More than 30 years have passed since German reunification, but there are still clear differences between former GDR and West German citizens, the formative experiences were too different. Although many of the older people still vividly remember the reality of life in the GDR, a younger generation associates little with this time outside of family stories.
An entertaining book, edited by Kai Witzlack-Makarevich, Coretta Storz and Nadja Wulff (who are not named on the book cover), invites you on a “journey through time” to everyday life in the GDR. The three have already come out with a publication on the cultural and regional history of the GDR. Based on the youth program of GDR television “Elf 99”, a total of 33 authors in 110 alphabetically arranged chapters take up cheerful but also oppressive things from 40 years of GDR.
At the beginning there is the eponymous Alfons Zitterbacke – the protagonist of a highly successful children’s book series by the author Gerhard Holtz-Baumert. Alfons, whose dilemma is only wanting good things, but always reaping scorn and ridicule for doing so, became the hero of the children, who often do not feel understood by the adults.
Under “A” follows another keyword that no longer invites you to smile: “anti-fascist protective wall”. The reasons for the construction of the wall, the suffering it brought with it and its surprising fall are briefly outlined.
And so it goes on, alternating between laughing and crying: harassment and anxious waiting if you had applied for an “emigration application”, the devastating state of the ecosystem under the heading “Bitter from Bitterfeld” or a reminiscence of the Trabbi under the heading “Racing cardboard from plastic”. Some of the official designations for everyday objects are unintentionally funny: In the campaign against everything Christian, the famous Ore Mountain angels became “year-end figures with wings”. Finally, more recent developments are also taken into account under the keywords “Monday demonstration” or “New forum”.
Even if the short chapters can only touch on more complex problems, this kaleidoscope of what was once a matter of course paints a very differentiated picture of the GDR.
Rezension: Dr. Heike Talkenberger
From Alfons Zitterbacke to Zonen-Gaby
The GDR in eleven 99 chapters
Edition Noack & Block, Berlin 2021, 236 pages, € 18.00