My parents despised the politics of the GDR, but that was always a big secret. You weren’t allowed to talk about things like that. The fact that we watched West German television at home was also something I couldn’t mention at school. I still boasted about it to my classmates, because that was the only way to appear cool and daring. From time to time we received packages from our relatives in the Black Forest. When they arrived, it always felt like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one.
Once my mother was called in to school because I had secretly brought a Mickey Mouse notebook, a treasure I had received from the West, to school to show my classmates. The principal said I was reading subversive literature, and my mother was threatened with harsh punishment. The notebook was confiscated. I suspect that the principal secretly gave it to his own children. Things like that happened quite often. Any system of denunciation and double standards brings strange behavior to light. I remember that when we used plastic bags from the West, we had to turn them inside out so that the logo couldn’t be seen.
Despite my childish rebellion (sometimes I didn’t tie my blue scarf properly), I always wanted to live up to my duties as a Young Pioneer. Equality and uniformity were constantly drilled into us; group solidarity was everything, and I absolutely wanted to be part of a larger whole. How schizophrenic. But as a child, you don’t know any better.
The night the Wall fell, my parents took me to the West. We had illicitly lined up twice for the “welcome money.” When we went into a local supermarket, which we called a “Kaufhalle,” I was bowled over by the bright colors and abundance of products. I had never seen such full and exciting supermarket shelves before. Generally, the West seemed much more colorful to me. From the double welcome money, I was given a “Lila Pause” chocolate bar as a treat. And I was very happy about it.
© picture alliance/dpa-Zentralbild/Berliner Verlag