wander, stumble, wonder

By imo_weg


Today I did not take very many photos, because I spent most of the day in two different museums about East Germany (the DDR (German) or GDR (English)). This one is a photo of the roof of Thomaskirche (the same church as yesterday), because I am obsessed with roof tiles.

The first museum was the Stasi Museum, in the old Stasi headquarters. It was all in German, so I took quite a long time to get through, but it was worth the effort. The building has the same feel as an old school - utilitarian corridors, scuffed walls and floors, a lurking sense of gloom, but originally it was built as firefighters' headquarters (if I understood that sign correctly), before housing Americans after WW2 then being converted to state security purposes. One of the exhibitions that really stood out to me was the collection of letters back and forth between a school teacher, a parent, and state officials about a student who had been dissenting in class. It was clear that both the student and the mother were heading towards some kind of punishment for their refusal to recant, but then the 9th of November 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall) happened, and they presumably were unscathed. The museum has a collection of all the different surveillance devices used, and a whole room of disguises. We see these things in movies about East Germany, but it was quite different to see them right there in a glass cabinet.

After a restorative cup of tea, it was onto museum number two. I only had a couple of hours before this one closed, so had to rush through the last few rooms, because it was honestly one of the best museums I have ever been to - the DDR Museum in the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum. It was certainly comprehensive, taking the visitor through a timeline of East Germany but doing so by examining the politics, daily life, workforces, home life, surveillance, censorship, and every other aspect you could think of. It has a huge number of items, from an engine from an East German designed (and failed) plane to a home made lawnmower. It uses videos, recordings, images and objects, and there has been a lot of effort put into making equal translations into English - every sign says the same thing in German and English (often the second language will get a summarised version). That alone impressed me - this is a museum designed to teach through history, to help us understand and avoid mistakes. It has a very clear motive and it doesn't hide that. I could have spent a few more hours there, every display was fascinating.

But then they kicked everyone out at closing time, so I went off to find an Italian restaurant for dinner (because there is a limit to how many Bratwurst you can eat in a week), where they placed me at a table as far away from any of the other guests as possible. I'm not sure if I smell, or if I am just too solo for their comfort, either way, I got a good bit of my book read with my pasta and wine.

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