Episode 2 transcript:
Life behind the Wall

Speaker 1:

Nobody really wants the GDR or the wall back, but they do miss the social aspects. Unemployment was nonexistent. Everyone was able to pay their rent, which isn't the case anymore today. That's what people miss- the feeling of safety.

Speaker 2:

A man who knows all too well about ostalgie [nostalgia for aspects of life in Communist East Germany] is graphic designer Markus Heckhausen. He noticed the pleasant motif of East German traffic lights during his first visit to East Berlin in the 1980s. They featured a man in a hat known as Ampelmann. In 1995 he had the idea to turn these unused traffic lights into lamps.

Speaker 3:

There are many other once familiar brands from the East which are still on sale. One place to find them is Berlin's Ostpaket store, which carries 160 different products. Schlager candy bars, Tempo peas and lentils, Brockensplitter hazelnut candy, and all kinds of alcoholic beverages.

Speaker 4:

Why should everything disappear? It's local tastes that you don't want to lose. No one takes the Weisswurst sausage away from the Bavarians.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

This is The Secret Life of Language, a podcast from the University of Melbourne's School of Languages and Linguistics. I'm Dr. Leo Kretzenbacher:. In this episode we continue our look back at life as it was for ordinary East Germans living behind the Iron Curtain, as it were, and the now defunct German Democratic Republic, or GDR. We're asking the larger questions. How should we remember the GDR, and was life really so bad there? In the first part of this conversation, and I encourage you to go back and listen to it if you haven't already, we looked at the impact of state repression on daily life- jobs in a country where everyone was expected to work, gender relations, real and professed, and consumer adventures in television and shopping. As the conversation continues in this episode, we tackle East German culture and the arts, movement and travel, uses of language and humor, and notions of identity either side of the Berlin wall. Plus we speculate on how the GDR is likely to live on in our collective consciousness. As before, joining me around the table on my fellow German studies researchers, Professor Alison Lewis: and Dr. Claudia Sandberg:.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Claudia, by the way, grew up in East Germany. We talked about a lot of sad and dreary aspects of, of the GDR inner gray cities, no consumer goods, queuing, but one thing that impressed me, again as someone growing up in the West, was the rich tapestry of culture in such a small country as in the GDR- art, music literature- and people were really passionate about it, and you know, people who you wouldn't believe are aficionados of high culture, were passionate about it. Something that in a consumer society like the West, the West is much more blasé about it, you know? No one gets excited very much about art or theater or …, and that was much more the case, in my impression, in the GDR. Could you confirm that?

Alison Lewis:

Oh, definitely. I mean, the regime really promoted reading, reading the classics, reading Brecht, reading Goethe, same with music. And often it was because of the censorship of contemporary literature and contemporary art. The restrictions on let's say, contemporary art. And it was safer in many ways to say, okay, this is a canon, this is a Marxist canon and a humanist canon, and let's get everyone to read the classics. But of course there were all the banned works of high German culture like Kafka, and you weren't allowed to read Kafka and Freud and things like that. So it was a very restricted canon. And then school children would visit the Berlin ensemble to see Brecht plays, and that was sort of compulsory often. And East Germany used to pride itself on being a Lesegesellschaft, a reading society. Given, I suppose, my research I've done on censorship, I am a little bit cynical about that because you know I think in many ways it was a way of compensating for the lack of freedom of speech in contemporary literature, and "just let people have stuff that we know is safe" or that's part of our Marxist-Leninist socialist realist canon.

Alison Lewis:

You know, it was a bit of an easy way out, but it's true certainly with music. I mean, you know in East Germany they had fantastic jazz musicians, Blues musicians. They had great recording technologies, fantastic choirs in Leipzig, and good orchestras. And that was always encouraged, I suppose, you know, pop music from the West- it's not as if pop music from America and Britain was not allowed. It was, it was just always released with a huge delay. I mean, you know, Bob Dylan was eventually released 10 years later by Amiga. Did you have any West German or American records, Claudia?

Claudia Sandberg:

Yes, we did. We always needed to know where you had to go in order to get these records. So I was still quite young but my sister, for example, she gave me that list. You know, whenever you go to Torgelow, this is where we - kind of was the next town, then just kind of ask for Fleetwood Mac, and ask for Kate Bush, and then you know sometimes I would get these records and then I only bought two, and then someone else would get mad at me because I only bought two and not one for them. And they were fairly cheap. I still remember 16.10, that was the price. You know you had access to culture, you had access to cultural events, to concerts, to books. They were cheap, but yes, of course people were quite passionate about it because it was some sort of outlet, something that not quite as controlled.

Alison Lewis:

Could you get Western films? What sort of films?

Claudia Sandberg:

They started in the 1970s and much more in the 1980s. Also, something that you mentioned, kind of to satisfy the need also for popular culture, and that's why there were films, Kramer vs Kramer, for example, was released. And a lot of films that were deemed kind of ideologically safe.

Alison Lewis:

Ones that were critical of the West.

Claudia Sandberg:

And also kind of critical of the West in a way. Maybe also working class played a, played a role.

Alison Lewis:

Working-class heroes.

Claudia Sandberg:

Or completely kind of non-ideological, or deemed were released kind of. You also had some von Trotta films. Kind of more into the 1980s the Akademie der Künste Ost (GDR Academy of Arts)  invited von Trotta, Bernhard Wicki, Peter Lilienthal and directors...

Leo Kretzenbacher:

We should tell listeners, these are West German filmmakers.

Claudia Sandberg:

West German filmmakers too, to screen their films in the Akademie der Künste and to have a public discussion. And of course it was always sold out. It was an opportunity for everyone to go and see something else. But once again, this is Berlin and this also was where you had this all this kind of cultural offer and it was not available for everyone. And, and I can imagine that these tickets to go to a von Trotta film were not sold publicly, you know most of them were given unter der Hand, under the table.

Alison Lewis:

Under the table.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

So, I don't remember seeing a lot of GDR films in West Germany. But now we know how brilliant a lot of GDR films were. A few years ago there was a retrospective at the ACMI and films such as Spur der Steine and Solo Sunny, I mean those were really, really brilliant films, and not films where you would get the impression this has to follow a certain ideology or so. So very, very good artworks. And also that you said books were cheap and plentiful. That was a typical thing for someone from the West going visiting the East, you had to exchange a certain amount of West currency to be allowed in and it was very difficult to spend it because there was really nothing you wanted, you didn't really want to eat there and Solyanka restaurant Solyanka, with normal  people.

Alison Lewis:

Spicy soup.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

But you know you would load up on books.

Alison Lewis:

And the classics.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Mostly classics and so on. Very bad paper, very badly printed but cheap and plentiful.

Speaker 5:

[Music] West German television was on hand to film the first East Germans arriving in disbelief. As time passed, the checkpoint became a big outdoor party as the crowds grew. Are you planning on coming back to the West soon?

Speaker 6:

Yes, I'll come back to visit and see how life is there, but not to stay forever. We live in completely different societies and I don't intend to live in the West, just to visit.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Well, one of the things that was a big positive thing of unification, or of the fall of the Wall, of course was that all of a sudden East German citizens had freedom of movement. So basically half of the world was out of bounds. Normal East German citizens couldn't travel. I think you were allowed to travel to the West if you were a pensioner or at some, some stage, from some age on. But first of all, would GDR citizens travel abroad and if so, where would they go? So where would GDR citizens have their holidays?

Claudia Sandberg:

You could theoretically travel the whole Eastern Bloc. You could go to Cuba, you could go to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland. This was all possible. Then you have to think about the income level, which was between 350 to 600 marks. One of those travel would probably cost you at least double or more than that . As so, so while you had the freedom to go to the Baltic Sea and ever, kind of these travel agencies where you could book this, it was almost impossible because you didn't have the financial means. Then again there were holiday camps for children. That was usually organized via the workplace of your parents. I remember that I was twice in Poland for two weeks, each time on a holiday with other children.

Claudia Sandberg:

There were youth groups where you could also go, you know, abroad to, again to Bulgaria, but it was expensive and it's one of those things that East Germans after the fall of the wall were often moaning about, that now to have the freedom to travel but they don't have the money either, you know? No they can't because you know they're unemployed. You could go to West Germany if you had a first grade relative, either son, daughter, or mother, parents. Never the whole family, just one person just to kind of to you know, to guarantee that you were to come back. And this of course was dependent on an invitation from that person. And it was also an application process that took probably half a year.

Alison Lewis:

So you could apply to attend, let's say relative's birthday, a big birthday party in the West and, and it might be approved. It varied a bit, I think. Sometimes I think it could be approved even if he weren't a pensioner, but very limited opportunities to travel. You know, the people I've come across, it may be they were writers or intellectuals who perhaps had more privileges.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Artists could.

Alison Lewis:

Artists.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Musicians sometimes could go on a concert tour if it brought West currency for example. Academics could apply to go to conferences in the West. But apparently you were very, very much dependent on the goodwill of any official. And I remember again that what a colleague from Leipzig told me, she was a very, very well-renowned professor at the University of Leipzig. Again, she applied to go for a conference in 1987 to West Germany, and she was told by some low grade official, no, we, we won't let you go because you haven't fulfilled your biological duty, because she didn't have any children.

Alison Lewis:

[Gasp]

Leo Kretzenbacher:

So and something like that. Of course, you were shocked, and I was shocked hearing it. So you were really dependent on the goodwill of some low-grade official because they could just say no.

Claudia Sandberg:

But I guess the risk there was also, if she didn't have any children, she could have as well might have, might have stayed in the West. So because she didn't have any, you know, anchor.

Alison Lewis:

And usually if you traveled, there was always probably someone from the state security traveling with you. You do find a lot of writers who traveled, often traveled in pairs, or someone else would turn up unexpectedly when they're in a foreign country in Bulgaria. And it would often turn out to be a spy. And so I find that a lot in the Stasi files that people think, Oh! So-and-so just happens to be at this same event. Or somebody just happens to be having a holiday here. Turns out they were sent there to spy on the writer just to make sure they don't say anything or do anything, or to make sure that they don't contemplate staying or leaving or escaping.

Claudia Sandberg:

But then again, once again when I'm looking very often for research, I, erm, look through the archives of the certain kind of production files for films and they were very often kind of made up either in Bulgaria or some other places or did they have to go to film festival, let's say to the Berlin film festival. So this was a very short process. You know, there was just a note handed in to the Hauptverwaltung Kultur (state administration of cultural affairs) that so-and-so had to go there, and there was the taxi driver who would take them to West Berlin for example. And they had to, of course, hand in a report about this, but it seemed there were some, for some places, there were some privileges, you know, in areas such as film for example. [music]

Leo Kretzenbacher:

One effect of going abroad or going to another country is to all of a sudden feel German, you know, the national identity, something that you don't have to think about when you're at home. At the time of the GDR was there a definite East German identity or a German identity? [music] The GDR, national anthem talked about einig Vaterland, Germany as the fatherland rather than East Germany as the fatherland. Was there the feeling that there is such a thing as an East German identity during the GDR?

Claudia Sandberg:

Once again we didn't travel abroad so you know there was not this question, are you German, are you East German? Another thing is that there was always this focus on this, this collective identity, on this, you know, on the collective, on the group. So you wouldn't really have that idea of being…, you, you were a DDR-Bürger, a citizen of the GDR, but you were not necessarily East German because you are not in touch with West Germans. So that sort of comparison or this reflection was just not there because you didn't have to, you didn't have to deal with that.

Alison Lewis:

Yeah and I think they thought of themselves as sort of the better Germans or the better Germany. So it was sort of almost like an either/or in many ways. I mean it wasn't like you were East versus West, it was like we are the real Germans or we are the legitimate Germans.

Claudia Sandberg:

And it was an identity. It was prescribed to you. It was some sort of collective kind of layer of identity, that what you have to be. No one asked you how you felt, what are you? This is what you are. This is, you know, this is your history, this is what we are. We are antifascist. We have other alliances with other brother states and other socialist countries. But there was not, never the question for your own private individual national identity.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

In West Germany, a lot of the identity was regionalized, so there was a very strong feeling of you Bavarians, or you northerners, or you from the Ruhr valley. Was there some sort of regional competition between, you know,  Saxons and Mecklenburgers or you Berliners?

Claudia Sandberg:

Definitely. So shall I give you a quick run through the different areas? Die Fischköppe, the ones in the North of course didn't talk very much. Didn’t say...

Alison Lewis:

The fish heads.

Claudia Sandberg:

The fish heads didn't say anything. Then you had the Berliners, who you know would always say anything, you know, had this very specific accent that was very careless, and then kind of the big rival - no one liked people from Saxony because of the accent. Of course, it's still going on, you know, jokes about this. And everyone talking about where did you go and have your vacation? Many people went to the Baltic Sea. This was the place to be. This is what this was. You were given kind of a spot this year, again by your workplace to be in a comfort, some sort of colony, you would never go to a hotel or anything. So we'd spend your holiday at the Baltic sea and right next to you were this couple with children from Saxony, so you knew right away of course where they were coming from and, and these children would say Vati instead of Papa. And it kind of, this was just, yeah. You know, regional identities definitely.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

You also mentioned that some of the state identity was superimposed from above. And I think that is very typical for authoritarian societies where you have, you know, one official identity and then you have a private identity. And very often that is also reflected in language. So there's a set of vocabulary that you use at official functions and there is a set of vocabulary or a way of speaking that you only do with family or friends that you trust. Whereas of course in the GDR it was very difficult to find out who, what friends you could actually trust. Is there anything that you remember about that? I mean, one thing I read is that Germany has a difference between an intimate address form "du" and that official address form "Sie" and that party communication was always with this “du” address form, party "du." But people really, when they went back to private mode, even with people who they were using the intimate address form in official context, they would go back to the distant "Sie," because that was a civil way of dealing with one another. But any other examples of the discrepancy between an official way of speaking and dealing with language and private language?

Alison Lewis:

Well, I mean if you're in the party then you had to call each other Genosse, comrade. So that was sort of an official way of saying, I know you're one of the party elite,

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Even the word "Kollege” was actually officially for the, for the state trade union. So again, colleagues from East Germany, when they came to West Germany, they were astonished that academics called each other "Herr Kollege", "Frau Kollegin," because they thought it was specifically for the GDR trade union, you know.

Claudia Sandberg:

There was certainly a specific terminology, even set phrases, set sentences that you would use and you were just trained to do that. There was this private place and there was the public place, and this went with a specific language that you always knew what was right. You know, in any kind of situation, which was in certain ways also something that kind of made language absolutely poor. First of all, because we didn't have a discussion culture. You wouldn't discuss anything of course. You know, you knew what you had to say. And in some ways, of course you could give your opinion on small matters, but this was apparent after the wall came down and people could not express themselves. You know, they didn't have any words, they… because they didn't have any voice, you know, you don't have any voice.

Claudia Sandberg:

And you know, no one ever asked you about anything. And I remember specifically this “Winter adé”, this was a documentary by an East German documentary filmmaker Helke Misselwitz who was talking to women from all walks of life about their expectations. And something that struck me there was that people wouldn't say "mein Sohn" when they talk about their family, er, they would say “der Sohn”,

Alison Lewis:

Not “my son”.

Claudia Sandberg:

Not my son. You know, that's even, that's even, Oh yeah, “der Sohn, die Tochter:, “Die Tochter ist jetzt auch schon aus dem Haus”, ‘the daughter has, you know, already left home’ to somehow it is kind of putting a distance and not accepting their own identity, not accepting, you know, kind of their own voice. And also kind of talking, not in set, in worn out phrases but definitely in a very kind of basic language. And that was very sad to see. I mean, and of course it was one of the stereotypes about the Ossi not being able to express themselves.

Alison Lewis:

Well, it was a very authoritarian society. It really was. I mean I'm struck by some very odd social habits that seemed to develop over the period and it's not so much to do with language, but to do with this sort of not having a voice, and how do you compensate for not having a voice. There was this odd thing that that developed called an Eingabe; if you really were very angry about something and you wanted to protest about something and it could be something about your family not being able to do something, not getting into university, or some other sort of thing that you were not happy about in your neighbourhood. Instead of sort of going to the local authorities or trying to address it in a way that we would, they would write an Eingabe, it;s like a sort of a petition.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Submission.

Alison Lewis:

Submission, petition, to the top and it goes straight to the top. You'd write to Honecker, you'd write to the head of state. So instead of writing to your local MP, or even just, writing maybe to the university or to your school, you go to the top. And then you'd have a long litany of complaints - in fact there were people who were very articulate who used to write in the village, I think they used to write "Eingaben” for people and, and it's sort of an odd thing really. And sometimes it would have the desired effect, and sometimes of course it would just be tossed in the bin. And it's this sort of arbitrariness of you didn't know, there was no fair process, no transparency, and no transparency of processes. And you could never expect there to be transparency. So you'd sort of launched these odd complaints, and sort of send them off into the mail and never really know, and sometimes… This whole arbitrariness really has me quite sort of fascinated, that you just never really knew if you would get any sort of a justice or fairness. And you might, but you might not.

Claudia Sandberg:

Yes. Again, all of this processes were not transparent, and people just accepted that. They did not…

Alison Lewis:

Found ways of working around.

Claudia Sandberg:

Found ways of working around, you know, there were these Eingaben, but who made use of that, and then you'd also have to find kind of creative ways, of course the phrasing, your anger would, you could not be too, kind of too critical, it had to be in a way that maybe could be resolved.

Alison Lewis:

And use the jargon.

Claudia Sandberg:

Exactly.

Alison Lewis:

Some socialist jargon and couch it in those terms.

Claudia Sandberg:

But then in some sense you know it also have to accept your fate. If you had applied for a place at the university and you wanted to study medicine or pharmacy, and you were just then accepted into a program to become a history teacher,

Alison Lewis:

Or theology.

Claudia Sandberg:

Or sociology, it's just you put up with it, er, you take it on your leave it.

Alison Lewis:

Because it didn't really, whether you got into university didn't necessarily depend only on your marks, it depended on your attitude, and that what that meant was your conformism

Leo Kretzenbach:

And on your parents.

Alison Lewis:

And on your parents' background.

Leo Kretzenbach:

If your parents were middle class or academic, you had it difficult to actually get a place at a university.

Alison Lewis:

That's when you'd be offered a place to study theology.

Claudia Sandberg:

Yes, there was, there was certainly kind of the perfect profile that you, that you could have but you would still not be accepted in your university. Let's say, I'll take my own case. I was probably, I was working class or my, my parents were farmers actually, so you know, fairly low social class and they kind of had good marks in school. I was at with the pioneers the kind of Junge Pioniere. I was kind of top level.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

That is the youth organization.

Claudia Sandberg:

Exactly. You know the one with the blue coloured….

Alison Lewis:

Blue scarves.

Claudia Sandberg:

And then after that the Thälmann-Pioniere, which were the red scarves, again at the top, you know, I was, I had the perfect CV, let's say. At the same time, I mean I wanted to study medicine, but at the same time I knew I would never get a place because I didn't have the kind of necessary connections.

Alison Lewis:

You weren't, family not in the party, you would have had to have been...

Claudia Sandberg:

My family was in the party. Yes. You know, all of this was kind of in place, but still there was something else that you have to have. In the end there was still, you had to be closer to the top, closer to the centre, and I had the perfect score, but still: impossible.

Alison Lewis:

Maybe you got bad marks on Marxist-Leninism, which was a subject! Maybe you just got bad marks for that.

Claudia Sandberg:

You know, at school it wasn't Marxist-Leninism yet. It was “Staatsbürgerkunde”.

Alison Lewis:

“Staatsbürgerkunde. That's right, Marxist-Leninism was for at university.

Claudia Sandberg:

This was all at university level.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Studies,

Alison Lewis:

Citizens studies?

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Or citizenship studies.

Claudia Sandberg:

Citizenship studies, I would probably translate it.

Alison Lewis:

You did that.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Yeah. So this sort of frustration that comes out in an authoritarian state of this discrepancy between official world and private world and not, never knowing, being dependent on the benevolence of officials and so on. That of course had the outlet of private jokes very often and very often political jokes. That was the case in the Nazi time. And, and I think it was the case in the Eastern bloc. I mean, I've got a lot of friends from Romania who told me their jokes. I know you know one of two jokes. One very famous one is a very early one in Stalinist time in the GDR where one comrade asked the other comrade, "How is the official definition? Are the Russians our friends or are they our brothers?" And the other one says, "of course they’re our brothers, you can pick your friends." And then there was the other one that said the rabbit is running like crazy through the woods and the hedgehog says, hang on, why? Why are you running so fast? And the rabbit says, Oh, there's a new directive, they're going to shoot all rabbits with three legs. And the hedgehog says, well you've got four legs. What's your problem? – Well, first they shoot and then they count! Stuff like that. Do you remember any, any GDR jokes?

Claudia Sandberg:

I'm very bad at telling jokes, but jokes like that, they were, you know, kind of placed even in, I remember kind of family shows like “Der Kessel Buntes” that were running on a Saturday and everyone would be sitting there and watching it because at the end of it they wouldn't probably have invited an international star like Tina Turner. So you know, we kind of endured all that schlager and all that stuff in order to get maybe a bit of Tina Turner, but it was moderated by one or two persons and, and sometimes they would have kind of jokes like that, you know, you have this kind of political criticism placed at this level, you know, in a very kind of entertaining way. There were a lot of jokes in terms of kind of political terms, but also about the scarcity of resources.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

So looking back to the GDR, we might want to conclude our little discussion with the question, what, what will remain? So there was 40 years of GDR, almost 30 years that the wall was standing, 30 years since the wall has fallen. Next year we will celebrate 30 years of German unification. What will remain, what is the heritage of the GDR?

Claudia Sandberg:

I don't know what will remain, but I think of course, you know, someone from East Germany would always say kind of this, the solidarity kind of the, the values of being a much closer society where people would be watching out for each other, being maybe more resourceful, more creative with resources because there were not enough. But I think what is missing with everything that kind of came after it's a little bit, this idea of there is some sort of hope. There is some sort of utopia for kind of, for a better future because this was something that…

Alison Lewis:

Some alternative.

Claudia Sandberg:

Some alternative. Of course that's completely lost. a different way of living together kind of all as a society, and kind of beyond and below, you know, all the jokes and all the criticism, many people kind of bought into this, not everyone of course.

Claudia Sandberg:

And then again you know we need it more different jaded view of the GDR and I kind of did many people in many walks of life and the many ways in which people kind of put hope into this and going to many projects they have. And I think this is still a very uniform way of remembering. But I think there was always the sense of kind of socialist, socialism or a way to reform this and we can have at least at the end of the 1980s there were - a lot of potential, a lot of ideas, a lot of manifestos coming out, because this was the time where kind of everything crumbled and it was, it was maybe a kind of a short moment of: I think we can change this. It doesn't have to be necessarily kind of a market society. We don't have to latch on to the FRG as it is.

Alison Lewis:

West Germany.

Claudia Sandberg:

West Germany. As it is portrayed now, that is, this was kind of an automatic step. It wasn't like this. And so that got completely lost and also in the memory culture that we have now and it maybe needs to be restored and revitalized.

Alison Lewis:

I am a little bit worried at the moment that we will remember it only for the sort of the harmless things, the everyday things, remember it too nostalgically? I think we're seeing a bit of a shift in memory from, the first 10 years I think we're dominated by memory of a dictatorship, and how, when we discovered the extent of the repression, the surveillance, the extent of the victimization of people. And there was a very quick process really, in which people's victim stories were heard. And that was very, very quick, the first 10 years. And I think about 10 years after then this ostalgie nostalgia kicked in. And I can understand that, that, you know, people were starting to remember fondly the gherkins, the nice things and just remember that things that they had lost. And you know, it's very rare that sort of the whole country disappears for a country.

Alison Lewis:

And so I can understand the ostalgie and I don't mind it when it comes to everyday life and to consumer goods. But where I do worry is where it's extended to the political system. And I do actually worry, and we probably don't agree on this about nostalgia for the economics. And I mean I know it is nice to have cheap, free everything, but there is always an economic price. So I sort of think it is fine to have nostalgia for certain things. I do worry about trivialization, Verharmlosung, as they say, trivializing the politics and some of the bad economics that happened, and perhaps we need a very sort of differentiated memory of the past where we recognize the suffering of those who had the courage, let's face it. All those people who were forced to go into exile to ended up in Hohenschönhausenin the prison suffered for their courage and for standing up for things they believed in. And, and I, I worry that we might forget those people's voices.

Claudia Sandberg:

I always tell my students it this, this ostalgie nostalgia was necessarily also because it was a mourning process. All these things and events happened so fast.

Alison Lewis:

It disappeared so quickly,

Claudia Sandberg:

It disappeared so quickly.

Alison Lewis:

It's inevitable.

Claudia Sandberg:

And everyone was, so, not everyone, but many people were sort of euphoric about the changes. And then of course this disappointment set in and it was some sort of necessary face, it was not only about products. Of course there was a manifestation in the everyday life and they kind of remember. It was a mourning process and after a while of course this was also kind of done, but it was in a way it was necessary to kind of come back to this and, and maybe to, to bury the GDR in a way. What I don't find productive about this being a dictatorship because you know, it makes everything just victim or perpetrator, and there was a lot of things and lot of experiences, a lot that happened in between. And while we do need to remember, the suffering and there is, it kind of, it freezes a little bit kind of the view and the access into many, many dimensions that were the GDR. And maybe as the last sentence, I think no one wants the GDR back.

Alison Lewis:

Mmm-hmm.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

Can we agree on that?

Alison Lewis:

Honestly, I think that's true. I don't think people want it back.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

I think everyone agrees on that. No one really wants it back.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

So that concludes our little discussion about everyday life in the GDR and what remains of the GDR. Thank you very much Alison.

Alison Lewis:

Thank you for having me.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

And Claudia. Thanks Claudia.

Claudia Sandberg:

Thank you.

Leo Kretzenbacher:

That's it for this episode of The Secret Life of Language. My thanks to our guests, Professor Alison Lewis and Dr Claudia Sandberg. Be sure to keep up with every episode of The Secret Life of Language by following us on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Producers for this episode where Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param of Profactual and Gavin Nebauer. The Secret Life of Language is recorded and mixed at Horwood Recording Studios by Gavin Nebauer and is a podcast from the University of Melbourne's School of Languages and Linguistics. It's licensed under Creative Commons, Copyright 2019, The University of Melbourne. I'm Leo Kretzenbacher. Thanks for listening and auf Wiederhören. [music]