Berlin Museum DDR Museum Germany
Have you ever wondered what daily life was like for ordinary people living in East Germany? If you have, the DDR Berlin Museum is for you. Western perceptions of this former socialist, Soviet-controlled German state are filled with images of poverty, limited freedoms, and old fears of a communist uprising. However, despite the political circumstances, life was surprisingly different on the “other” side of the Berlin Wall. If you visit the Berlin Museum (DDR) you will feel like you were back there.
Modern-day Berlin bears few scars of the near total destruction it suffered during WWII. Even so, there are several museums where the past has been preserved for the interest of future generations. One unique resource is the DDR Museum (Deutsche Demokratische Republik Museum). This Berlin Museum that lets you immerse yourselves in a culture and a time that has since entirely disappeared.
So, what can you expect from a visit to the DDR Museum?
The DDR Museum is directly opposite the Berliner Dom / Berlin Cathedral. The Berlin Museum is on the Spree River, a short walk down the steps from the Liebknechtbrücke to water level. Alternately, you can take the U-Bahn or S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz and walk along Karl-Liebknecht-Straße from there, instead. You’ll find that there are many signs leading the way to the Berliner Dom. The museum should be marked on any good tourist map.
Opening Hours (last updated June 2016):
Monday – Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday, 10 am – 8 pm
Adults – €9.50
Reduced – €6.00 (children, students, disabled persons)
Workers of the world, unite!
The DDR Museum offers you a unique glimpse into everyday life in the DDR (or GDR, in English). A glimpse into a world that no longer exists. A visit to the Berlin Museum is an immersive experience. You will take part in activities that help you to get a hands-on feeling of the culture, challenges, and comforts of life in the DDR.
East Germany emerged out of the ruins of World War II, and identified itself as a proletarian state of hard-working citizens engaged in strengthening the industry and agriculture of the GDR. As a result, Soviet communist influence drove the workforce forward. This is very evident in the propaganda and apparel of the time. In the DDR Museum you’ll see actual examples of the attire worn by men and women living and working then. You’ll also see films and literature outlining work ethics and school curriculums. In addition to this there is even a recreation of several rooms of an average citizen’s home. The home comes complete with a kitchen, archival television footage, and reading materials. It’s like going back in time!
You’ll also find interactive activities on touch screens that guide you through the history and cultural conventions.
A new German state
In 1949 the Soviet Government made the DDR a separate state. The state had enforced borders and an increasingly divergent culture that consciously separated itself from West Germany. The DDR Museum kept the propaganda literature and artwork to illustrate the divide between the two German states. You’ll see posters showing beaming East Germans in worker’s outfits, complete with hard hats and building tools in hand. They represent the peoples’ passion for rebuilding the state into a great socialist, industrial world power. There are even documentaries shown that represent how the ideals and values of the DDR were presented.
There are many activities at the DDR Museum that take the form of quizzes. You can test your knowledge of life in East Germany and challenge the stereotypes with the answers.
A city divided
A result of the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, is that the contrast and divide between West and East Germany became both physical and cultural. Life “beyond the wall” was often secretive, and always very controlled, which bred rumours and urban legends about conditions beyond the Iron Curtain. Part of the DDR Museum documents the daring and amazing escape attempts undertaken by those in East Germany hoping to cross the wall to West Germany. The reports include information about zip lines between buildings, hot air balloons, as well as covert smuggling of people in cars and other vehicles. Hence, the stories of these incredible individuals can be learned on your visit to the DDR Museum.
Alternative culture in the DDR
Due to it being a state where individual expression and freedom was severely limited, alternative culture was born! One surprising branch of East German culture was Freikörperkultur, or “Free Body Culture” – in essence, Nudism. Celebrating the freedom of nudity became an integral part of East German life, and it extended to sports and communal bathing and living. The DDR has archival footage of nudists enjoying their time outdoors, and holding sports events. Germany was the first country (and East Germany in particular) to start, and then embrace, Nudism / Naturism, and it remains a central part of Germany’s past and present cultural norms.
The Trabi / Trabant
One of the best things to do at the DDR Museum is the unique driving simulator set inside a real Trabant, or “Trabi”, as the car model is affectionately known. The Trabi was the most common vehicle in the DDR, manufactured in East Germany and exported to other countries in the Eastern Bloc.
The Trabi became a symbol of the outdated technology of the Eastern Bloc, with its inefficient power output and smoky exhaust. When the Berlin Wall came down, Eastern Germans flooded into West Berlin and West Germany in their Trabants, further securing the car as an icon of times past.
The DDR Museum is incredibly entertaining and informative, and contains a large range of interactive exhibits that offer activities and information for visitors of all ages. A few hours spent at this museum, plus a visit to Checkpoint Charlie and the surrounding museums, will give you an unforgettable insight into Berlin’s history and life in Germany under Soviet occupation.