often remembered by the conservative Western C o l d War view, but also the happier memories o f births, marriages, family gatherings, and vacations (Rubin, Plastics and Dictatorship 500). East Germans have recalled and recognized their memories collectively in society, but their memories have been subject to change and have responded to outside pressures from society, especially from the West. The second chapter o f this thesis begins with an overview o f the feelings and expectations East Germans had towards Eastern material objects before the fall of the Berlin W a l l . W h i l e G D R leadership lectured against the capitalism of the West, East Germans noted the rise in living standards and income o f West Germans and envied their freedom and affluence. Although the G D R did make advances in rebuilding their own economy and guaranteeing a life without poverty for most, it never compared to the abundance of the West. Persistent shortages and long waiting lists for consumer goods such as television sets and cars made East Germans resent their own government who were viewed to be unable, or unwilling to improve the material living standards of the 5  F o r an in-depth book on the sociological background o f collective memory, see: Halbwachs.  5  G D R . Once East Germans could watch Western television programs in the G D R , they constructed their own image of the West based on advertisements. These advertisements offered a greater quality and quantity o f products that could only be accessible in the G D R through the Intershops and East Germans could only afford these goods i f they had 6  Western currency, which most did not possess (Dennis and K o l i n s k y 3). The third chapter discusses the excitement and euphoria East Germans felt when the Berlin W a l l came down because of the material wealth they thought they would gain, in addition to freedom and democracy. The East's dissolution into the much larger and richer West Germany was at a speed that no other ex-communist society went through. Moreover, one o f the many reasons for the collapse o f the G D R was the sense of injustice felt by its citizens that their state did not provide adequate material goods in return for their hard work and commitment. After the 2+4 talks with the two German States and the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union, as well as the currency union between the two German states, it was impossible to look backwards (Haftendom 284ff). Soon, East Germany was overwhelmed by Western laws and institutions, consumer products, and popular culture. The East German economy virtually collapsed with the competition from the West (Theil 18). A s a result of the speedy "annexation", East Germans began to embrace their own consumer culture as a defense against the West in the form of Ostalgie. They recognized that Western goods were often cheap, tasteless, offensive, and manipulative, while East German goods were attributed with highly positive characteristics, such as honesty, beauty, functionality, and value for money. Over time, East Germans acquired an emerging regional pride for their once disdained material objects. In addition, West 6  More about Intershops in Chapter Two.  6  Germans also began to be interested in G D R material goods for reasons o f fashion, sentimentality for their own past, and access to new markets. Finally in the fourth chapter, the actors involved in remembering the material culture and examples of this material culture are given. M o v i e s , books, music, foodstuffs, and household goods have all helped to elicit and retain the memory o f a divided past. These examples of material culture have been able to speak on many different levels and have been o f interest to politicians, journalists, curators, East and West Germans, youth, television hosts, historians and intellectuals. Moreover, it has been recognized that consumer goods can be used as one of the 'markers' o f a collective memory o f the G D R , but it has also been observed that the biography o f these commodities can undergo a series o f transformations and changes in their meaning. W h i l e referencing the past, many of these East German material goods that were once disdained have ironically developed into popular commodities. The purpose o f this thesis is to examine the cultural and economic significance of material culture o f the German Democratic Republic before and after 1989. It seeks to understand how and why these former G D R consumer objects have emerged as new historical indicators of the socialist experience and become part of a collective memory. Additionally, the thesis explores whether or not East Germany, a socialist country that was despised for its poor quality and quantity of consumer goods can be remembered after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l as a genuine consumer society. In the absence of state structure and conventions, material objects have become visual reminders o f a collective memory o f the German Democratic Republic, but they have also reinvented themselves.  7  Chapter Two: EAST GERMAN CONSUMER CULTURE BEFORE THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL 2.1 T h e Challenges of Consumption  Following the years after the Second W o r d War, Germany was a site of destruction, ruin, misery, and chaos. Citizens were faced with economic hardships, material shortages, and broken families. It soon became clear that meeting the needs o f the consumer would be important for establishing state legitimacy and separate identities for East and West Germany. Thus began the ideological rivalry between the two Germanys that would make consumerism a point o f contention throughout their existence as separate states (Landsman 16). The Socialist Unity Party was confronted with two major problems when forming the G D R : on the one hand, they had to figure out how to provide enough material goods for East Germans and on the other hand, they had to determine how to do it without compromising its socialist ideology on consumerism. The historian Betts asks, " H o w could consumerism be reconciled with state socialism's 'dictatorship over needs?'" (748) In other words, 'dictatorship over needs' means the social formation that organizes production from one administrative center (the S E D ) that exercises political control over the needs of the populace. It is based on the ideology of socialist egalitarianism that decides for consumers which needs are 'real' and which are 'excessive' (Luthar 233). Therefore basic needs were considered 'real' and everything else was 'excessive' in the G D R , unless a citizen worked extremely hard for those extra luxury goods. Steiner writes, "The state set wages and prices and administered the supply of goods with the aim of eliminating the interaction between supply and demand" (167). However, this aim was more theoretical than real and although the state attempted to limit and constrain  8  consumer behaviour, it was never fully successful. Despite the opposition socialist ideology had towards consumerism, the S E D promised a golden future o f material wealth to G D R citizens that would soon rival the West. Material reconstruction o f the G D R was supposed to be the anchoring point o f the socialist Utopia that would give new direction and meaning to East German lives (Kaminsky 2 1 ; Veenis 21).  2.2 The Politics of Consumer Culture in the GDR, 1949-1989 Consumption can be seen as a driving cultural, political, and economic force i n the G D R history. In the German Democratic Republic, the socialist party endorsed hard physical labour in the workplace as a way of reaping the benefits o f consumerism. They often quoted the phrases: "the way we work today is the way we live tomorrow" (Betts 749) and "to each according to his own work" (Kopstein 188) i n the early 1950s as a way o f encouraging a disciplined work ethic. W h i l e West Germany had high unemployment in the early 1950s, the G D R soon began to suffer from severe commodity shortages at the same time. Nevertheless, by the mid-1950s it appeared as i f hard work was paying o f f because an 'Economic M i r a c l e ' {Wirtschaftswunder) was happening in both East and West Germany. It was unclear, however, whether West Germany's 'social market economy' or East Germany's 'socialist planned economy' would prove better in bringing about economic recovery and fulfilling promises o f consumer Utopia (Pence 221). The S E D struggled to match the Western standard o f living and during the 1950s, the regime invested a large amount o f money and resources into expanding the G D R ' s own energy and steel industries with the intention o f improving the shortage o f raw materials. In order to do this, the S E D created a new law to raise production levels by  9  10.3 percent, but this came at the expense o f consumption and living standards which were already being compromised by the state (Ross 71). Workers were unable to meet these unrealistic demands and their frustration manifested itself into the workers' uprising on June 17, 1953. The uprising spread throughout East Germany and became a general and historical uprising calling for improved labour reform, consumption, and freedom. Social historian, Katherine Pence, writes, "The severe shortages plaguing consumers played a crucial role in shaping popular understandings o f political transformations at this time" (219). She argues that the 1953 uprising is an example o f the widespread discontent and political tensions that arose when people's consumer needs and desires were not being met. Only tanks from the Soviet U n i o n and threats from the socialist government were able to expel the threat of the people's material discontent for the time being. A s a result o f the 1953 uprising, the Soviet U n i o n called for economic changes and the S E D regime was forced to respond with the " N e w Course", a program it was hoped would improve the consumer culture in the G D R . Once again, the socialist government was required to recognize that providing the basic necessities for its people and building a consumer culture would be instrumental in establishing state legitimacy and maintaining power. B y offering G D R citizens modern conveniences in their homes and other consumer products, the S E D hoped to w i n their support. The idea was that i f people saw their material surroundings improve, they would have nothing to complain about and therefore wouldn't criticize the S E D leadership to the same degree. In 1958, the S E D publicly announced that the main economic task was to overtake West Germany in per capita consumption of all important foodstuffs and  10  consumer goods b y the year 1961. The consequence was that consumption achieved an increasing importance again i n the S E D ' s social policy. However, the collectivization o f agriculture and the failure o f the Soviet U n i o n to deliver goods and materials provoked an acute economic crisis. Major supply shortages appeared that affected the whole population, i n particular: meat, butter, cheese, shoes, underwear and washing powder were scarce. The constant shortage o f goods led to the fleeing o f many East Germans to the West. The departure (Republiksflucht or flight from the Republic) o f skilled employees to the West further aggravated material shortages because there was not enough labour to work in the East (Steiner 170-171). Walter Ulbricht (the First Secretary of the S E D from 1950 to 1971), eventually acknowledged the crisis and the consumer needs o f the East Germans, especially as more and more East Germans escaped to the West and the gap between the two Germanys expanded. Between 1955 and 1957 nearly 250,000 East Germans left for the "golden West" (Kopstein 43). Private consumption was used b y West German political leaders to portray the Federal Republic o f Germany ( F R G ) as more prosperous while its neighbour began its slow decay. W h i l e trying to catch up with the consumer productivity o f the F R G , Ulbricht and the S E D effectively rejected it. Instead, it portrayed the consumerism of the West as " a product o f the artificial creation o f wants through advertising and consumer manipulation" (Hogwood, Citizens as Consumers 46). In 1961, Ulbricht wrote a letter to Khrushchev expressing his worry about the long-term economic and political consequences o f not investing in the consumer goods sector. Ulbricht wrote:  11  . . .due to this, West Germany can constantly apply political pressure. The booming economy in West Germany, which is visible to every citizen in the GDR, is the main reason that over ten years about two million people have left our Republic, (qtd. in Kopstein 44) With the support of the Soviet Union, tbe SED built the Berlin Wall in 1961 and although this may have helped to contain people, it did not contain their desires. East Germans constantly looked to the West for comparisons of material wealth, never to the East where their standard of living was considered high. The shortage of consumer goods and their poor quality re-emerged as constant features of life in the GDR. In 1963, Walter Ulbricht revealed plans for a 'New Economic System' (NES), with the basic idea of increasing productivity and efficiency through greater flexibility, and providing profit sharing and bonuses as an incentive for greater performance. The reform had a positive effect in the first few years which led to an improvement in living standards, but this was short-lived. East German consumers began to experience severe shortages because of economic imbalances and design flaws associated with the introduction of the reforms, as well as conflicting political interests in Berlin and Moscow in how to pursue the NES reforms (Ross 71). There was an apparent discrepancy between the actual cost and the retail prices of food stuffs, textiles, industrial goods, and technical consumer goods. Industrial goods were either unavailable or too expensive to make up for the cheap prices of basic goods. As Andre Steiner writes, "In 1965, a television set cost 2,050 marks; a refrigerator, 1,359 marks; a washing machine, 1,350 marks; whereas the average gross monthly income was 633 marks" (176-177). The  12  outcome was that the N E S was quietly dismantled and a more traditional, centrally administered system was reinstated in the late 1960s. The G D R , under the Erich Honecker (General Secretary o f the S E D from 1971 to 1989) administration, made a conscious effort to improve the availability o f consumer goods to East Germans. Their aim, similar to the previous administration, was to encourage increased productivity in return for more consumer goods with the motto: " M e h r produzieren, gerecht verteilen, besser leben" (Kaminsky 20). A t the same time, it was realized in the 1970s that there was an obvious economic decline, although East Germany continued to have the highest living standards of all communist countries. The permanent orientation towards the affluent West proved to be powerful and disconcerting for socialist officials and a growing skepticism among East Germans towards their own system began to develop. Already by 1980, it became clear that the strategy to satisfy Eastern consumers had entirely failed. The quality and quantity of consumer goods had started to decline. The world economic crises of 1973 and 1979 sent oil prices to unexpected heights, which then had to be compensated by increased exports. In addition, an ambitious housing program by Honecker and the importation o f Western consumer goods resulted in severe debts. B y 1978, further loans were required from West Germany to finance East Germany's already existing interest payments. Andreas Staab writes, " B y 1980, fundamental mismanagement and lack o f innovation and investment, as well as structural deficiencies, deteriorated and brought the G D R to the verge of bankruptcy" (25). In 1982, the G D R lost its credibility and international banks refused to give any further loans. East Germany was only saved from financial ruin by substantial loans from the  13  Federal Republic o f one billion Deutschmark in each o f the years, 1983 and 1984. The G D R authorities were forced to rely on a policy o f autarky that led to severe economic and ecological problems. In the crisis o f 1989, at one o f the final meetings o f Honecker's Politburo, Gerhard Schurer observed that there were poorer countries i n the East who offered more goods i n their stores than the G D R even though East Germany was comparably wealthier. Even more frustrating, notes Schurer, is that East Germans who had money couldn't spend it because there weren't enough goods in the G D R to purchase. Unable to vote or chose their own leaders, East Germans had understood their rights largely in economic and terms o f consumption. Jeffrey Kopstein adds, " F o r years, the S E D had desperately fought Western conceptions o f political rights with an image o f a package o f economic rights, present only in a socialist society" (192). The failure o f the socialist state, however, to provide economic rights through the quality, quantity, and variety o f consumer goods comparable to the West helped to speed up the revolution o f 1989 and was one o f the reasons that led to the collapse o f the G D R .  2.3 East German Stores and Goods What did the S E D provide to its citizens? The socialist state o f the G D R was able to provide domestically produced products which were typically cheap, unadvertised, o f low quality, and were supposed to be readily available. However, most o f the time they were out o f stock because o f production and distribution problems. A t the beginning o f the 1950s, East Germans purchased half o f the items they needed for daily use at privately owned stores, one-third at HO (Handelsorganisation or state stores), and one-  14  J  fifth at Konsum cooperatives. The HO stores were originally opened up b y S E D leadership to compete with the black market; they offered goods unavailable elsewhere and the party promised that once conditions normalized, prices would drop to become more affordable (Landsman 222-223). Exquisit stores, which offered premium merchandise, were opened i n 1961 and Delikat-Laden were opened in 1966. Consumers could buy luxury items at these stores like truffles, Dutch coffee, American cigarettes, foreign wines, olives, curry, ketchup, and orange juice. Therefore, those East Germans who could afford these products were already introduced to the consumer products o f the capitalist West (Merkel, Utopie und Bedurfhis 271). Unfortunately, at the same time that Exquisit stores increased the variety of goods available to East Germans, the quality o f certain products at the HO or Konsum stores was intentionally reduced (for example, the water content was increased in some processed meats). Consequently, the state indirectly forced consumers into stores where products were sold at a higher price. The East German state then benefited from a covet form o f inflation, thereby allowing the government to increase the amount o f money i n circulation. However, G D R citizens who worked i n low-paying occupations, or who were senior citizens, or students were not able to afford the higher prices in the Exquisit • stores, and as a result their standard o f living dropped (Merkel, Utopie und Bediirfnis 263-272; Ten Dyke 260). The state not only restricted where G D R citizens bought their consumer goods, but also defined consumers' tastes. In the beginning o f the 1950s, the S E D attempted to have a different relationship towards their material surroundings from that o f the bourgeois society o f the West. Instead o f the romantic frills and ancient motives that  -15  were popular in West Germany at the time, the state tried to neutralize the importance of material goods through the practice of educating people's tastes to be more rational, practical, and economical. This was a struggle by the SED against material styles of the past and ornamental designs that might draw consumers towards superficiality (Veenis 90-92). The GDR functionalist design developed from the late 1950s and on as a method for creating rational consumer objects as well as rational consumers. From the state's perspective, these principles of functionality and purposefulness turned out to be quite practical as well. That is, the principles were economic and cheap, because a straight rectangular table was easier, cheaper and faster to produce than a table with rounded edges and ornamental carvings. The words: Wachsamkeit (vigilance), Sparsamkeit (thriftiness), das Wesenrtiche (the essential), and Sachlichkeit (succinctness) were encouraged in advertisements, newspapers, and magazines as good East German values to follow (Kaminsky 30). However, it wasn't before long that the state began to fear that its policy of functionalism made socialist products look ascetic and cheap. Already by the 1960s, attempts for improvements were made and more colour and variety were added to the socialist design of consumer products. After Honecker attained power in the 1970s, it was openly admitted that all objects designed in a consistently functional way looked ascetic, frugal, and cheap. There was a slow turnaround to embrace Western bourgeois aesthetic values instead of the cheap functionality of the socialist GDR (Merkel, Consumer Culture 290). However, by the 1980s and 1990s, it was observed that still a lot had not changed, and most everyday East German products stayed relatively the same  16  from the 1960s and on. It was this lack of innovation and consumer choice that was extremely frustrating to East Germans, but that would later become a sense o f comforting nostalgia and collective memory after 1989.  2.4 Availability of Raw Products N o matter how much education there was about the beauty of functionality, there was a deficiency in its availability. Products were scarce in East Germany because of the ineffective state-structured factories that were made to produce consumer products. Moreover, the G D R economy suffered from an inefficient use of resources that was exacerbated by the lack of materials, owing to the embargo against the communist bloc. In particular, the G D R lacked cotton, wool, rubber, aluminum, steel, electrical insulation, and more importantly, natural wood (Rubin, Order of Substitutes 159). The regime tried to solve this lack of natural resources through imitation and the development of alternatives. For example, since lumber was scarce, most furniture was made from a mixture of saw-dust and glue which was then covered with plastic foil and had a motif of wood on it (Veenis 92). The G D R tried to make clothes with spun rayon in place o f cotton and wool. However, East German factories spun yarn o f extremely poor quality and difficulties occurred with the chemical preparations that frequently stopped production altogether. Eventually, they would forgo the spun rayon and import cotton and wool from the Soviet U n i o n and other Soviet bloc countries. This was an extremely expensive practice, and there was never a continuous supply of quality cotton and wool (Stitziel 28).  17  What distinguished East from West Germany was the tendency b y the S E D to increase investment at the expense o f consumption which did not allow East Germany to develop into a functioning consumer society like West Germany (Steiner 168). F o r example, the regime made a massive investment into synthetics through the creation o f the Chemieprogramm (Chemistry Program). Begun i n 1958, the Chemistry Program tried to synthesize what it could not find naturally. For example, the S E D government introduced colourful plastics, which were celebrated as a vital element in modernizing and improving the aesthetics o f everyday life i n the G D R . Because plastic could be chemically derived, it promised to help alleviate the problem o f raw material shortages. Plastics were used for household products, polyester clothes, and as a laminate for most o f the floors i n new apartments, including the infamous P2 apartments (Kaminsky 62-64; Rubin, Form o f Socialism 159). P2 was the nickname for the apartments made up o f prefabricated concrete slabs (Plattenbau) during the 1960s and on. These standardized apartment buildings were the cornerstone o f the S E D ' s industrial housing policy until the year 1989, and incorporated many o f the socialist experiments o f functionality and new plastic products (Ludwig 7-8). The first specialized store for plastics opened in 1959 on Stalinallee in Berlin with the program name "Chemie i m H e i m " (Chemistry in the Home). It was thought to be a showpiece for the regime and their Chemieprogramm by offering almost every conceivable product possible for the home: buckets, dishes, eating utensils, cutting boards, clothing, medicine cabinets, toilet seats, lamp stands, laundry baskets, and camping gear (Rubin, Plastics and Dictatorship 96).  18  A t first, consumers embraced plastics because they considered the plastic products to be chic, modern, practical, and valuable. The creation of plastics was intended to be the way o f the future for East Germans and slogans such as "Chemistry gives beauty, affluence, and bread" were well advertised throughout the East. The excitement over the technology o f plastics meant that no one was allowed to complain. If they did, historian E l i Rubin writes, they were considered to be old-fashioned and technologically unsophisticated (Plastics and Dictatorship 87-91). Periodicals such as a woman's home decorating magazine, Kultur im Heim and youth magazines such as Jugend and Technik praised the benefits o f plastics for Eastern consumers and strived to explain the superiority o f Eastern plastic goods over Western material goods. Despite the praise that the Chemieprogramm received, S E D officials were concerned that plastics might be seen by consumers as cheap substitutes for the 'real' material: wood, rubber, or aluminum. Moreover, the Chemistry Program encountered a number o f other difficulties. One such difficulty was that the G D R was never able to acquire enough oil from the Soviet U n i o n , or the Arab States to create plastics, and they were unable to afford the technology from the United K i n g d o m to produce plastic goods because they did not have enough Western currency. There was also internal confusion as to which body and institution was to manage the production of plastic consumer goods. Additionally, consumer choice suffered from the introduction o f plastics because suddenly certain products could only be found in plastic, or not at all. For example, after the Chemieprogramm, highchairs, toilet seats, and some camping gear could only be found in  19  plastic. Eventually, it became clear to the S E D leadership that they may have been overly optimistic about the advantages o f plastics. The Chemistry Program may have failed to solve the shortage o f material goods in the G D R through plastic, but shortly after 1989, these plastics were rediscovered and were considered a trendy symbol and memory o f East Germany's failed attempt to be innovative. After 1989, East German plastic products like napkin holders, or egg cups were being sold at flea markets and on websites for more than double their original price. A nostalgia was created surrounding plastics because the creation o f them had been such a defining moment i n the history o f the G D R . Plastics were supposed to pave the way for the future o f the G D R , but the project failed because it was not able to solve the scarcity o f consumer goods (Rubin, Order o f Substitutes 113-114).  2.5 Packaging and Advertising in the GDR The packaging o f material goods was a similarly challenging and frustrating experience for East Germans. Packaging was a relatively new and capitalist phenomenon which emerged with the mass production o f goods. The problem with packaging i n East Germany was that there were constant shortages o f raw materials and therefore shortages in packing material, so that consumers often had to find their own solutions to packaging. The other problem was that the equipment required to produce and package goods could only be bought from Western countries with hard currency, which was scarce in the G D R . This was particularly aggravating to consumers who wanted modern, attractive, and glamorous packaging similar to the West (Merkel, Utopie und Bedurfnis 101-102).  20  Unlike its neighbours to the West however, there was no need to advertise products in the G D R because the limited quantity meant that goods sold themselves. Every article was presented in a plain matter-of-fact style and offered at a fixed price and quality. Therefore, East German goods did not have the quality or competitive edge that Western goods had. The design and language used in marketing products was dull and lacked any appeal to consumers. Colours used on packaging were faded, often because o f the poor-quality inks and dyes that were used and packaging was limited to a few varieties o f paper, cardboard, and plastics. This was according to the logic o f the socialist economy that did not encourage concepts o f advertising, marketing, competition, or consumerism. If a product was advertised, it was interpreted as a signal that something might be wrong with the product, for why else would producers need to advertise i n an economy with a shortage o f goods (Feick and Gierl 228)? Most o f the products that were introduced during the consumer rush o f the 1960s stayed in production until 1989 with little change in content or form. Packaging and advertising were made to reflect socialist ideals. The aesthetic of'sameness' in packaging and advertising was crucial in shaping the G D R ' s collective memory o f material goods. The very lack o f product innovation and repackaging ensured that they would be remembered by generations afterwards as markers o f East German material culture. Because of the poor quality of advertising, packaging, and content in East Germany, consumers had to get to know their products first before being able to accept and have confidence in them. Consumers needed to know how to handle the products that they bought, as well as care for them. Unlike their Western relatives who could  21  usually rely on the products that they bought, East Germans had to develop intimate knowledge o f their products (Blum 235, 241). The absence o f brand identification and packaging allowed Eastern consumers to create personal stories o f the products based on their own consumer experience.  2.6 The Difficulty of Shopping in the GDR The accumulation o f material goods was a defining characteristic that divided East and West Germany, but on the Eastern side it was a much more involved process. Due to the continuous scarcity and central regulation o f consumer goods, people were forced to spend an enormous amount o f time, patience, and creativity i n obtaining the basic necessities. One positive aspect o f this was that i n East Germany, consumption was a far more social and cultural activity than it was in West Germany. Cultural historian, Veenis writes, " M o s t (East) Germans were part o f social networks i n which material exchange, transactions and rumours played ah important role" (93). Neighbours and friends helped each other with acquiring scarce goods, stood in long queues for hours together, and were always on the lookout for anything that might be on sale. The role o f women was especially important for consumerism. They were expected to contribute to the economic recovery o f East Germany both by working and consuming. Women were required, writes historian David F. Crew, "to consume 'responsibly,' to adopt 'social consumption habits,' and to teach them to their husbands and children" (9). The added burden of being a consumer in addition to the responsibility of taking care o f their families and households even though they worked was extremely frustrating for women. Improvements had been made in household equipment, including  22  the increasing availability o f vacuum cleaners and washing machines, so that women could spend the extra time they needed on shopping (Kostlin 20; Luthar 238-239). However, the long queues were an inescapable feature o f the consumer society in the G D R that consisted mainly o f women and as historian Ten D y k e observes, the long lines had the effect of regularly reinforcing the subordinate position o f the consumer in the East German economy (266). To deal with the chronic shortages suffered in the G D R , women resorted to a variety o f tactics including writing long letters of complaint to the authorities, finding ways to jump ahead in queue, and coming up with creative alternatives in their shopping and consumption habits. Networks of communication among neighbours and colleagues were especially important when a shopkeeper received a delivery o f goods considered rare in the G D R . East Germans cultivated and maintained personal relationships with shopkeepers, mechanics, and other business people in order to acquire necessary or desirable consumer goods. Historian Ten Dyke gives an example of the marketplace: A n obdurate shopkeeper could slam the register shut in the face o f a consumer, i f it was time for coffee. She could flatly deny that any blenders, T V s or bed linens were available for sale, even i f the customer happened to know personally that a shipment had just been delivered. (266) East Germans were aware that they could never be certain whether the items they wanted would be available when they needed them. Therefore, i f a shipment came in with something that might be needed in the future, people would stock up. For example, even i f a person didn't need new tires for their Trabant that month, they would buy the tires for the following year when they might need them. Moreover, i f they didn't need to  23  use the tires, the tires could be used to trade for a service, or another consumer good. Historian, Ina Merkel recounts the experience of knowing someone who stored three complete Trabant exhaust systems in his cellar. The reason was that in a previous experience the acquaintance had been forced to wait weeks to finally have his exhaust system on his car repaired (Consumer Culture 293). Likewise, in an interview with Dirk Philipsen, Doris C. relates, "Everybody always bought everything he could get his hands on, whether he needed it or not, and then we exchanged things among ourselves. We had a lively barter economy going" (qtd. in Philipsen 127). The availability of goods was unreliable. For example, bottled beverages would be plentiful in the winter, but scarce in the summer when demand was high and people wanted to particularly quench their thirst. Or goods would be available, but only in unsuitable proportions, for example, there would be excessive quantities of shoes, but only in one particular size. In addition, goods produced in East Germany, textiles, for example, never made it on the shelves because they were intended solely for export. There were also seasonal rhythms of consumption, including shopping during vacations abroad. East Germans would travel to other Eastern Bloc countries to obtain the products they could not find in the GDR, for example, clothing, shoes, and food. In Hungary, they would buy the Soviet magazine Sputnik which was banned in East Germany in 1988, or shoes in Prague, which were often better quality than the shoes in the GDR. There was also the problem with regional inequalities that disrupted shopping opportunities. Berlin and Leipzig were popular shopping centers because they were places where thousands of foreigners, traveling with hard (convertible) currency would pass through (Ten Dyke 262).  24  M a n y goods were in high demand, but produced i n limited quantities, for example, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, apartments, and cars. T o obtain these products, East Germans would submit applications to the appropriate office o f government in order to be put on an extensive waiting list before being called up to pick up their requested item (Philipsen 123-124). It could take three years to get a sewing machine, four to get an apartment, and ten to twenty to get a car. The demand for individual transportation remained consistently high i n East Germany and therefore waiting lists for cars such as the Trabant and Wartburg were extensive. Andreas Staab writes that, "The annual production o f Trabants and Wariburgs increased steadily, from 64,000 in 1960 to 218,000 i n 1988" (105). These cars were regarded as the most precious possession in East Germany. This is demonstrated b y the fact that i n 1984, East Germans spent twenty-eight percent o f their total expenditure on items associated with the automobile. In summary, shopping was an incredibly arduous task for many East Germans because o f lack o f goods, high prices on 'luxury' goods, having to stand in long queues, and the regional inequalities.  2.7 Western Consumerism available to East Germans The frustration o f shopping was exacerbated b y the constant comparison to the West. Despite the construction o f the Berlin W a l l , the border was still permeable. East Germans had greater access than any o f the other countries in the Eastern B l o c to Western consumerism through advertisements on television and communication with relatives in the West. Before 1961, when'the Berlin W a l l was built, East Germans were  25  able to travel to the West and make comparisons o f wealth by looking into department stores. After the Berlin W a l l was built, East Germans were able to access West German television signals and make comparisons of wealth between East and West—though until the m i d 1970s, the government forbade watching Western television. Nevertheless, since Western television also showed some of the negative aspects of capitalist society, including drugs and crime, the government finally gave up the futile practice of sending out young F D J (Freie Deutsche Jugend or "Free German Youth) members to turn people's aerials to face the East. Dresden was the exception; it was unable to receive T V signals from the West and was described as the Tal der Ahnungslosen ("valley of the clueless") (Crew 3; M c K a y 23-24). Aside from Western media, East Germans were able to consume Western products through their West German relatives and friends. West Germans could either create a package {Westpakate or Western package) o f coffee, chocolate, cash, and clothing or deliver it themselves when they visited the East. The hard currency could then be used to buy Western products from the Intershops. Originally however, East Germans were forbidden from shopping in the Intershops and only tourists, diplomats, and other foreigners living in or visiting the G D R could buy goods from the Intershops. These shops were created to entice Westerners to spend their hard currency in East Germany when they visited. In 1973, it was made legal for East German citizens to possess Western currency and they were able to spend their money in the shops. However, most consumers were prevented from purchasing these  26  'luxury' Western goods because o f high prices, limited access to hard currency, and small quantities (Feick and Gierl 228; Kostlin 25). Furthermore, being able to buy Western goods came at a price. B y overpricing the costs of luxurious items, the S E D leadership could make everyday consumer goods including adequate housing, foodstuffs, and everyday necessities more affordable (Crew 5; Steiner 169). For example, a V C R could cost as much as 6,000 Marks, or almost 100 times the amount of one month's rent in the G D R (Ten Dyke 260). The price tag for V C R s was high for another reason, that is, it was an attempt to control the distribution of video material, especially taping Western television. Therefore, the prices o f a large number o f products and services no longer reflected their production cost, which is what the S E D had intended in order to keep the price of basic necessities down. B y overpricing the costs of luxurious items, the S E D leadership could make everyday consumer goods including adequate housing, foodstuffs, and everyday necessities more affordable (Crew 5; Steiner 169). Hence, the East German leadership did not deprive their citizens of luxurious goods, but they made it very difficult to obtain them. The few Western things that people were able to obtain, either through Westpakate or the Intershops were so rare and treated with extremely good care, that often articles would go unused because they were never considered a normal article of use. A cookie jar, tablecloth, or pen from West Germany could never be seen as a normal cookie jar, tablecloth, or pen. The prominent East German psychiatrist Hans-Joachim Maaz made the observation that West German material objects sometimes incurred a fetish value for East Germans, who would collect empty Western beer or cola cans and place them in a cabinet in the living room as special ornaments from the West (86).  27  Additionally, plastic bags with Western advertisement would be used to barter for other goods and Western jeans were coveted. Even the high officials in the SED party participated in this material impulse by hoarding Western imports (eg. cars, television sets, and phonographs) as signs of status and power. Politburo members and their families had unlimited access to Western goods in their secluded compound of Wandlitz, north of Berlin and preferred to be driven around in their chauffeured Volvos rather than in the East German car, the Trabant. However, not everyone had access to West German television, or Western goods, or even the desire or need for such products. Some East Germans did not have relatives in the West, or did not maintain contact with them, especially if they worked for the Stasi (Minsterium fur Staatssicherheit or the "Ministry for State Security"), the police, or the military where contact with Westerners was suspect and absolutely forbidden. This arrangement disadvantaged the middle- to lower-level officials who were forbidden contact with the West, but it also contradicted the official policy in favouring those who had cultivated contacts in the West. As a result of the access to Western media and relatives, East Germans were knowledgeable with regards to the trends and products of West Germany and the United States, but this also created frustration. The surplus of luxury items in the West was in stark contrast to the shortages and inferior merchandise experienced by East Germans and was a source of continual comparison and disappointment. This was the emotional background to the never-ending and never-satisfying experience of consumption for East Germans.  28  Throughout the existence o f the G D R , the Socialist Unity Party struggled with providing enough consumer goods to its citizens without compromising its socialist ideology on consumption. Although the S E D criticized the consumption o f the West as being driven b y false advertising and consumer manipulation, it struggled to match the Western standard o f living. However, the S E D was not able to satisfy Eastern consumers because o f the quality and quantity o f goods that were and were not available, as well as the state's economic policies which were not determined by an internal market. Although the S E D was not able to realize its promises o f material wealth, consumerism turned out to be one o f the most important themes that guided East Germans in their daily lives and according to historians such as Daphne Berdahl and Judd Stitziel, consumerism would be one o f the reasons for East Germany's final demise (Berdahl 235; Stitziel 23).  Chapter Three: THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL AND OSTALGIE 3.1 East G e r m a n s Shopping in the West  Years o f dissatisfaction and frustration with consumerism among other disappointments in East Germany deprived the G D R o f its political legitimacy to survive as a separate and independent state. It has been debated that the fall o f the Berlin W a l l was more about the failure o f the state to provide adequate consumer rights for East Germans than about political or human rights. Daphne Berdahl argues, " F o r many western Germans, as well as for much o f the world, the "triumph" o f capitalism and democracy seemed to be reflected and confirmed in the "consuming frenzy" (Konsumrausch) o f the " O s s i s " (East Germans) (The Spirit o f Capitalism 235). This was illustrated by one o f the first acts o f hundreds o f thousands o f East Germans who crossed  29  into West Germany. They lined up at any bank in West Germany and claimed their 100 D M in Begriifiungsgeld (welcome money) to which they were entitled when they entered the West for their first time. Then they strolled through the streets and spent their money on bananas, stereos, jeans, and other items that had previously not been available or affordable in East Germany (Paul 46; Staab 100). The materialistic promises that had been made to East Germans about a 'Golden Future' appeared to be realized and fulfilled in the West. Whether the fall of the Berlin Wall can be solely attributed to the desire of East Germans to consume (as Berdahl and Stitziel suggest) is rather a simplistic understanding of the Wende and fails to acknowledge the complexity and multiplicity of reasons for the demise of the GDR.  In any case, the desire and opportunity to consume  after the fall of the Berlin Wall was evident. In an interview with Dirk Philipsen, Bernd K recounts his amazement with Western material culture after 1989. He tells Dirk Philipsen: Of course we watched Western TV, saw Western advertisements, and such, but the reality of it all just blew me away. When I went to a home appliance store in the West for the first time, I walked through the aisles and just mumbled to myself, like a senile old man, "This can't be true, this is unbelievable, I must be dreaming." They had all the things I had been trying to get at home for years, and not just in one kind, but in hundreds of variations, (qtd. in Philipsen 124) As Bernd K . observed, the excitement and chaos of the following weeks disrupted many consumer habits that had developed in the GDR. East Germans no longer needed to travel to Berlin to buy a toaster or to Prague to buy a pair of well-made shoes or wait in long queues to purchase an item. Everything they desired, it seemed was accessible in 7  Other reasons for the collapse of the G D R can be found in chapter five of Corey Ross's book.  30  West Germany and soon made available in East German shops too. Moreover, after the currency union in 1990, East Germans could withdraw Deutschmark from their bank account with the majority of their savings being converted at the rate of 2:1 (Ten Dyke 270). With DM in their bank account, East Germans who had been waiting for ten years to buy a car could now enter a car showroom, if they had enough savings, and acquire the car of their choice without having to wait for years. The same experience applied to obtaining washing machines, television sets, furniture, vacuum cleaners, and other luxury household items that had been either unaffordable, or unattainable in the GDR because of long waiting times (Dennis and Kolinksy 4-5). In an effort to catch up with the West, the East German consumer spent their hard-earned savings on these luxurious products. Immediately after the Wende, East Germans first exercised their freedom of choice by spending exorbitant amounts of money on food and drink. In her article, 'Red is for Love. . .': Citizens as Consumers in East Germany, Patricia Hogwood uses data from the "Statistisches Bundesamt" to show the breakdown of personal consumption expenditures in East Germany between 1991 and 1997. She observes that those with a low income spent 30.5 percent of their net income in 1991 on food, drink and tobacco and those households with high earnings spent 24.6 percent of their income on such products in 1991. She reasons that East Germans continued the same consumer behaviour of buying and hoarding as many food items as possible because of the unreliability of supplies they had experienced in the former GDR. In addition, East Germans might have been curious to try new and unfamiliar foods and fruits. Later, East Germans began to invest in household goods. Initially, they spent a lot of money on essential repairs, but in 1997, in an effort to catch up with the West; low-income  31  households in the East spent 10.1 percent of their income on furniture and household goods, while their Western peers spent 5.3 percent (Hogwood, Citizens as Consumers 51). Ironically, shopping took just as much time after the changes of 1989-90 as it had before the fall of the Wall. It was still a time-consuming process, but for entirely different reasons. Before 1989, shopping was difficult because of the inadequate supply of goods, but after 1990, the availability of goods was overwhelming and shopping became a complex and difficult task of decision making. For example, East Germans were confronted with more jams and fruits than they could name, in a variety of sizes, and with labels from foreign countries. Product prices ranged so widely, it was difficult to know, at first, what was a good purchase (Ten Dyke 273). In any case, Easterners gradually had their first unpleasant experiences with the Western consumer society and, in an interesting twist of events began to embrace their own consumer culture.  3.2 Difficulties with the Fall of the Berlin Wall One of the more profound issues surrounding the Wende was the radically changed status of material objects in the GDR. As East Germans began to buy West German products, the result was that more and more Eastern products vanished from the shelves of supermarkets, and many East German shopkeepers were forced to sell their remaining stock at surprisingly low levels. If the products did not sell, it was their fate to end up in the landfill, the flea market or eventually the museum. Furthermore, the currency union between East and West Germany meant that the Soviet Union and other  32  Eastern European states could no longer afford to purchase products from the G D R because they were too expensive. Another problem with the arrival o f Western consumerism was that East German consumers put their fellow citizens out o f work because shop owners could no longer sell their products to Eastern consumers. Items that were in heavy demand just months before the  Wende, including the Trabant and Wartburg cars were eventually robbed o f  their comparative value and were transformed into obsolete artifacts. They and other East German products were stigmatized as being representative o f an inefficient, outdated, and unattractive economy o f shortages. Gaining appreciation for their defunct country was difficult at first for East Germans. The disclosure o f Stasi documents and actions revealed how corrupt the G D R state really was and this represented a betrayal to its citizens. People no longer trusted each other once the Stasi archives were opened and had the terrible realization that they had been watched by their own family and friends. In addition, the discovery that some of their most respected intellectuals and writers, including Christa Wolf, Sascha Anderson, Rainer Schedlinski and Heiner Muller had acted as  Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter  (unofficial collaborators) for the Stasi, led many to lose confidence in the East German people and the state they had once lived in. Not only did intellectuals lose the respect o f East Germans through their involvement with the Stasi, but Paul Betts argues that the intellectuals were unsuccessful in contributing to the understanding o f the G D R and establishing support from the people. This, Betts says, also aided in spurring pop culture nostalgia. He writes, "It was the collapse o f ideals coupled with the intellectuals' failure to provide any alternative  33  language o f noncapitalist social solidarity that helped convert material culture into a new locus of historical romanticism" (746). In other words, mass consumer products replaced discussion o f culture including state architecture, paintings, and literature and instead a certain sense of nostalgia appeared for East German goods. The loss o f faith i n state and its people blocked any real positive identification with the G D R past and this was another reason why, according to Betts, material culture emerged as a way o f finding something positive i n the G D R past. This assessment by Betts, that culture was replaced by material culture requires further investigation. First, w h y did East German intellectuals not provide an alternative narrative o f collective memory through culture, and for what reasons were they not able to do so? Was the cultural expression o f these East German intellectuals in the form o f architecture, paintings and literature suppressed and therefore they were unable to provide an alternative way o f understanding East German history?  3.3 Reasons for Ostalgie When the immediate impact o f unification resulted i n mass unemployment, social disintegration, and disappointment, Easterners felt betrayed by the West and the federal government. They began to yearn for certain aspects o f the G D R , including the social welfare system, child care, employment for all, subsidized housing, and basic necessities. This nostalgia for the G D R past has been given the term Ostalgie. Ostalgie is a word that is often used to define the nostalgic feelings that East Germans have towards the G D R . The term was first coined in the late 1990s in the television and consumer culture, and is a combination of the German words for "nostalgia" (Nostalgie) and "East" (Osi). Soon after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l , many East Germans experienced nostalgia (from  34  nostos—return home, and algia—longing), a longing for a home that no longer existed (Boym xiii). Although nostalgia is a longing for the past, its memories are often determined by the needs of the present. In this way, nostalgia for the GDR was a response to the fundamental political, economic, and social changes that confronted East Germans with unification (Boym xvi, Pinkert 228). The term Ostalgie and its association with nostalgia denote a sense of profound loss and the attempt to come to terms with it. Martin Blum quotes Hans-Gunter Eschke who writes: Nostalgia describes an entire mind-set. . . Here the glorification of the past—the conditions of which have been lost or destroyed—becomes the dominant impulse. In a rather undifferentiated fashion, the mourning for this loss is thus elevated to a largely positive view of the entire nature (of this past) as well as its individual's properties, and consequently dominates the entire view of society and the individual's place in it. (qtd. in Blum, Remaking the East German past 230) East German nostalgia is linked to the fact that the GDR literally vanished overnight. This speedy absorption—often called "Kohl-onization" (named after Chancellor Helmut Kohl who promised 'blossoming landscapes' when the Wall fell) by East Germans is what makes the GDR story so unique. Unification in 1990 was done quickly and peacefully, but it did not result in diplomatic sovereignty and political independence (Betts 734). Suddenly, an entire state, along with its institutions, cultural values, and political beliefs was dissolved and GDR citizens were faced with the task of trying to locate themselves in an unfamiliar society, with its own rules, values, and identity (Blum 230). Uta Leupolt, a student of education writes:  35  Everything is already just as it is in the West. From the whole welfare system, only the "People's Solidarity" (Volkssolidaritat) is from here, the rest is from the West. It is really unfortunate that so little of the Eastern biography is included. (15) Unexpectedly, their Eastern institutions, clubs (Pioneer and FDJ), and holiday celebrations disappeared into the capitalist West. Jana Hensel recalls that as a small child she noticed the changes at school, for example, children no longer received milk at school, they no longer trained in competitive sports after school, and they no longer had to attend school on Saturdays. Instead, families had time to watch Western T V shows and drive to the West with their children in order to pick up their 'welcome money'. Overnight, it appeared to Jana Hensel that everything from her childhood had disappeared and found its way into a museum (15-18, 25). Unification also meant that the principles of state support had to be phased out. Previously, the cost of housing, energy, essential foodstuffs, and child rearing had been heavily subsidized in the GDR. Now, East Germans were faced with new costs and unfamiliar demands on household budgets. Additionally, many were experiencing loss of employment, something they had never known before. This meant not only a loss of financial security, but it also meant a loss of community with their co-workers, and a sense of purpose. The factories where they had once worked were an important social unit and a place of belonging. It was in the workplace where G D R residents not only worked, but also socialized, and factory brigades regularly provided the only opportunity to travel away from home. Some factories housed a daycare center, a doctor's office, and a general store on their grounds. This helped to make the household tasks easier and was  36  an attempt b y the state to replace certain roles and functions—child rearing and family meals—that were usually the sphere o f the family to the responsibility o f the state.  3.4 Development of Collective Memory and Ostalgie Once the G D R and its institutions no longer existed as the basis and measure o f East German collective identity and culture, G D R artifacts were resurrected as the last remains o f a shared past. In an interesting twist, it is the consumer object that the socialist state feared all along, that has been revived into a collective memory by G D R citizens after 1989. Collective memory, explains A l e i d a Assmann, depends on a common point o f orientation, and i n the East German case this was material culture. The lack o f material goods was a common feature that many East Germans could relate to, and as a group they reconstructed their collective memory o f the G D R i n terms o f r missing material objects (30ff). In the years since the state's demise, the focus of popular examinations o f the G D R was primarily on the role o f the Stasi. This has had the result of alienating many ordinary East Germans, who felt that the actual experience o f their everyday life in the East has been devalued and ignored (Cooke, Performing 'Ostalgie' 160). Collective memory in the form o f Ostalgie is an attempt to salvage some collective dignity from unification and to formulate a collective identity o f being a separate community from the West (Hogwood, After the G D R 59). Assmann further divides collective memory into two: communicative memory, and cultural memory. Communicative memory is considered to be the short-term memory o f a society, whereby individuals communicate their memories to the next generation. These individual memories disappear within 80-100 years (36-38). Cultural  37  memory, on the other hand, is the formation and storage o f long-term memory that is carried well beyond the generation o f those that experienced an event, like the fall of the Berlin W a l l . Cultural memory perpetuates the collective memory o f the past, which cannot be transmitted over time in communicative memory. It does this by using images, sculptures, monuments, festivals, symbols, architecture, institutions and objects of material culture to remind generations of the past (Assmann 49-50). The interaction of the different types o f memory: collective, communicative, and cultural is important for the historical consciousness of individuals, groups, and societies. In understanding these collective memories, whether they are nostalgic or not, material culture of the past is organized with reference to the present. Breda Luthar writes, "Remembering is always a reconstruction and representation o f the past and not a recording of the past, and has more to do with invention, the present, the imagined and representation than with what actually happened" (Luthar 231). East Germans have concentrated their memory in material culture because of a renewed appreciation for socialist values resulting from an ongoing frustration with unification. The embarrassment that East Germans initially felt towards their material products changed rapidly to feelings o f pride and nostalgia. One of the reasons for this is that those previously disdained articles suddenly became material reminders o f their vanished life in the G D R . It was not until after unification that many East Germans began to appreciate the distinctive element of the socialist regime o f consumption; namely the welfare system that provided cheap, subsidized public transport, housing, and basic foodstuffs. In an interview with Dirk Philipsen, Doris C . laments about the benefits of socialism. She says:  38  W e all had work; in fact, we did not know any unemployment. Families with a lot o f children were supported. W e had a comprehensive child care and kindergarten system. W e had a decent educational system for everybody. A l l o f this was very well-established, nobody had to live in poverty or great need, everybody enjoyed a sense of security, had enough to eat, a place to live, and clothes to wear. (qtd. in Philipsen 127) A s a result o f this recognition of the socialist system, East Germans began to associate particular Eastern products with a romanticized past which appeared to be more stable, secure, relaxed, and friendly than the new confused turbulent times o f the 1990s. They began to associate Eastern goods with highly positive characteristics, such as value for money, honesty, and trust, in defiance of the misleading products o f the West. These objects from the G D R reminded East Germans of a time when materialism did not assume as much importance. This is explained to M i l e n a Veenis during her 15 month stay (between 1993 and 1994) in Rudolstadt, a village in Thiiringen. She writes that her conversations with the locals in a little pub called the "Tuchmacherhaus" revealed to her that even though there was almost nothing available for purchase in the G D R and the few Western things that people had were cherished, in a way, those days were better. N o one, it was thought, possessed more than anyone else and there wasn't the same competition over who owned more as there was after 1989 (Veenis 81-82). Those interviewed by Veenis at the "Tuchmacherhaus" also commented that relations between people were warmer and more genuine previous to the Wende (Veenis 81, 96). However, as noted in chapter two, consumption and the pursuit of material accumulation was an on-going concern for both the state and its consumers before 1989. The  39  distinction that needs to be made is that after 1989 new problems emerged with consumption. One such problem included that even though Western products became available, it didn't make them affordable. Indeed, the positive identification with G D R goods was a response to post-1989 consumer frustration. O n the one hand, East Germans were finally able to obtain the long-sought-after Western products, but they were not affordable. Unemployment and high prices for even basic necessities exacerbated consumer frustration. The loss of jobs enhanced the division between East and West and heightened the old East German self-perception o f being second-class citizens. A l l those once coveted Western objects had lost their value once they became readily available after the Wende. The growing collective consciousness towards the G D R material artifacts was shown to be a coping mechanism to the problems and conflicts that were created by unification. The questioning and celebration of G D R nostalgia was required for East Germans to construct their own memory of themselves. For some, Ostalgie proved that not everything in their lives under communism was bad and inferior - a conclusion that many East and West Germans drew right after unification (Theil 18). A t the same time, it was clear that any sense of nostalgia that East Germans might have had did not mean that they wanted the S E D regime back; rather, they wanted to be recognized, to be able to contribute, and to have their history recognized (Grix 5). Disappointed Easterners took refuge in a G D R nostalgia that revived some of their products and encouraged a sort of self-esteem (Jarausch 12). M a n y continued to ,r bond over certain standardized and mass produced commodities from the former G D R .  40  Catchwords were sufficient enough to elicit mutual recognition and lively discussions about specific brands to re-establish an East German identity. For example, the phrase "Remember the Multimax?" (a power drill in the GDR) could start an intense conversation about the past (Merkel, Consumer Culture 296). This nostalgia for material culture from the G D R also revealed the special connection of East German memory with the construction of the West itself. Betts writes: Certainly it can be argued that such sentimentalisni has enjoyed little corresponding expression in other East Bloc countries precisely because the GDR (both before and after 1989) was more enamored of Western consumer dreams than its socialist brethren were. (761) A wave of nostalgia was recognized after 1989 in other countries of the former Eastern Bloc including Poland, Hungary, former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and similar to East Germany, this nostalgia was not connected with the desire to return to the past (Crowley 9). There was interest in music, art, popular culture, products of the home, and food, as there was in East Germany. In Yugoslavia it was even given the name Yugonostalgia, which refers to nostalgia for anything positive from the past that is worth preserving. Many regard this as a means of healing from the past. However, according to Dubravka Ugresic, material culture in Yugoslavia, Poland, and Hungary are not being remembered in depth through museums, archives, or in history textbooks as it is in East Germany. Rather the memory of material culture is slowly being forgotten in these former countries of the Eastern Bloc (37-39). Shortly after the Berlin Wall fell, many East Germans participated in collectively remembering the German Democratic Republic in a number of different ways. Women  41  resumed buying the East German washing detergent Spee, teenagers sought out the East German Vita Cola or Club Cola, and families insisted on driving their Trabi. B y the m i d 1990s this struggle with the West had become widespread, and remembering these  r  •  objects became both a community and international affair. It appeared as i f a stronger sense o f ' E a s t German-ness' was being felt since the Berlin W a l l fell because o f a shared history and culture among East Germans and the failure to connect with West Germans. Embracing G D R artifacts could also be understood as a form o f reaction to Western capitalism that did not appreciate the value o f those who had grown up and lived under a socialist system. In a climate where the whole German Democratic Republic was condemned as a failed experiment, these old G D R objects were the remains o f socialism. It was for these reasons that East German consumer behaviour made a dramatic U-turn, and began to assert their distinct consumer identity through demanding the return o f old familiar Eastern products and brands that had disappeared off o f their shelves (Hogwood, Citizens as Consumers 53-54). Moreover, it was in this atmosphere that East German material culture developed as an alternative to Western consumerism.  3.5 Criticisms of Ostalgie W h i l e Ostalgie was embraced b y East Germans as a way o f coming to terms with their history, many West German politicians and historians saw Ostalgie as an unsettling influence i n the new Germany because it both undermined an objective historical evaluation o f the G D R period, and threatened the project o f inner unity between the two Germanys. However, the revival o f these Ostalgie goods in East and West Germany have become recognizable to East and West Germans and this has helped to keep the  42  memory o f the G D R alive; whether reinvented or not, these objects are still associated with East Germany. Another criticism explains historian Paul Cooke is that: For its critics Ostalgie is a dangerous form o f selective amnesia that sees the East German state through rose-tinted spectacles, ignoring the problems o f life there and idealizing it instead as a land where, for example, there was no unemployment and a strong sense o f community existed. (Representing East Germany 104) According to Cooke, Ostalgie provides the opportunity to avoid questions o f responsibility and accountability to the G D R past. For example, it ignores the problems of oppression, the role o f the Stasi, and intimidation. However, at the same time, this dismissal o f Ostalgie tends to devalue East German critiques o f themselves and the politics of unification. There is also a fear that looking at material objects may lead to the problem o f creating a fetish over their memory. The creation o f furniture, dishes, camping gear, and televisions do not say anything especially unique about East Germany; they happened in spite o f everything, but the implication and the development o f these items is important. Moreover, looking at these objects makes life in East Germany quite normal criticizes historian E l i Rubin, who writes: Worse, they affect a romanticized impression o f life in the G D R , they encourage a false nostalgia that feeds on an illusion o f normality masquerading as a memory, a charge that has at times been leveled at those who have done work on everyday  43  life and especially the history of consumption in the G D R . (Plastics and Dictatorship 7) However, such longing for the past was more than an escapist defense mechanism against the dissatisfaction of German unity, and the illusion that life was incredibly better than in the unified Germany. Rather it was part of the changing nature o f the East German historical consciousness and collective memory.  Chapter Four: EAST GERMAN MATERIAL CULTURE AFTER THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL 4.1 Reappearance of Material Culture In the ensuing euphoria over unification, it appeared as i f everything that was connected to the G D R "was destined for the rubbish heap of history" (Blum 229). However, only a few years after 1989, some of the most unlikely remnants o f the G D R have made a remarkable comeback and old products and brand names have reappeared in new forms. This nostalgia has seen material objects from the former G D R be revived, reproduced, commercialized, and placed in museums to represent the everyday life of the G D R . The change from embracing Western to embracing Eastern goods happened quickly. According to surveys done both by Patricia Hogwood and Andreas Staab, between December 1990 and December 1991, the proportion of Eastern households preferring Eastern products over Western had risen from half to almost three-quarters (Hogwood, Citizens as Consumers 54; Staab 116). However, Hogwood and Staab do not give suggestions as to what instigated this dramatic change to embrace East German  44  material culture in 1991. Nevertheless, the revival of artifacts from the G D R attests to a collective public memory of the past. The history o f East Germany is being remembered communicatively, collectively, and culturally by various actors through material culture. For example, curators at museums are recreating the cultural memory of the G D R by collecting consumer goods. Their purpose is to give a glimpse into the everyday life o f East Germans, alongside, or in place of the view o f the Eastern B l o c country as simply a totalitarian state. East Germans have been collectively remembering the G D R by continuing to buy the products that were familiar to them during the time of the G D R . M a n y young East Germans who were too young to really comprehend the days of socialist rule or the imposing structure of the Berlin W a l l have also spurred interest in reviving material products o f the G D R , such as food items, music, and clothing. W i t h the loss of institutions and structures, material culture is the last remaining representation of these young peoples' family history. East Germans are not the only ones re-imagining their past, many young West Germans have also been busy buying remaining e x - G D R objects from flea markets, newspapers, and the internet because 'reliving the socialist experience' was considered trendy in the late 1990s. Soon after 1989, Western companies began exploring new markets by buying up Eastern companies and advertising their goods to appeal to East Germans.. It is difficult to determine how popular and widespread this nostalgia by East and West Germans for East German material culture really was after 1989, or continues to be now. However, the ongoing exhibitions, the existing internet sites that sell nostalgic East German items and the continuing research on East German material culture all speak to  45  the fact that material culture as a source o f memory of the e x - G D R is still important for both East and West Germans.  4.2 M a t e r i a l Artifacts in M u s e u m s  East and West German curators have been instrumental in collecting East German material artifacts, and displaying them in museums and exhibitions in order to preserve and elicit communicative, collective, and cultural memories of the former G D R . Sometimes this memory is made into an ironic statement of East Germany. For example, one o f the first exhibitions o f G D R popular culture was held at the Habernoll Gallery near Frankfurt-am-Main in December 1989. Two West Germans traveled to the G D R a few months before the opening of the Berlin W a l l and went on an 'archaeological excursion' to collect carloads o f East German everyday objects, ranging from soap labels to underwear. However, their show, mockingly entitled, " S E D : Stunning Eastern Design" merely ridiculed the boring material culture of the East in comparison to the superior tastes of the sophisticated Western culture (Scribner 175). The artists considered East German design to be frozen in time and that the articles they found in the G D R in 1989 could have been found in the Federal Republic o f Germany twenty to thirty years before. The more recent exhibitions, on the other hand, strive to present a much more complicated and balanced image of everyday life in the former G D R . In the past twenty years, there have been several separate exhibitions in museums with the themes of G D R everyday life, consumer culture and popular culture. There have been exhibitions with titles that include "The Miracle Economy: Consumer Culture in the G D R in the 1960s"  46  and "Commodities for D a i l y Use: Four Decades o f Products Made in the G D R " . These exhibitions and others help to recall the life lived b y East Germans under socialism b y engaging with the cultural memory o f material objects (Scribner 171). A t Bonn's Haus der Geschichte ("House o f History",) museum, the cold war rivalries between East and West are contrasted in terms o f material output and consumerism. The permanent, onsite collection contains 6,000 objects and documents, and exhibitions from the museum travel throughout Germany. The Zeitgeschichdich.es Forum Leipzig ("Forum o f Contemporary History i n Leipzig") commemorates the resistance and opposition that took place i n the G D R against the socialist regime through the documentation o f 2,500 objects, pictures, and documents (Stiftung Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland). The gallery holds lectures and workshops i n connection with its exhibitions, documents, and information center in order to analyze and discuss contemporary German history from the end of the Second W o r l d W a r to the present. In the East German city o f Eisenhiittenstadt, one can visit Das Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskutur der DDR ("Documentation Center for the Everyday L i f e o f the G D R " ) and step back into the consumer age o f the old East Germany (Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der D D R ) . This museum contains thousands o f objects from everyday life o f East Germans before 1989, including old schoolbooks, radios, televisions, cameras, photographs, and toys. They remind the viewer o f everyday life i n the G D R , including youth culture, family and free time, living conditions, working, and shopping (Ludwig 8). Altogether, the museum holds more than 50,000 objects, many o f which were rescued when East German households purged their houses o f  47  everything 'Eastern' and abandoned these items by the curbside (Rubin, Plastics and Dictatorship 1-2). The museum draws heavily from its urban surroundings o f Eisenhiittenstadt, a city located not far from the Polish border and a city marked by the history o f Central Europe. When the G D R was founded, Eisenhiittenstadt was actually named "Stalinstadt" and was considered to be the 'first German socialist city'. O n l y after Stalin's death in the mid-1950s did it regain its former name Eisenhiittenstadt, which literally means 'Steelworks C i t y ' . Despite this name change, it is still exemplary o f its Soviet satellite past because, unlike other East European cities, Eisenhiittenstadt has retained most o f its street names, so citizens can stroll down streets that are named after communist revolutionaries like Karl-Liebknecht-StraJ3e or Clara Zetkin-Ring (Scribner 175-176). Museums, like the "Documentation Center for the Everyday L i f e o f the G D R " in Eisenhiittenstadt offer a place for citizens from the former G D R to come together, remember, and discuss the past collectively and culturally. The museum also offers a place of interest for visitors who are curious about the former G D R . The museums focus on the gains as well as the losses o f living with goods produced for a 'classless' society. Rather than fetishizing over the G D R past, the exhibitions help to remind the viewer of Germany's divided past, and helps to solidify the collective memory work for the successes and failures of the socialist project. These exhibitions play an important role of grounding the East German memory in the material objects and structures that have been left behind. Scribner writes, "In the absence o f the wall and other cold war symbols of the nation's punishment-by-division, Germans see these museums as the enduring stigmata of their violent history" (184). The  48  conservation o f these everyday objects helps to remember the reason for, and the experience of, the division o f Germany, although there is wide disagreement on how best to recollect this G D R material culture. Nevertheless, Betts writes that "there is little dispute that such 'consumer socialism' remains fundamental to the meaning and future o f G D R history" (Betts 763).  4.3 Examples of M a t e r i a l C u l t u r e  East German material culture is not only remembered i n museums and archives, but also i n popular culture, and everyday life in the former G D R . The re-created material culture has evolved i n four different ways: first, objects have been revived from the former G D R , and East Germans continue to buy these products that exist, to a great extent as they did before 1989. Second, for young East Germans, objects and experiences have been made to elicit memories o f the G D R with the tendency to ironize Ostalgie. Third, objects have been revived from the old G D R , but have developed new meanings and symbolism for East and West Germans. Fourth, not only were East German goods revived and reinvented, but companies have changed their advertising and packaging strategies to meet the expectations o f Eastern consumers. First, East Germans are able to continue to interact with certain objects as they did before German unification. Florena cream is an example o f an object that was able to survive the fall o f the Berlin W a l l . It is true that Florena cream has been exhibited in one of the recreated G D R bathrooms at the Eisenhuttenstadt museum, "Documentation Center for the Everyday L i f e o f the G D R " to elicit life as it was lived in the G D R , but it also continues to be distributed in pharmacies and grocery stores primarily in the East,  49  but also i n the West. A s a recognizable beauty product in its small, blue, disk-like container,  Florena is similar to the Nivea tins which are a common sight in the Federal  Republic o f Germany. Y e t Scribner writes, " . . .Florena tins are just one minuscule detail characterizing the complexity and contradiction o f contemporary German-German culture" (179). It points to the fact that the G D R no longer exists politically or economically, but socially and emotionally, memories of the G D R in these material objects like  Florena cream are still very alive.  Since the introduction of  Florena cream in 1852 by A . H . A . Bergmann, the skin  cream has survived and kept its original name  Florena despite the many historical  changes and interruptions. Although Germany was divided into two states in 1949, the Waldheim manufacturer was able to keep the appearance of  Florena very similar to that  o f the West because o f the exchange that was still possible before the construction o f the W a l l . It also kept its advertising message very similar to West Germany, and maintained its use o f italics for the graphics of their brand name. In the 1950s, the soap featured an idyllic family scene with a mother wearing a dress and a bath towel draped over one arm as she bathes her child. The similarity o f the products' appearance in East and West altered i n the 1960s with the building of the Berlin W a l l .  Florena made changes to its packaging to suit the  new socialist requirements of design and function, whereby the packaging was to reflect the contents inside. The company designed the round metal tin for its skin cream that is still recognizable today. The ornate graphics were replaced by clean capitals, and the lid of the round tin was segmented with the traditional  Florena colours, blue and white. The  name was also segmented into two complementary semicircles, each bearing a word-  50  Florena and Crime. V e r y modern i n its appearance, it is difficult to distinguish this quality product from other Western products like Nivea and is an example o f where the aesthetics o f socialist design were implemented successfully (Blum 239). In 1992, three new managers took control o f Florena Cosmetic G m b H , and gave a design make-over to the Florena tin. However, it still looks very similar to the design prior to 1989, and the company is still located in Waldheim. In 2004, 80% o f its exports went to Russia and the Ukraine and 2 0 % to other countries. Within the 20%, Florena has found a market niche among young East and West Germans who find it trendy to use Florena, a product from the East (Florena Cosmetic G m b H ) . There has been a tendency among older East German consumers to prefer products and foodstuff with old G D R labels as a symbol o f East German continuity and identity. Objects that were thought to have disappeared from the shelves o f German supermarkets have made a remarkable comeback and have been enjoying rapidly rising sales in the former East Germany. These include Rotkappchen champagne, a sweet and artificial tasting sparkling wine; Burger Knacke, a crispbread from Saxony-Anhalt; quick lentils called Tempo-linsen that can be cooked in ten minutes; and Spreewdlder Gurken, pickles made famous b y the Goodbye Lenin! movie. Restaurants have also opened up that recall the food in the former G D R . For example, in East Berlin there is a restaurant called Mauerbliimchen ("Wallflower") that sometimes has a two-day waiting list for reservations. One o f the main features on the menu is an Ukranian sausage stew called Soljanka, which was a mainstay in G D R factory canteens, and often the signature dish at German-Soviet Friendship functions (Scribner 174).  51  In competition with Western consumerism and Western domination, a supermarket chain i n Leipzig, Konsum Leipzig, is one o f the very few surviving East German enterprises i n the midst o f a landscape dominated b y Western discount stores. Konsum Leipzig functions as a cooperative and specializes i n selling products produced in the former G D R , often by re-privatized firms. One aim o f the Leipzig supermarket is to teach citizens about the workings o f a market economy and the consumers' choice to manufacture products that were produced i n the former G D R . The Konsum stores encourage buying locally as a way o f strengthening the economy and creating jobs. In addition, it protests against the large Western retail chains and discount stores that quickly entered the East German market after the currency union in 1990, driving many local shops out o f business (Berdahl, '(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 199-201). Examples o f cultural products that were revived as material culture shortly after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l and marketed exclusively for the East include the music o f old East German rock bands and familiar F D J songs, a grassroots campaign to save the exG D R radio station DT-64 which was eventually replaced i n 1993 b y the Sputnik radio station, and books and magazines like the Super-Illu magazine. East German fdms made by D E F A (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft), which held a state monopoly on filmmaking in the G D R , have been reissued and sold out. Films include Wolfgang Staudte's "Die Morder Sind Unter Uns" (The Murderers A r e A m o n g U s , 1946), Hermann Zschoche's " C a r / a " (Carla, 1965) and U l r i c h Plenzdorf s "Die Legende von Paul und Paula" (The Legend o f Paul and Paula, 1973). Other products are being marketed and are becoming known throughout East and West Germany because Western manufacturers have bought up the rights for certain  52  foods from the East and are advertising them throughout Germany. For example, Radeberger beer, an important export for East Germany during the communist era was later bought up b y West German company " B i n d i n g " after 1989. In 2002, the company opted for the East German name, the "Radeberger" group and the beer continues to be popular i n both East and West Germany. Vita Cola, the East German cola drink, faced huge competition from Coca Cola and Pepsi with the fall o f the Berlin W a l l . A West German company " B r a u & Brunnen" bought up the rights to Vita Cola, and in 1994 the drink was re-launched with the same taste and packaging. Later i n 2005, the Hessen Company "Hassia Mineralquellen" took over and continued producing the drink i n its original form and has also been considered quite successful. In 2006 the company owned 44 percent o f the market share in Thuringia, and is second place behind Coca-Cola i n the former East Germany, although it has not had the same success in West Germany (Expatica). Moreover, the revival o f East German material culture has become increasingly popular among young West Germans who have been busy buying up these remaining exG D R objects from flea markets and newspapers advertising old G D R articles. Historian Ina Merkel makes the remark that, "It would be interesting to discover which objects produced i n the G D R still exist in Eastern German households, are needed and used there, and which objects have found a place as representative pieces in Western German cupboards" (Consumer Culture 297). One o f the biggest draws for young East and West Germans were those items that still functioned twenty to thirty years later, like the vacuum cleaner, toaster, place settings, arid laundry basket. Not only have young East and West Germans collected these old G D R artifacts, but they have tried to relive the  53  experience of the East b y moving eastwards and taking over East Berlin neighbourhoods, with the East German P2 apartments being especially popular. They then would buy up countless East German artifacts from the internet to fill up their "East German" apartments with Eastern goods (Rubin, Plastics and Dictatorships 495-496). Second, objects and experiences have been used to elicit collective and cultural memories o f the G D R , including television shows, books, movies, parties, and theme parks. This has been especially appealing to the youth o f the G D R who were too young to remember the socialist ideology or the constraints o f the Berlin W a l l . However, the meaning o f everyday culture from the former G D R tends to be ironized and has created a new memory o f the past. For example, the old G D R customs house called "Palace o f Tears" (Trdnenpalast), named for the tearful partings between visitors from the West visiting the East, has been converted into a nightclub and popular theatre. Although it has kept the same name and its decor and music evoke pre-1989 East Berlin, its purpose has changed. Books are being written by authors telling about their experiences as children i n the East including Ingo Schramm's Fitchers Blau (Fitcher's Blue), Tomas Brussig's Helden wie wir (Heroes like us) and Ingo Schulze's Simple Storys (sic). Ein Roman aus der ostdeutschen Provinz (Simple Stories. A novel from the East German provinces). D D R parties have been celebrated in the big cities o f Berlin and Leipzig. Guests arrive wearing F D J (youth-league) uniforms and dance to old Eastern Bands including Die Puhdys or Karat (Theil 16). Board games have been created to prompt memory o f the old G D R . For example, one such board game is ' M e m o r y ' or 'Geddchtnis', where players prove their ability to  54  recall the placement of overturned pairs o f cards depicting images and icons once familiar to the G D R . A similar board game designed by two East German university students named Kost the Ost (Taste the East), has players trying to guess forty-six different G D R food brand labels. Not only does the packaging o f the game evoke memories o f the G D R with its quality awards, labels, and brand names, but also the rules o f the game recreate some of the specific conditions o f the East German marketplace. The popularity o f the game is demonstrated by the fact that an overwhelming 10,000 games were sold within the first week o f being on the market i n late 1996 (Berdahl, '(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 197). In 1993, Frank Georgi proposed a Disney-esque East German theme park called the " O s s i P a r k " — i n which barbed wire, Trabants, Stasi agents, currency exchange, and even scratchy G D R toilet paper would all be used to depict East German life. According to Georgi, the theme park was meant to be an educational experience o f everyday life behind the W a l l for those curious about East Germany, and it is not an attempt to trivialize the G D R (Hogwood, After the G D R 56). Movies created by both East and West German filmmakers have also helped to boost enthusiasm and shed some positive light on life i n the G D R . They have instigated new interest i n material culture and have established a cultural memory ofthe G D R i n people's minds. Some o f these films include Peter T i m m ' s Go Trabi, Go (1991 and 1992), which shows the process df the East trying to catch up with the West and Leander HauBmann's Sonnenallee ("Sun A l l e y " ) , which, released i n 1999, was the first movie to engage with the issue of nostalgia. According to historian Paul Cook, Leander HauBmann's hit youth comedy Sonnenallee highlights the competing tension at work  55  within contemporary nostalgia for the East German state. The film was a response to the fears o f many East Germans that their everyday experience was being omitted from historical records. W h i l e the f i l m highlights the importance o f cultural traditions o f the G D R , it challenges the rose-tinted view of the East. In this movie, director Leander HauBmann explores the reasons why East Germans feel the need to return to the past. Secondly, he tries to make the Eastern experience less exotic. Ultimately, writes Cooke, the film forces the East German viewer to reflect upon Ostalgie and reject any manifestation o f it that would call for a return o f the G D R (Cooke, Performing 'Ostalgie' 156-158). HauBmann's Sonnenallee was followed by the West German director Oskar Roehler's Die Unberiihrbare ("No Place to G o " , 2000) and Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye Lenin! (2002). Some identify the success of the film, Goodbye, Lenin!, a bittersweet comedy set during the time o f unification, as instigating this trend towards positive nostalgia. It became a successful hit in the former G D R as well as throughout the world and was the winner o f the 2003 Berlin F i l m Festival's award for best European picture. In the film, a teacher falls into a coma after seeing her son beaten b y G D R police at a protest rally in late 1989. She wakes up eight months later, after the Berlin W a l l has come down and East Germany is history. In order to avoid shocking her into another heart attack, her son painstakingly recreates an artificial East Germany within the confines o f their tiny apartment, complete with G D R labels and homemade T V news, "Aktuelle K a m e r a " , that helps to explain the 'capitalist' events outside. A s the mother looks out the window, she wonders why there are more Opel in the street than Trabant and her son tells her that East Germany has opened its borders to Westerners fleeing the  56  failure o f capitalism. Soon, however the wall comes down in their fictitious universe, toppled b y the collapse o f the West (not the East). The movie brings to light the sudden disappearance o f East Germany and the speedy replacement o f all things "Eastern" with Western laws and institutions, consumer products, and popular culture (Theil 16-17). Responding to the success o f these movies, i n the late 1990s, and especially after 2003 with the success o f the movie Goodbye Lenin!, a plethora o f D D R shows focusing on the nostalgia for all things from the East became immensely popular with both East and West viewers, although not without criticism. These television shows included the  Ostalgie Show, Ein Kessel DDR ( " A Pot o f G D R " ) , Meyer und Schulz: Die ultimate OstShow ("Meyer and Schulz: The Ultimate East Show") and DDR Show. A l l o f these T V shows reminisce about the good times o f the G D R when times were different, but perceived as better. The shows reference the everyday life, and more specifically the G D R ' s consumer and leisure culture with the aim o f 'normalizing' the experience o f living in the G D R , while at the same time making the 'normal' exotic. The everyday objects are exotic because they remain peripheral to Western consumer culture (Cooke, Representing East Germany 141-142, 156-157). O n the DDR Show, ex-ice-skating champion Katarina Witt sings socialist songs and raves about her days in the communist youth league; the boxer Henry Maske drives into the studio in his Trabant and together they dance the Lipsi, a "communist" dance and alternative to rock and roll (Osang 212214). Everyone appears to be having a good time on the show, except for one lady, writes Stefan Thiel, the author o f Berlin Dispatch: Red Again. Thiel explains how this women spent eight years in a prison camp for smearing lipstick on a picture o f Joseph Stalin when she was 14 years old (16).  57  The value o f these T V shows has not escaped criticism. O n the one hand, there are those that argue that these shows do not represent the G D R as an oppressive dictatorship, clearly enough. Then again, others claim that the everyday 'normal' experiences o f G D R citizens should not be ignored (Cooke, Representing East Germany 144). A l s o debatable is whether the everyday experiences o f East Germans are being represented appropriately in these T V shows? Although East Germans watch these shows, and many acknowledge that they do so because it gives them something to be annoyed about, Cooke quotes that 5 9 % of those surveyed i n a poll carried out by " E m n i d " i n 2004 claimed that they disapproved o f the image o f the G D R that these shows presented (Representing East Germany 144). These shows were seen by East Germans as another appropriation o f the G D R by the West, even though this appropriation was responding to the call b y East Germans for an everyday view o f the past. A flourishing Ostalgie market has also appeared on the internet to help people reminisce about the past and has become quite popular among young people because o f the easy access and simplicity o f online ordering. Some internet suppliers o f G D R products include Ostprodukte, www.ostprodukte.de, Ossiladen, www.ossiladen.de, Ostwarenversand, www.ostwarenversand.de, Mondos Arts, www.mondosarts.de, and Ebay also has a whole section dedicated to G D R products at www.ebay.de. The biggest internet supplier o f G D R items, Ossi-Versand (www.ossiversand.de) had so much media interest in it after the success o f the movie Goodbye Lenin! that it collapsed i n 2003, but a year later was back into business. Historian Paul Cooke highlights that at the time o f its collapse, eighty-five percent of the Ossi-Versand's  58  customer base was in the old Federal states o f West Germany. According to a study done in 2003 by the Institute for Applied Marketing and Communications i n Erfurt (Institute fur angewandte Marketing- und Kommunikationsforschung), it: found that a growing number o f east German products have become just as important to western as they are to eastern consumers, with brands such as Radeberger beer and Rotkdppchen being recognized by over 90 per cent o f those surveyed, (qtd. i n Cooke, Representing East Germany 149) Cooke gives two reasons for this phenomenon: first, "the role o f east German consumer culture is going beyond that o f simply marking East German difference" and second, "it suggests that eastern culture has become part o f the mainstream, at last achieving the 'normality' advertisers have long exploited" (Representing East Germany 149-150). However, historian Paul Cooke does not mention whether this interest in Ostalgie products comes from former East Germans who are now living in the West, or from West Germans genuinely interested i n the G D R . A s well, he does not distinguish the age group, the gender, or employment status o f who was interested in these Ostalgie products. Third, some objects have been relegated to the past, but others have struggled to survive and have re-emerged, sometimes in new and different forms. A n example o f a product that has continued to exist, but with some difficulty is the Ampelmannchen, the traffic light figure that adorned East German city crosswalks. When it is time to go, the East German Ampelmannchen, a short and stocky man is green, walks with purpose, with a hat on his head and a tool in his hand. When it is time to stop, he is red with his arms spread out. Initially, the existence o f the little traffic man was challenged i n the mid-  59  1990s when i n a policy reform, the European U n i o n ( E U ) requested that the Ampelmdnnchen be replaced with the West German traffic light; a tall lean man, i n an attempt to standardize traffic signals across Europe. This request outraged many East Germans who felt that the removal o f the traffic light was a symbol o f their own replacement b y the laws and institutions o f the West. They began campaigning against the E U and West Germany i n a protest called "Save the Ampelmdnnchen", and sold tshirts of the little figure to raise awareness. The East German traffic figure returned to some parts o f East Berlin by popular demand and has become an important tool of the tourist industry. The Ampelmannchen is now an iconic figure, recognizable to many tourists visiting Berlin, and can be found in tourist shops i n various guises: on t-shirts, cups, bags, table lamps, and other paraphernalia. Probably the most telling example o f a product that was not able to survive the transition to capitalism is the standard-issue Trabant car. The Trabi, which East German motorists could not drop quickly enough upon unification, has now become a cult object. The Trabi was produced b y auto maker V E B Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Saxony. It was a small, boxy car made o f fiberglass and pressed cotton with a two-stroke engine. Often East Germans had to wait fifteen years before they could obtain a Trabi. Despite the long waiting lists, the car was quite popular i n East Germany (partly because it was one of the only cars available in the East) and was also exported to other socialist countries. W i t h the fall o f the Berlin W a l l , the Trabi lost its monetary value and became the butt of many West German jokes as being exemplary o f the failed socialist state o f the G D R , and hence its people too (Berdahl, '(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 195).  60  Although it did not survive the transition, the ear has found a second life as a representation. The image of the Trabant adorns everything from the pages of cult books, t-shirts, retro postcards to mugs, card games, and websites of East Germany. Initially, West Germans coveted these Trabants as a quaint collectors' item, but East Germans also began Trabi clubs and fan newsletters. The Trabi has also been instrumentalized as a Berlin tourist attraction, with people being encouraged to go on "Trabi Safaris" by hiring the car and traveling around the city centre for the day. The Trabant was even featured on U2's "Achtung Baby" album cover. The marketing of the Trabant as a tourist production shows a clear shift in the treatment of East German goods, from being disdained to being a popular iconic consumer product. While the GDR no longer exists, the Trabant and a significant number of other material products have left a legacy that is still very much alive. Additionally, this new proliferation of interest in GDR consumer goods has shown them to be accepted, with some items reaching cult status. These goods are no longer the 'normal' everyday products of the East, but have turned into objects of exoticism, traded as commodities. Fourth, not only were East German products revived and reinvented, but companies realized that if they wanted to sell their products in East Germany they would have to change their methods of advertising and packaging. Small Eastern companies started to advertise their products' East German origin, but some large Western manufacturers also realized the economic potential, and began to (re)introduce products and brands that would have been familiar to consumers of the former German Democratic Republic (Blum 229).  61  Patricia Hogwood cites the example o f Persil washing detergent, which adjusted its advertising campaign specifically for the East. She writes, "The {Persil) advert showed a middle-aged woman executive returning to work. Her husband and children couldn't cope without her until she discovered new Persil capsules" (Citizens as Consumers 55). The Persil retailers, Fritzsch und Makat found that this advertisement was causing major offence i n the East. Prior to unification, Eastern women had been accustomed to working all their adult lives and were offended at the implication that " . . . it was somehow wrong to 'leave' your family to go back to work" (Hogwood, Citizens as Consumers 55). Moreover, Hogwood suggests that East German women disliked the snobbish lifestyle o f the advertisement. A s an alternative, instead o f highlighting the prejudices o f patriarchy, Fritzsch und Makat came up with a campaign that focused on the functional aspect o f the product Persil, that it was able to preserve colour fastness in the wash. They even built i n references to the East's socialist past through political colour symbolism and came up with the slogan, ' R e d is for love—let's keep it that way'. The marketing agency Fritzsch und Makat has been specifically successful i n advertising for the former G D R . They have found that superlatives such as 'the best' or 'number one' are not as effective i n the East as they were in the West because they reference a capitalist, stylish, and luxurious lifestyle. Instead, Fritzsch und Makat stressed the 'old-fashioned' values o f orderliness, discipline, and modesty. In addition, they observed that Eastern consumers appreciated functionality and advertising that was addressed to regular, hard-working people. A r e these attributes that Western manufacturers observe created for the East by the West, or did these preferences for orderliness, discipline, and modesty develop out o f the socialist experience that stressed  62  functionality and hard work? Patricia Hogwood suggests that the reason for these preferences is that the G D R was a 'working socialist society', where the intensity of acquiring more as a way o f establishing status was not as strong or as possible as it was in the West (Citizens as Consumers 55). A n example of where a former G D R product has gone under rapid transformation regarding design and quality, but kept its original brand name, is cigarettes. The U S cigarette company owned by Philip Morris only sold "F<5" cigarettes in the East and advertised them as being familiar, a symbol o f tradition and persistence in a time of sweeping changes, and an example of the continuity o f East German history. Morris stressed that the cigarette continued to have the traditional strong taste even in the time o f great change with unification. Instead o f emphasizing sophistication and affluence like many Western advertisements promoted, Philip Morris also chose to highlight tradition and authenticity, giving the impression that the G D R had made valuable achievements that had the right to live on. Slogans, such as "the taste stays the same," "the original from Dresden," or "the classic" made reference to a time before unification and were incredibly popular in East Germany when they originally came out. A t the end o f 1989, "F<5" possessed 13 percent o f the market share on the Eastern market. One year later, market share reached an astonishing peak of 33 percent, then declined slightly in 1994 to 31 percent and further yet in 1996 to 27 percent. Although still doing relatively well, "F<5" has not been as successful in the West and historian Staab suggests that this is possibly because of its advertising strategies to the East do not entice Western consumers (116-117).  63  In this business o f Ostalgie, East German material products have taken on new meaning when used for the second time. Removed from their original context o f an economy o f shortages, these products help to elicit the G D R , but largely recall an East Germany that never existed. Daphne Berdahl writes, "They thus illustrate not only the way i n which memory is an interactive, malleable, and highly contested phenomenon, but also the processes through which things become informed with a remembering—and forgetting—capacity" ('(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 198). Although there is a connection to past experiences, these material objects have evolved since 1989 and represent the active remembering and forgetting o f their past.  Chapter V: CONCLUSION The study of Alltagsgeschichte o f East Germany is part o f an on-going discourse in trying to find the best way to understand the history of the German Democratic Republic. Instead o f a top-down account o f the history o f the G D R that centers on the structures o f the political system, the Stasi, and the S E D , Alltagsgeschichte is written from the bottom-up about the lives o f East German citizens; their actions, perceptions, and practices as they contributed to G D R society. Although the study o f everyday life i n the G D R helps to illuminate the lives o f East Germans, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and others that study Alltagsgeschichte are often criticized for losing sight o f the broader context o f important events, powerful people, and institutions that shaped East Germans everyday lives. A better balance is required in analyzing the power o f the state with the actions and experiences o f the G D R society. For example, how did East Germans conform, oppose, and negotiate the rules o f the S E D i n regards to  64  material culture (as is explored i n this thesis)? It has been recognized that this balance is difficult to attain because secondary sources often lend themselves to a pure Alltagsgeschichte or Parteiengeschichte, instead o f finding a middle ground between the two paradigms. Another problem with Alltagsgeschichte is that there is no agreement or clear boundary surrounding the definition o f "state" and "society". These terms need to be better defined in order to provide a clearer understanding o f Alltagsgeschichte. Epstein exemplifies the problem b y citing the West German sociologist Sigrid Meuschel who argued that "society" did not even exist i n the G D R because the S E D ultimately homogenized East German society and eliminated all classes or other independent groupings (645). Those who criticize Meuschel argue that in a variety o f ways East Germans as individuals or groups did challenge the S E D regime. Although this thesis attempted to make the connection between the state and society through material culture and strived to sketch out the evolving nature of material culture both before and after 1989, a more in-depth study would be required to address some o f the following related questions: Is material culture an appropriate avenue for  f  understanding the G D R past? Or does the study o f material culture create a fetish out o f material objects? What is the future o f G D R material goods? Can the reinvention o f G D R material culture still speak to a unique East German past? A n d can life i n the G D R ever be considered 'normal' as the historians of Alltagsgeschichte support? This thesis and the secondary sources do not i n any way try to resolve the competing narratives o f the past or offer any final answers; rather the history o f the G D R continues to be ambiguous and requires more research.  65  Additionally, although examples o f the revived and renewed material culture are given i n this thesis, more concentration would be required on who is reviving these articles of material culture, why they are reviving them and what new meanings have developed out o f this G D R material culture. Generally, the secondary sources lack information on how the consumer groups are defined; i n particular, which East Germans were dissatisfied with East German material culture before 1989 and which East Germans helped to revive this material culture after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l . W h i l e M e r k e l , Rubin, Ten Dyke, and Veenis strive to make the connection between consumer goods and the people buying consumer goods through using primary sources; such as oral history interviews, letters, and feature fdms to illustrate everyday life i n the G D R ; other historians are not as successful i n their approach. Betts, B l u m , Kopstein, Nothnagle, Scribner, Staab, and others give examples o f material culture and memory, but they do not connect material culture with the lives o f the people, even though they insist on approaching history from the point o f view o f Alltagsgeschichte. L o o k i n g at the demographics o f East Germans would help to illuminate the experiences and feelings towards material culture both before and after 1989. The continuity and change i n consumer culture needs to be studied, as well as the different generational response to consumer culture. It has been suggested b y Epstein that the reason for this failure to connect East German people with their objects is that few historians have actually gone out and done the archival work deemed necessary for G D R history. Epstein writes, "Instead most have confined themselves to making programmatic statements about how East German history should be written. The history o f the G D R has thus largely been written by graduate  66  students" (658-659). Another reason may include that Alltagsgeschichte is still developing as a methodology and therefore has not been able to make a strong connection between state, society and material culture. The writing o f G D R history is also made difficult by the diversity of perspectives o f the past taken from a diversity o f perspectives o f the present. Furthermore, a major complaint i n the discussion o f East German history as suggested b y Dennis and Kolinksy, Epstein, and Fulbrook, is that historians, sociologists, psychologists, and others cannot separate their present politics from their historical writing. Material culture is one way o f remembering the history o f everyday life {Alltagsgeschichte) o f East Germans i n the former German Democratic Republic. The memory o f East Germany: expressed communicatively, collectively, and culturally has been recreated and reinterpreted in material culture among former and new consumers i n Germany. Although the S E D strived to provide enough range, quality, and availability o f consumer goods for its citizens, without compromising its socialist ideology on consumption, it could not compete with the wealth of material goods in the West. W i t h the fall of the Berlin W a l l and the collapse o f the socialist government, material culture was revived to preserve the memories o f the G D R and soon became part o f a new consumer culture. This thesis sought to comprehend how and why these former G D R consumer objects emerged as new historical indicators o f the socialist experience and become part of collective memories or o f a collective consumer culture. Additionally, it set out to understand whether East Germany, a socialist country that was despised for its poor  67  quality and quantity o f consumer goods, can be remembered after the fall o f the Berlin W a l l as a genuine consumer society. The history of material culture from the G D R has been marked b y the ongoing competition and comparison with the West both before and after 1989. From the 1950s and on, the S E D understood that providing consumer goods would be important i n establishing state legitimacy and support for their country. They were also very aware o f the 'Economic M i r a c l e ' happening on the other side o f the Iron Curtain and that the rise in living standards was drawing East German citizens towards West Germany. The penetration o f West German television and advertisement i n the East continually undermined the claims o f the S E D to provide consumer goods to its people. In contrast, the F R G appeared to deliver all the promises that the G D R failed to, such as prosperity and wealth o f material goods. Therefore, a tension existed among leaders o f the G D R i n trying to provide for its citizens according to the Soviet model o f consumerism and compete with the prosperity of West Germany. W h i l e conforming to the socialist ideology o f consumption, the S E D created consumer goods that were practical and functional, rather than imitating the ornamental designs they saw being espoused in the West. These principles o f functionality and purposefulness turned out to be quite convenient too, because it was easier, cheaper, and faster to produce goods. However, the G D R economy suffered from a lack of resources that exacerbated the quality and quantity o f goods. This led to persistent shortages and long waiting lists for products. In order to solve this lack o f natural resources, the regime developed new strategies to imitate products. For example, it made a massive investment into synthetics and created the Chemieprogramm, a  68  program that tried to synthesize materials which it could not find naturally. However, the Chemistry Program had difficulties acquiring enough oil from the Soviet U n i o n and the S E D did not have enough Western currency to purchase technology from the United K i n g d o m to produce plastics. During the consumer euphoria o f 1989, East German products hardly stood a chance o f surviving among the introduction o f Western products. W i t h the flood o f new products into the former Soviet-bloc, and therefore the increase o f products with corresponding advertisements and attractive packaging, East Germans abandoned their own products i n favour o f Western brands (Feick and Gierl 228). In spite o f the disparity o f income between the two Germanys, East Germans were able to gather enough money because o f the favourable exchange rate to become consumers o f the West after the Wende. The first consumer experiences were euphoric, but this soon wore o f f as Easterners became disillusioned and dissatisfied with the unification. Mass unemployment, economic change, social disintegration, and political pressure instigated nostalgia, otherwise known as Ostalgie, for the stability and solidarity o f the G D R . East Germans began to yearn for certain aspects o f the G D R , including the social welfare system, subsidized housing, child care, community support, employment for all, and cheap basic necessities. Disillusioned with unification, material culture and Ostalgie were embraced as a "defense mechanism in a time o f accelerated rhythms o f life and historical upheavals" (Boym xiv). East Germans resented the process o f unification and the idea that anything that was perceived to be "East German" was unsuitable for the new system o f democracy and capitalism. Attitudes prevailed among many unhappy East Germans that unification represented a capitalist takeover and colonization b y the West,  69  since the political, cultural, and economic structures of the West were simply extended to the Eastern Lander (Staab 123-124). Following the Wende, people longed for a little piece of familiarity, and this seemed to be offered by GDR products. GDR products were attributed with positive traits such as trust, good value for money, integrity, and honesty (for example, F6 cigarettes), in contrast to the untrustworthy products of the West. They reminded East Germans of a time that was slower-paced and less complicated (Jarausch 8). In buying Eastern products like Florena and Radeberger beer, driving their Trabants, remembering brand names like Spee and Vita Cola, and other elements of everyday life, a certain group of East German consumers continued to assert themselves in a culture where they did not feel appreciated. Embracing material culture, however, did not necessarily mean a desire to return to the past, but rather was an expression of the displeasure with the current political, social, economical, and cultural situation in Germany. Ironically, material culture became an emerging commercial market for Germany on a domestic and international scale. Different actors from all levels of society in East and West Germany have been collectively participating in remembering the material culture of East Germany: by communicating their experiences and culturally preserving their memories in objects. Although these objects help to elicit the memory of East Germany, they have taken on new meaning and largely recall an East Germany that never existed. East Germans are not the only ones who have been buying up re-created products from the former GDR, the youth of East Germany have also been active in remembering their families' past by buying products from the Internet, eating Spreewalder Gurken, having Ossi Parties, and watching old D E F A films. Museum  70  curators of the "Documentation Center for the Everyday Life of the GDR" and "Haus der Geschichte" have been collecting objects and re-interpreting the GDR past. Movies like Goodbye Lenin! and TV shows including the DDR Show have been produced to show everyday culture in the GDR, making the life of East Germans 'normal', but at the same time 'exotic'. In addition, West German companies have found new economic outlets in the East and have bought up Eastern companies like Vita Cola and Radeberger beer. The resurgence of Eastern products, whether reintroduced or recycled from the GDR past has become part of an East German collective memory of the socialist experience and oppositional solidarity towards a Western takeover. Daphne Berdahl writes, "In this sense, nostalgia is about the production of a present rather than the reproduction of a past" ('(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 202). Thus collective memory, although situated in the past, was based on the current political and economic culture in Germany. The SED was not able to create a consumer culture comparable to West Germany, but East German memory developed put of the day-to-day experiences with material consumption in the GDR. The GDR artifacts are mnemonic devices to remember the past and represent "an attempt to recuperate, validate and anchor a collective memory of a shared past" (Berdahl, '(N)Ostalgie' for the Present 203). 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