We definitely set out to pace ourselves a little more carefully today, Friday 24. We devoted the morning to blogging on yesterday, leaving in time to make the 1.00pm Reconciliation Prayer service around the Cross of Nails at the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in accordance with the Coventry Cathedral initiative for every Friday. However there are exceptions to every rule, and it wasn’t held today. We undertook our own Reconciliation meditation in the beautiful Church instead. Picked up salmon and some vegetables at the Friday Wittenberg Platz market and then spent the rest of the day at the Museum in the Kulturbrauerei exploring with a different approach ‘everyday life in the GDR’.
This museum was located a little further out from the ‘Mitte’ – the central area – but easily accessible on our U2 underground line. It is situated in the Kulturbrauerei, literally a brewery converted into a large alternative set of cultural venues of one kind or another. The Schulthes’s Brewery was designed in an amazing architectural style that was evidently very popular at the turn on the 20th century.
The museum contained another amazing collection of items – food, workplace films, small mechanical machines, posters, banners, photographs, letters, desk arrangements, sporting gear, a motor bike, a Trabant car with a difference (a camping tent mounted on top!), etc, etc. A lovely touch was the video of a wedding in which the celebrant turned down the lovely music and proceeded to lecture the reluctant bridegroom and his wife about the importance of maintaining socialist moral values. Annie realised her shortcomings in her former career. Of particular note was a bicycle to which a cross was welded as a protest by a Christian welder against the restrictions and political oppression of the DDR regime.
Set up about 20 years ago, its Museum technique was not particularly sophisticated, but there was a lot of English translation for the benefit of the foreigners. Our assessment is that they have acquired a mass of material, they have ordered it well around the building and they have been careful to project views and ideas representative of the GDR position at the time. All of that is very commendable. However they have not really undertaken much analysis to enable the visitor with only a few hours to spare to absorb the general drift of daily life at the time. The primary material is there and it is up to the visitor to make their own judgements about what was going on.
We did make a number of assessments of our own. Clearly the GDR was run on the commitment of only a minority of the East German population. Most people complied and just kept their heads down. But there was always a degree of opposition or rather dissension which was put down by Russian forces in 1953, but by the eighties, the dissension had grown, the economy was not functioning with shortages evident everywhere, and it seemed as though the Russian commitment to the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) had begun to wane. In the eighties the Lutheran Church, though small, increasingly adopted a position of resistance, which clearly helped the opposition movement along. Demonstrations occurred throughout the country from early 1989, leading to the collapse of the highly symbolic Berlin Wall in November and the collapse of the East German state in the months that followed. We are beginning to feel that we have a better grasp of postwar developments in Germany.