6 May 1989 - 3 Oct 1991

Years of Change

DDR Museum

A typical diary from the time of German reunification 
DDR Museum, Berlin

Sunday, 7 May 1989

Dear diary,

Election this morning. It was such a pain again. I said to the SED cow from the electoral commission: I've been waiting eight weeks for the plumber. The tap in my garden keeps dripping and nothing is happening. She took a note of it. In the evening, on the West television, they said that some groups had proven the election was rigged by counting the votes themselves. Lots of voters are meant to have crossed off the National Front candidates this time. People were just supposed to take part and not cause a fuss. But this will definitely be reported. Then there's no chance of my tap getting fixed.

 

 

This ballot box was used in the last "Volkswahlen" (general elections) in Leipzig

Background:

The last general elections, based on a unified list ("Einheitsliste") established by the SED. 98.77 percent of eligible voters cast their vote, and according to the electoral commission, 98.84 percent of them voted in favour of the National Front candidates. Independent groups managed to prove that the election results were rigged by monitoring the counting of the votes at polling stations.  

Wednesday, 7 June 1989

Dear diary,

Our work colleague, Stefan Wille (Steve), has become a civil rights activist. At 5pm, he went to Alex to protest against the election fraud. He'd read about it in the Umweltblätter (environmental newsletters) that are displayed in the church. There wasn't much going on around Alex. Lots of police and tons of Stasi. Steve changed his mind quickly. He's cleverer than that. Now it's meant to take place on the 7th of each month.

Printing machine in the Umwelt-Bibliothek

Background:

In April 1987, around 1,000 copies of the environmental newsletters began to be published at irregular intervals in the Umwelt-Bibliothek (environmental library) in Berlin. The note "Nur für den innerkirchlichen Dienstgebrauch" (Only for official church use) offered some sort of protection from state bodies. Even so, on 25 September 1987, state security officials burst into the premises of the Zion community, seized the copying machine and arrested all those present. A solemn vigil before the Zionskirche and an international media outcry led the state powers to relent. From then on, the environmental newsletters became the best-known publication for the opposition. Thirty-two editions were published by September 1989. 

Postcards from a holiday in Hungary

Background:

On 2 May 1989, Hungary began dismantling its border fences with Austria. Now there was a hole in the Iron Curtain. Many East German citizens travelled to Hungary to see if they might be able to cross over the border. They gathered in tents around the West German embassy in Budapest. The situation was still calm, but there was anger in the air.

Thursday, 3 August 1989

Dear diary, 

Horrible weather. Average temperature of 11.5 degrees Celsius yesterday – the coldest day in August since 1893. The red storm signal was raised at the Baltic seaside resorts. That means a general bathing ban. Aunt Hiltrud wrote a postcard from Cyprus. It had a picture of an ancient temple underneath an azure blue sky. I will never get to see these countries. Perhaps Bulgaria or Hungary. My daughter Annabel wrote from Budapest: the summer is going to get exciting. No idea what she means.

Saturday, 2 September 1989

Dear diary,

The latest sport for GDR citizens: climbing over embassy fences. Maybe we'll get another Olympic medal for it later. All hell is breaking loose in Budapest and Prague. Thousands of people are sitting in the embassy gardens demanding to leave. Hopefully Annabel doesn't decide to join in these new mass protests.

Objects for waving

Background:

The West German embassy in Prague closed to visitors on 22 August. More and more GDR citizens were climbing over the fence of the Palais Lobkowicz. By the time they were finally granted permission to leave at the end of September 1989, around 6,000 people were camped in the embassy gardens. Just three days later, a further 7,600 East Germans were camped in the embassy.

Saturday, 7 October 1989

Dear diary,

That was some party for the 40th anniversary. Cheering, embracing, laughing, as if nothing had happened. We were at the fair at Alex. Heidelore queued for half an hour for blue onion pattern dishes. I treated myself to two or three beers. Watched the demonstration at Alex on TV in the evening. Thousands of young people set off to the Palazzo Prozzo. We managed to lug our shopping home at the same time. We all have our cross to bear.

Background: 

The GDR put on a lavish celebration for its fortieth anniversary. While the VIPs were celebrating in the Palast der Republik, demonstrators calling for democratic reform gathered at the World Clock at Alexanderplatz at 5 pm. Then they made their way to the Palast der Republik. After the fall of darkness, GDR security forces struck back in brutal fashion.

Monday, 9 October 1989

Dear diary,

Things are finally really heating up. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Leipzig. People were so outraged at the old cronies in the SED Politburo. There were wild rumours flying around beforehand. At work my colleague Steve said there were tanks stationed around Leipzig. But Gorbachev obviously didn't allow them to be deployed. Still, it's a good thing I stayed at home. There were also some riots in Berlin.

Monday demonstrations in Leipzig on 9 October 1989
Lothar König on the Monday demonstrations

Background: 

A prayer for peace was being held at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig every Monday for a number of years. From March 1989, those who had applied to leave the state would gather afterwards and go to the main train station. In September 1989, the Monday demonstration became an indicator of the mounting tension and the political crisis. On 9 October 1989, around 70,000 people came together and made their way around the city centre.

Wednesday, 25 October 1989

Dear diary,

Annabel is really worked up since her summer trip to Budapest. She was thinking about crossing over the border from Hungary into Austria with her boyfriend. But she doesn't want to run away when she can try to change things here. Yesterday she went to the Gethsemanekirche for an "information prayer". Then they set off through Berlin to the State Council building to protest against the election of Egon Krenz to Chairman of the State Council. They put lighted candles on the pavement there. They shouted things like: "Egon Krenz - we don't support you. Egon, your election is a lie, the people didn't choose you." And: "Turn off the box and join in!" Why this? Well, now TV is more exciting than ever. 

Erich Honecker, SED General Secretary and Chairman of the State Council (1976-1989)
Demonstration against Egon Krenz on 25 October in Berlin
Re-enactment

Background:

After Egon Krenz succeeded Erich Honecker as General Secretary of the SED, he was elected Chairman of the State Council. In the Gethsemanekirche, a letter of protest was written and a decision made to take it to the State Council as a group. Around 12,000 demonstrators made their way peacefully through Berlin.

Monday, 6 November 1989

Dear diary,

At lunch Steve said that the local Berlin association of the Social Democratic Party was founded yesterday in the Sophienkirche on Hamburger Straße. He took the chance to join up. Our head of department Dr Schmidt just grumbled: "Don't lean too far out the window. If things change again, you'll be the first one with his head on the block." Steve said that his grandfather used to be in the SPD. Although that was Left against Communists. Today it's exactly the right thing to do. They're very good in terms of organisation. As soon as you join they collect the first membership contribution: 20 DM. And with that, the DSF (Society for German-Soviet Friendship) and FDGB (Free German Trade Union Federation) are gone.

Receipt for initial membership contribution in the SDP

Background:

On 5 November 1989, a local Berlin association of the Social Democratic Party in the GDR (SDP) was formed. The party had been established in a vicarage in Schwante on 7 October 1989. Other local associations were also formed and chairpersons were elected. 

Friday, 10 November 1989

Dear diary,

Annabel went to a techno party in some basement or other with her boyfriend. They both looked amazing. When they weren't home by midnight, I began to worry. Then the doorbell rang. My neighbour Krause was standing in front of the garden door with a bottle of Sekt. "The Wall is open", he was cheering. Pandemonium at all the border crossings, but it's all peaceful. Krause said he'd been waiting 28 years for this. Hopefully the kids will be safe amidst all the chaos. They showed up around dawn. They'd danced the whole night on the Kudamm. Annabel said it was the greatest party ever.

Home-made lighting system from 1986

Background:

Berlin's techno culture was born with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reunification began to take place in unoccupied basements immediately after 9 November 1989. "When the Wall fell, there was a crash, and this crash could also be heard in the music", says leading Berlin DJ, Tanith, describing the role of techno as the soundtrack to the fall of the Wall.

Sunday, 12 November 1989

Dear diary,

It's a real mass migration. Friedrichstraße train station is bursting at the seams. No one is checking IDs any more. We were crammed like sardines on the S-Bahn. Crowds of people all around Zoo station. The traffic was completely stopped. The West Berliners were amazed at how many Easterners there were. I asked where you could get the 100 DM "welcome money". At any bank or post office, I was told. The lines were shorter in the suburbs. What does it matter? Queuing is nothing new for us. The atmosphere was great. A post office worker paid us 100 West DM per head and put a tiny date stamp on our ID cards.

Background:

As pensioners in the GDR had no money in West German currency, the state government offered each new visitor from the East a welcome sum of 100 DM for a long period of time. On the day after the fall of the Wall, this generous social measure was automatically extended to the masses of people arriving. 

Queuing for the welcome money on Badstraße in West Berlin, November 11, 1989 (Photograph: Matthias Schubert)
Winfried Witzel on the welcome money
"Wall-pecker"

Thursday, 30 November 1989

Dear diary,

The latest craze is hacking the Wall into little pieces. Young people have even come from Swabia to get a colourful bit of concrete or a piece of barbed wire. I rummaged around in my toolbox for a hammer and chisel and went there with Heidelore. With all the chipping and hammering, it sounded like a thousand woodpeckers were attacking the border fences. Sometimes they were taking it away by the bag. It's the best thing that can be done with the Wall.

Pieces of the Berlin Wall
Pieces of the Berlin Wall

Friday, 15 December 1989

Dear diary,

Today, the head of department, Dr Schmidt, told everyone to go to the personnel department and bring our employment records to reception. Steve went mad and said that the wise comrades wanted to remove all traces of their wonderful and generous actions. Dr Schmidt stubbornly said nothing. The SED folk are very subdued now.

DDR files

Background:

The "Kaderakte" (employee record) was a type of constantly updated profile that was maintained by each institution, from school all the way to old-age pension. It could not be viewed by the person in question. The Ministry for State Security could make unrestricted usage of the documents. In 1989, the files were made available to employees, although they were often edited first.

Friday, 22 December 1989

Dear diary, 

Now the Brandenburg Gate is open. The barriers have been cleared to the side. The last time I went through here was summer 1961 when I was only a small nipper. I think I held back a few tears today. Now a new year is about to begin. What will it bring? The unification of Germany? Annabel who was always so critical of the GDR suddenly isn't so enthusiastic any more. No sooner have people got rid of Honecker and Co than they're trotting along behind the fat Kohl. When will she be happy?

Demolition of barriers at the Brandenburg Gate, 21 December 1989
New Year's Eve celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate, 31 December 1989
Christmas tree behind the Berlin Wall, 26 December 1989

Background:

In the presence of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and GDR Prime Minister Hans Modrow, the Brandenburg Gate was reopened. The two heads of government walked through the Gate together. Despite the heavy rain, around 100,000 people gathered at either side of the former barrier.

Sunday, 24 December 1989

Dear diary,

We wanted to celebrate Christmas just like always. But it's a new era now. When I think about how hard it was last year to get a couple of chocolate Santas and a few oranges. We scraped together all our West money for the fourth week of Advent and went to Neukölln. Chaos, so stressful there. Annabel said she won't bow to the materialism of the capitalist social system. Where did the child learn expressions like that? We bought her a Walkman for 34.20 DM.

A highly sought-after cassette recorder

Monday, 1 January 1990

Dear diary,

Went to the Hasselhoff concert at the Brandenburg Gate. When he stepped onto the stage everyone in the crowd shouted "David... David!" Heidelore got teary-eyed and whispered: "He looks even better than Frank Schöbel". Then he started: "I've been looking for freedom". I couldn't understand the words. But everyone sang along to Freedom. That's the word of the year for 1989. 

Background: 

The single "Looking for Freedom" sold more than 70,000 copies per day in Germany in 1989 and held top place in the charts for eight weeks. On New Year's Eve 1989, David Hasselhoff sang to more than 500,000 people at the Berlin Wall.

New Year's Eve 1989 at the Berlin Wall
LP "Looking for Freedom"

Friday, 12 January 1990

Dear diary, 

The West money is all gone. It wasn't all that much really. At least local transport is free for Easterners. You can travel all over with that. But what can you do there if you can't even buy a cup of coffee? At least Annabel is still enjoying her freedom. She went to the American Memorial Library and borrowed a few books. She says there were people there returning books that they couldn't bring back after the Wall went up on 13 August 1961. Thank God the library didn't charge any fines.

Tuesday, 16 January 1990

Dear diary,

There was a huge riot in Lichtenberg yesterday evening. The gates of the Stasi headquarters should really be bricked up as a symbolic gesture. But the crowd was so worked up that they climbed over the gates and opened them from the inside. The crowd then broke into the building and threw furniture out of the windows. The police just watched it unfold quietly. Finally, Modrow appeared directly from the round-table meeting, clambered into his car, and announced over a loudspeaker that this was all public property.

New Forum's call for public demonstrations

Background:

Citizen groups were occupying Stasi offices in many district capitals as early as 4 December 1989. The New Forum called for a demonstration in front of the Stasi headquarters on the evening of 15 January 1990. Demonstrators stormed the grounds.

Authorisation card of the civic committee for the dissolution of the Ministry for State Security, used to access the buildings on Normannenstraße

Background:

A civic committee was formed in the office of the Stasi leader, Erich Mielke, on the night of 16 January to bring about the dissolution of the Stasi. At the same time, the Central Round Table set up a working group for security. The process of winding up the Ministry for State Security was under way.

Thursday, 18 January 1990

Dear diary, 

Steve has finally become a super-revolutionary. A citizens committee was formed in the Stasi headquarters. It's based in Erich Mielke's office, the head of the Stasi. The building is meant to become a museum in the future. Mielke himself is in his own private prison complaining about the poor conditions there. The Stasi grounds are being monitored by the police and the members of the citizens' committee have their own ID. Steve showed us his. We were quite amazed.

Release from work to participate in the Round Table, 22 January 1990

Friday, 9 February 1990

Dear diary, 

Steve visited us at work and told us about his adventures with the Stasi. He gave his release from the citizens' committee to the personnel department. Of course they all gave in immediately, even Dr Schmidt. He signed without any objection. Those who served the old power loyally will continue to serve the new power. And those who stepped out of line will continue to do so as well. I fear the worst for Steve in the future. 

Background:

Working in the committees for the dissolution of the Stasi developed into a full-time job. As a result, the government ordered the release of all those involved from their regular employment contracts with continued pay.

Wednesday, 28 February 1990

Dear diary,

Heidelore is back from visiting her sister Hiltrud in Düsseldorf. They had a huge row. Hiltrud said that all Easterners are lazy and greedy. They want to work like under Honecker and live like under Kohl. They're going to be in for a surprise. Heidelore in turn told her that Westerners think about nothing but money and don't have any ideals. These are great prospects for German unity. 

Broken friendships ...
... and relationships

Saturday, 3 March 1990

Dear diary, 

A lot of things are going on at school. Annabel who's now getting close to doing her Abitur exams is talking about it a lot. Now there are no more lessons on Saturdays. The headmistress was dismissed. Her former deputy has the position now, even though she was also in the SED. Nearly everyone has left the party. The FDJ has dissolved into thin air. Civics has been abolished. The teachers are not sure what to teach for History and German. They just let the students debate among themselves. They even elected a student representative. Three guesses who that is...

Class timetable

Sunday, 18 March 1990

Dear diary, 

The first election that you go to voluntarily. I voted for Kohl of course. Dr Schmidt, our former head of department, said that Kohl is a money man. That's why he's voting for the PDS. But money is exactly what the East needs most now. If German unity doesn't come soon, we'll have been sold down the river. Annabel voted for her green-alternative civil rights activists of course. Those people are nice, but I wouldn't trust them in charge of a state.

Election poster for the Deutsche Soziale Union (German Social Union) for the parliamentary election on 18 March 1990.
Election poster for the PDS, successor party to the SED, for the parliamentary election on 18 March 1990.

Background:

The CDU emerged as the clear winner from the elections to the People's Chamber, the parliament of the GDR, with 40.6 percent of the votes. The SPD's fluctuating position on reunification cost them, as they received only 21.8 percent. The PDS, the successor party to the SED, achieved a respectable result with 16.3 percent. The civil rights groups that came together as Bündnis 90 (Alliance 90) were politically marginalised with just 4.8 percent of the votes.

Wednesday, 4 April 1990

Dear diary, 

Steve has now finally left our work team. He was formally dispatched to a committee for the dissolution of the successor to the Stasi, the Amt für Nationale Sicherheit (Office for National Security). Now he goes through Stasi files. During lunch we had a heated discussion about this. Dr Schmidt of course said we should just draw a line under the past. What difference does it make now who was part of the Stasi? I'm actually very interested in that, especially in Schmidt, the old SED prick.

"Folded card" (official ID) for employees of the Ministry for State Security
From 15 January 1990, the Central Round Table started using unused Ministry for State Security IDs as ID cards for their employees.

Background:

The Stasi archives showed that leading members of all parties had been unofficial collaborators in the Ministry for State Security. A broad debate began about those who were informers for the Stasi system. Starting with the People's Chamber, holders of important offices should be subject to a check. 

Saturday, 5 May 1990

Dear diary, 

Today, we bought the site where our little house stands. Up to now we were just allowed to use it, but it wasn't our own property. This type of legal arrangement only existed in the GDR. This is meant to be sorted out before the German unification comes in. Everyone is afraid that new property owners will be kicked out of their homes even though some of them have been living there for decades. Purchasing the property and being entered into the land register should hopefully give some legal certainty. 

Background:

The sales law of 7 March entitled local authorities to sell publicly owned land to the owners of property situated on that land. This low-priced opportunity was available until 3 October. The Federal Court of Justice confirmed the lawfulness of this in 2004.

Deed for right of use of a publicly owned property

Saturday, 2 June 1990

Dear diary, 

Berlin is changing. It's not just the big wall that's being quickly cleared away. The passages to the ghost stations are opening up too. At Alexanderplatz underground station walls are being torn down, and all of a sudden there are stairs, platforms and tracks. We were so isolated in the East that we sometimes didn't even see the Wall any more.  

Tickets from the state-owned company Kombinat Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVB)

Background:

Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn networks were divided following 13 August 1961. Several underground lines went through East Berlin without stopping at what became known as "Geisterbahnhöfe" (ghost stations). All the exits were blocked up by authorities in the East. Many underground stations, such as Stadtmitte and Alexanderplatz, were completely divided. 

Sunday, 10 June 1990

Dear diary, 

You hear the most amazing things now. Shortly before the currency changeover, the Stasi sold their service items to employees. They got the money in cases from the company beforehand. The Guillaume spy affair has caused a real stir. The man who brought down Willy Brandt is now living in a little house on the Bötzsee in Eggersdorf. This is how the fatherland thanks its heroes. 

Newspaper cutting about the Guillaume deal

Background:

Personal aide to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Günter Guillaume was exposed as a spy for the GDR in 1974, arrested and eventually exchanged for Western intelligence agents caught by the Eastern Bloc. He received a house in Eggersdorf near Strausberg. He acquired the Ministry for State Security service item under dubious circumstances in 1990. All attempts to reverse this arrangement failed. He retained the house until his death. 

Bank notes from the GDR state bank

Background:

Children under the age of 14 could exchange amounts of up to 2,000 East German marks at an exchange rate of 1:1. Those between the ages of 15 and 59 could exchange up to 4,000 marks at this rate, while those above the age of 59 could exchange up to 6,000 marks. Amounts exceeding this, including larger financial assets, were converted at a rate of 2:1. The exchange was processed through savings bank current accounts. 

Monday, 25 June 1990

Dear diary, 

The currency changeover is looming on the horizon. Shadowy figures are loitering around Zoo station, Alex and other places. They're exchanging East for West at a rate of 1:5. The normal way is to set up a savings book. On July 1, between 2,000 and 6,000 marks will be exchanged 1:1 per person – depending on age – the remainder at 1:2. That's a very good rate. But still some people don't want the money to go through their accounts. They're afraid of being asked where the money came from. 

Sunday, 1 July 1990

Dear diary, 

What a great day – West money for everyone! Yesterday the shops were swept clean. Everyone wanted to spend their last few Alu-Chips. Early this morning all the splendour of the West started to stack up on the shelves. Schmidt who's now active in the PDS grumbled and said that not many people will be able to afford all the nice things. 

Background:

After the Deutsche Mark was introduced, GDR goods lost all market value. Even local products like butter and milk were more attractive to customers if they came in Western packaging. This was the beginning of the economic difficulties. GDR products were no longer able to compete, businesses went bankrupt, and employees lost their jobs. 

GDR Marks

Wednesday, 3 October 1990

Dear diary, 

The day is saved! Germany is unified. There were huge celebrations in front of the Reichstag. The fireworks were amazing. Dr Schmidt says the East will become the Mezzogiorno of Germany. What's that supposed to mean, I asked him. The area of poverty in Southern Italy, he explained. Well then at least we won't need to travel any more, I thought to myself. 

GDR flag with emblem cut out

Background:

It was now just a matter of formalities. With the monetary and social union, the key elements were already in place. Nevertheless, the day of reunification was marked with official celebrations in front of the Reichstag. From this day on, 3 October has been known as the Day of German Unity and is a national holiday. 

Sunday, 1 October 1990

Dear diary, 

My neighbour's son has leave from the military. Now he's an officer in the Bundeswehr. I asked him how he feels wearing the uniform of the enemy. What happened to the oath of enlistment? He was a bit offended and said that he'd always felt like a German soldier. Orders are orders, he didn't care about anything else. 

Background:

The National People's Army (NVA) was taken over by the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). This included buildings, facilities, weapons and staff. However, most of the higher-ranking officers were released into civilian life. Only a small number were allowed to serve in the Bundeswehr. 

Military identification and NVA soldiers' identity tags

Wednesday, 14 November 1990

Dear diary, 

Some young people seem to mistake freedom for chaos. All manner of hooligans have set up in the abandoned houses on Mainzer Straße. Today the police started to use force to clear the houses, and of course Annabel was right in the middle of it. I didn't dare to watch when it was shown on TV. People were up on the roofs flinging stones and Molotov cocktails at the armoured water cannons. This kind of thing didn't happen in the GDR. 

Recreated image of a Molotov cocktail being prepared

Background:

In the months after transition, there were a lot of lawless areas in East Berlin. Squatters from Western districts moved into abandoned houses in East Berlin and tried to set up alternative cultures there. The red-green state government led by Momper reacted with fierce police violence. 

Monday, 26 November 1990

Dear diary, 

Reunification was worth it. Today the post office laid down a telephone line and activated the connection. Some people have been waiting twenty years or more for this. It's a great feeling to have your own phone. Now I'm just waiting for the first call.

Background:

Only 16 percent of homes in the GDR had a telephone connection. This was as low as 11 or 12 percent in certain districts. The rest of the population had to rely on telephone booths that were constantly out of order. In 1989, 1.2 million applications were submitted for a telephone connection. Even those who had been on the waiting list for more than twenty years had little chance of getting a telephone before 1990. 

Announcement of the installation of a telephone connection on 26 November 1990
An "alpha" telephone from the state-owned telecommunications company Fernmeldewerk Nordhausen

Sunday, 2 December 1990

Dear diary, 

Today, a polite young man rang the bell at the back door. Very neatly dressed and well-groomed. I didn't think such a thing existed any more. He showed me some wonderful magazines and catalogues in the living room. If I bought the thirty-part magazine collection "Katze im Heim" (Cats and the Home), I could get a dream beach holiday to the place of my choice. Egypt, Crete, Algarve... Annabel says it's just a con, anyway we don't even have a cat. 

Signing a purchase agreement

Tuesday, 11 December 1990

Dear diary, 

Our colleague Steve, our archive rat, was a guest at the work group's Christmas party today. He told us that he got a letter of apology from the director of his old university. Eighteen years ago he was kicked out of university. It was because of some sarcastic remarks he made about the one true party. I never knew about that. But Steve was never able to keep his mouth shut.

Letter of apology from the Humboldt University for the expulsion of a student for political reasons, 13 December 1990

Background:

In addition to the legal rehabilitation of those subject to political persecution, discussions now began regarding disadvantages in professional life and expulsions from educational institutions in the GDR. Public debates were held at many universities, including at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Order for a car, 20 December 1979
Handbook for the Trabant P 601 S de luxe; "Ich fahre einen Trabant" (I drive a Trabant)

Sunday, 20 January 1991

Dear diary, 

There were so many jokes in the GDR. We always wondered who thought them up. But the truth is that reality makes the best jokes. Today we were informed that we can now collect the Trabant that we ordered in 1979. How we laughed! I bet you can even choose the colour now. 

Saturday, 2 February 1991

Dear diary, 

Today, the new management from Düsseldorf introduced themselves. They bought the business for 1 Mark from the trust. The strategic goal is to become more flexible to optimise market prospects. Well, that could be funny. Schmidt is managing the personnel board now. He certainly has experience in organisation.

Symbolic transaction

Background: 

The aim of the trust was to manage state-owned companies and transition them to a market economy. On submission of a financing concept, entrepreneurs could often take over companies from the East for a symbolic fee of 1 mark. However, they often did this purely with the premises in mind. Many businesses went into bankruptcy shortly after being taken over. 

Monday, 25 February 1991

Dear diary, 

My colleague Lehmann wants to get divorced and is really upset. He went to see his attorney and looked completely crestfallen at work the next day. "I'm meant to pay for the missus for the rest of my life. This is supposed to be a democracy", he cursed. "This is not what I took to the streets for." I really can't remember him campaigning on the streets at all in autumn '89. 

Background:

The family legal code of the GDR was based both on economic equality and on the independence of the individual partner. The entitlement to seek maintenance from the separated spouse was only possible in cases of inability to work. Furthermore, separations were more straightforward and could be concluded more quickly in cases where both parties were in agreement. 

Specialist books on GDR law

Saturday, 2 March 1991

Dear diary, 

Our new Opel shouldn't be left out in the rain. We applied to build a garage at the building authority. The employee there took out the materials on construction law and explained the application procedure. Drawings of plans, several copies, etc. And to think we used to complain about the bureaucracy of socialism.

Definitive work "Baukonstruktionen des Wohnungsbaus" (Structural design for residential construction)

Friday, 15 March 1991

Dear diary, 

The previous owners of my neighbours' house contacted them from the West. Their grandfather went over to the West in 1951 and died there in 1959. But he often talked about his little house in the GDR. So it was ingrained in their hearts from when they were children. No one is going to drive me out of my house, my neighbour Krause said. Westerners are bandits and robbers. Now he's going to buy himself a hunting rifle and shoot anyone who comes near his house. I've never seen him so worked up in all my life. 

Letter from the Mayor of Leipzig for the reassignment of a property, 7 December 1993

Background:

The Unification Treaty followed the principle of "Rückgabe vor Entschädigung" (restitution before monetary compensation). This led to a wave of claims for the restitution of properties. In the majority of cases, the new owners had acquired the expropriated properties from the state in good faith. They felt unfairly treated, particularly as they had often invested a lot in the house and land. This led to many year-long legal disputes. 

Monday, 1 April 1991

Dear diary,

The square in front of the post office is going to be called Postplatz again. It used to be called Dorfplatz, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Platz, Friedrich-Ebert-Platz, Adolf-Hitler-Platz, Ernst-Thälmann-Platz. Let's see how it all turns out.  

Background: 

The renaming of streets and public buildings was handled in various ways. In Berlin, there was a street-renaming committee made up of historians and other experts who would provide recommendations. The actual renaming decisions were the responsibility of the city boroughs, however. 

City information and street directory, 4th edition, 1989
Marx-Engels-Platz (now Schloßplatz)
Berlin-Mitte

Wednesday, 8 May 1991

Dear diary, 

The red granite Soviet soldier in front of the school hasn't been able to look at anyone for years. He's become overgrown with weeds. Now the CDU is calling for this symbol of communist tyranny to be torn down. The PDS is up in arms about this. They've arranged a ceremony for Victory Day and are even prepared to take the soldier into their own hands and erect it on private grounds. Now the CDU is denying them that. They don't want to give the monument away for nothing and are demanding a fee.

Soviet War Memorial in Treptow, Berlin

Background:

Memorials and Red Army military cemeteries were to be maintained on the German side, as agreed in the terms of the withdrawal pact with Russia. These commemoration sites were restored at great cost despite their Stalinist appearance. They commemorate the Russian soldiers who fell in the liberation of Germany. 

Thursday, 3 October 1991

Dear diary, 

Today I met Steve and Dr Schmidt in our old local pub for the Day of German Unity. The business only lasted a few months after the buyout. All the employees were let go. I'm taking early retirement. Annabel has gone off to the USA for a year. Steve and Schmidt locked horns just like before. Not everything was bad in the GDR, Schmidt growled. Steve then sang the praises of democracy. It's worth it for the great trips alone that we can make now. Everything has its good side and its bad side.

The only question is, is the glass half-full or half-empty? 

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

About this diary

Uwe Neumann did not really exist. He and his diary were invented by the DDR Museum, not simply as a piece of fiction, but rather as an example of the typical experiences of the time. He is not a hero and likewise not a die-hard SED supporter. Not a remarkable spirit, but a man of sound common sense. He goes with the flow and tries somehow to make the best of every situation. A sort of contemporary that is found abundantly in all times and places. In this respect, Uwe Neumann really does exist, and indeed is immortal as a character type.   

www.ddr-museum.de

Credits: Story

Publisher — Rückel, Robert, Director, DDR Museum, Berlin 
Text — Wolle, Dr. Stefan, Head of Research, DDR Museum, Berlin
Curator — Strohl, Katrin, Head of Collections, DDR Museum, Berlin 
Design — Bänfer, Constantin, Creative Director, DDR Museum, Berlin
Shoot — Wia, Oliver, Photographer, Berlin

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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