What was it like to be living in the GDR? What did people read, what did they listen to on the radio? How did their apartments looks and what was the deal with the “Trabi”, the only car one could buy? And what about the Stasi, the army, and the oppressive wall? You can find an answer to these and many other questions at DDR Museum Berlin, the city’s best museum for a concise overview on the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR; in German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, short: DDR), whose capital East Berlin used to be.
In 2015 the 25th anniversary of the German reunification was celebrated everywhere. But even a quarter century after the little state ceased to exist, you will stumble upon remains of the GDR at many places when visiting Berlin, and many who live here are still children of the former country. There are numerous possible approaches to understanding the birth, history, and decline of the workers’ and peasants’ state, and of course it is impossible to capture every single detail and facet of life in only one museum.
Nonetheless, the DDR Museum right next to the famous Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral offers an introduction to the topic that is well worth seeing. The GDR, or rather its everyday objects, seem to rise from the dead here: Living room and kitchen sets, Uniforms of the youth organization, radio and television, magazines and typewriters, and even a real Trabi – the most popular car of the GDR – that you can enter and sit in. Concise information texts introduce the topics and a special emphasis is put on the different facets of the oppressive organs of the state. You can get a feeling of the Stasi and its surveillance infrastructure when taking place in the true-to-original interrogation room.
Just about everywhere the exhibition concept is all about seeing, hearing, and especially feeling. There is always a flap to be opened, a drawer to be pulled out, or a touchscreen to be operated. Tactually and with the aid of all other senses visitors can approach individual stories as well as the big picture of the GDR. The motto is: objective with the facts, subjective in the individual experience. Everybody is invited to develop their very own image of the state, to decide individually which topic to explore deeper and what questions to ask. Some things will leave you astonished, others make you chuckle; most certainly you will be shocked by the cruel system of surveillance and oppression. Thus the museum manages to introduce you to the history of the GDR ostensively but without false nostalgia, true to the detail and with an eye on the big picture. Half a million visitors every year make the DDR Museum with its award-winning exhibition concept one of the capital’s most visited museums.
The DDR Museum is open daily from 10 am through 8 pm (10 pm on Saturdays), admission is 7 € (reduced: 4 €). It is located in Berlin Mitte, on the Spree river opposing the Berlin Cathedral. Depending on your own speed and how interested you are the visit will take between one and three hours. They offer different tours in many languages, and there is a regular program of talks, workshops, and other events. Special conditions apply to larger groups. Further information and even a cheaper online ticket can be found on the website: www.ddr-museum.de.
…that the DDR Museum is your best choice for a concise and ostensive overview on the broad topic. Visiting is fun and informative at the same time and thanks to the many exhibits and the interactive concept, everybody will find what he or she is looking for. If you want to explore certain fields more deeply, you might want to check out some of the other museums in Berlin, like the Stasi Museum or the Mauermuseum (Berlin Wall Museum) at Checkpoint Charlie.
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.