Everyday life East. A digital guide to everyday life in the GDR
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Provenance and cultural activities
The digital guide project was initiated with the goal of providing the general public insight into everyday life in lesser-known places of the GDR. Thus, the digital platform brings to light a collection of places which span the country and covers a myriad of activities either tolerated or banned in the GDR, which impacted everyday life under the regime. This wide range of activities therefore covers themes such as labour, leisure, architecture, culture and subcultures, education, church, gastronomy, and emigration.
The aim of the project is, by focusing on various locations throughout the GDR, to highlight the fact that, despite the dominance of the Socialist Unity Party (SED; the ruling party) ideology, life was mastered in various different ways in the cities and the island of Rügen. The project shows that despite the pressure exerted by the regime, people shaped and appropriated places and formed their own ways of living, eventually creating spaces of opposition such as galleries, churches, and even public squares. Furthermore, the project aims at pointing towards regional specificities in both small and large cities in the GDR. It also explores everyday life under the regime, bringing it into public memory and highlighting alternative and subversive lifestyles, from the LGBT community to religious education and alternative artistic performance.
The project’s target audience is the wider general public and specifically German tourists. Thus, the guide aims at introducing visitors to less-familiar places and topics and those not often discussed in the recent past. In addition, the digital guide provides a more varied approach, moving beyond the “iconic” locations for the GDR memory, by mapping local particularities that have faded from public consciousness in the context of reunification.
The project was carried out in collaboration with the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, the aim of which is to support educational projects. Interviews with those who lived through this time are also included in the guide, providing a personal voice and interpretation to these stories from the past. Furthermore, in the digital guide, contemporaries of the GDR period are encouraged to share their personal stories from the past through the interactive platform.
Description of content
The digital GDR guide covers thirty locations, including in five cities, Berlin, Jena, Leipzig, Magdeburg, and Potsdam, and the island of Rügen. It aims at covering everyday life in a variety of locations in the above-mentioned cities, from cultural spaces, such as museums and theatres, to places of leisure such as bars, restaurants, and swimming pools. The project aims at covering different themes of everyday life, including cultural opposition, work, architecture, leisure, alternative lifestyles, and subcultures. Therefore, the guide provides a comprehensive overview of various locations and contexts throughout the former GDR, showing a great variety of activities and particularities which made up everyday life.
The documentation and the selection of the locations for the digital platform is based on archival research, interviews, printed guides, local magazines, and exchange with associations and historians. Besides the visual documentation, oral interviews have also been included in the digital platform, giving voice to those who lived through of these events. Twenty-four interviews have been carried out, of a rather journalistic nature, aiming to reach a wider audience. The digital platform was constructed in order to provide users with a useful tool to navigate the recent past and discover places and events lesser known by the wider German public. Also, it aims to allow those who lived in the GDR period to continue to share their personal stories and memories. Therefore, the guided tour was designed as an interactive platform, letting contemporaries become directly involved by mapping their own personal stories. Two additional locations have been contributed by users so far: the entries presenting the Melodic breakdance group of Stralsund and the Berlin radio station on Nalepastraße.
- photos: unknown quantity
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 10-99
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Stecher, Anna
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Demeter, Laura
Stecher, Anna, interview by Demeter, Laura, May 07, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection