The DDR and Stasi Museums in Berlin

Day 22, Monday, September 16, 2019

Some of the subway stations in Berlin are quite grand, with their vaulted steel and glass ceilings, like the one we were at this morning.

I have finally begun drawing people on the subway.  It is often difficult to find a subject who won’t notice me drawing them. I like to use a Bic Fine Ballpoint pen for these subway drawings. A pen forces me to commit to what I put down, no erasing makes it challenging.

We are on our way to the DDR Museum, which is a museum about what life was like in East Berlin before the Wall fell. I wasn’t interested in going so Bob went to the museum and I found a place to sit and draw St. Mary’s Church.

Bob discovered a few interesting facts. The most surprising is that East Berliners were ardent nudists!   Four out of five East Germans regularly went sunbathing in the nude, as illustrated in this poster in the museum.

It isn’t such a surprise that the East Germans were hard drinkers.  Per capita consumption was the equivalent to 286 bottles of beer and 23 bottles of spirits. The men and women of East Germany could drink all-comers under the table!  This was a typical living room bar cabinet. We saw these Trabants on the way to the DDR museum.  While there Bob discovered that the cars’ bodies were made from a material called Duroplast.  This was a composite material made from cotton fleece and granulated phenol, which was heated under pressure and formed into a rigid component for use on the exteriors of the cars.While walking to a nearby park to draw I passed this store dedicated to the Ampelmann, the little character that lets pedestrians know when it is safe to walk. While I sat drawing the church I watched these young ladies walk out onto the nearby fountain for some photos. I quickly got my camera out because I knew what was going to happen next.
Surprise!!  I laughed so hard, as did all their friends! We had a picnic lunch and then headed to the Stasi Museum. This museum is located on the former grounds of the headquarters of the GDR State Security. We had a two hour tour that talked about how the lives of the East Germans were controlled, manipulated and repressed by the political police system of the former East Germany.  Seems like everyone was spying and informing on everyone else, and almost every aspect of people’s lives was controlled by the state.  It must have been impossible to trust anyone.  Most of the exhibits were like this office room below, not very interesting I thought, but our guide’s talk was very interesting. He told us anecdotes about his life as well as his parents and grandparents lives during this time.  I hung out at the back of our tour group and did some sketching of people in the tour while I listened.

There were hidden cameras everywhere in East Germany, documenting what people did, who they talked with and where they went.  Here are some hidden cameras in a bird house, behind a button, and in a watering can with a false bottom.

There were even hidden cameras in tree trunks to spy on people if they took walks in the forest!  The really sad and scary thing is that there are people today that think that a dictatorship government would be better than the democracy they now have. They think that they would just need better leaders and they would be better off.  It is hard to imagine that anyone could think going back to anything like this could be beneficial!

In the Magdalenenstrasse subway station on our way home we see a series of 20 large scale paintings done in a neo-expressionist style: angular, grim with bits of bright colour. They images, competed in 1986, portray the history of the workers movement in East Berlin.  Our guide at the Stasi Museum pointed out a painting in the museum by Wolfgang Frankenstein, who was one of the artists who made these murals,

 

 

4 thoughts on “The DDR and Stasi Museums in Berlin

  1. Loved your drawings. Am so impressed you use ink & don’t erase.
    The cameras in trees!! At first I thought it was a petrified animal!
    Good for you capturing the fountain event & not getting caught yourself.
    I was aware of the proclivity for nude bathing. Did you & Bob join in?

    Like

  2. Thank you Trudy for sharing your wonderful trip across Europe. Your photos are beautiful.
    A few years ago I went to Berlin and I was very impressed by the remains of the wall.
    Bonne fin de voyage, j’ai beaucoup de plaisir à consulter ton blog.

    Like

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