Representations of the Everyday and the Making of Memory: GDR History and Museums
Exhibitions about the history of the GDR seem to be of ongoing interest to the public in Germany and to tourists as well. When arriving by plane at a Berlin airport and even before collecting one’s luggage, one is faced with an invitation to a ‘GDR museum’. This exhibition, shown in the centre of the capital, reports more than one-and-a-half million visitors during the last five years (www.ddr-museum.de, last accessed 2 August 2011). Another exhibition presented in the open air on Berlin’s central Alexanderplatz is continuously crowded by passers-by who intensively inspect pamphlets of the Peaceful Revolution against the backdrop of East Berlin’s main shopping district. So-called GDR-museums have been founded in quite a number of smaller towns all over eastern Germany during the last 15 years and still find their audience. If one accepts the inclusion of the memorial sites in this list, one certainly has to add the visitor-packed Wall Memorial site at Bernauer Straße as well as the Eastside Gallery, a few hundred yards of the Berlin Wall that were decorated by artists in 1990 and are probably one of the most photographed sights by foreigners visiting Berlin. There is a lot of GDR in Berlin today, and it seems to be worth describing what a visitor to Germany interested in contemporary history might be able to explore. One thing may be stated in advance: there is no single, outstanding ‘Museum of the History of the GDR’, but different sites and organizations with complementary or even competing stories to tell. Consequently, one of the objectives of this chapter is to give an overview on what can be seen — and what cannot.
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