Posts Tagged ‘Lenin’

Has German Ostalgie run its course?

Monday, February 1st, 2016

German Ostalgie has largely run its course according to a recent poll commissioned by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster. Deutsche Welle aims at audiences outside of Germany and is available via television, radio and the Internet.

What is Ostalgie?

“Ostalgie” is a hybrid word that popped up following German reunification in 1990. It implies nostalgia for the former east and a longing for a prior way of life. After having been absorbed by, but not totally integrated into, West Germany, many former East Germans began to fondly recall the “bad” old days. They felt nostalgic toward certain aspects of their former lives that had suddenly disappeared: They felt a loss of community and equality; they missed certain foods that were no longer stocked; GDR-themed (East German) items became popular; memoirs of growing up Ossi (Eastern) began to fill bookstore shelves, they missed familiar television shows; and a general yearning for the lost socialist system of government developed.

Ostalgie turned into cash - Ampelmann Shop in Berlin-Mitte with the beloved East German traffic light man as a theme. photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Ostalgie turned into cash – Ampelmann Shop in Berlin-Mitte with the beloved East German traffic light man as a theme. photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

An example of Ostalgie was the 2003 German blockbuster movie, “Good- Bye Lenin.” In this fictional story, a young man tries to keep political reality from his mother after she suffered a serious heart attack and coma. His mother, a dedicated socialist, experienced the coronary event just before the fall of the Wall. When her doctor suggests that the slightest upset might cause another, possibly fatal, heart attack, the son invents elaborate schemes to sustain his mother’s illusion that the German Democratic Republic still exists. When the mother unexpectedly wanders outside while the son is asleep, she sees the giant statue of Lenin being helicoptered away (to read about the real-life fate of the Lenin statue, visit

Has Ostalgie run its course?

Twenty-six years later, the answer is – Mostly. The use of terms like “Ossis” for East Germans and “Wessis” for West Germans – so common after reunification – has greatly decreased. In September 2015, Deutsche Welle commissioned a survey to find out how Germans see their society 25 years after reunification. The pollsters questioned more than 1,000 Germans aged 18 and older about their attitude toward reunification. They found the younger generation to be more positive about the reunification than their parents and grandparents. The 45-59-age-group is the least satisfied. Seventy-nine percent of 18-29 year olds (born just before or after reunification) think that German reunification was an overall success while 69% of 45-59 year olds (in their twenties and thirties when the wall came down) agreed. When asked whether German reunification brought them personal advantages or disadvantages, 65% of 18-29-year-olds saw mainly advantages while 14% saw chiefly disadvantages. In the 45-59-age-group, 53% perceived primarily advantages while 21% saw predominantly disadvantages.

Overall, 90% of the 18-29-age-group felt that Germany’s reunification set a good example for other countries, while 77% in the 45-59-group felt that way. Differences between responses from the former East and West had decreased. It appears that the former East/West divide no longer shapes people’s identity and that Ostalgie is largely a thing of the past.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.




Comrade Lenin is back

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Twenty-four years after the 62-foot statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin was buried outside of Berlin, Germany, its granite head was unearthed this month and placed in a Berlin museum. Just last year, in August 2014, the Berlin senate had claimed that the giant statue was lost. At that time, authorities had maintained that they knew the general location of its burial place but had no records of the precise location. Digging up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs, to unearth Lenin’s head had seemed too costly an undertaking.

Who was Comrade Lenin?

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist revolutionary and politician. He played a senior role in the October Revolution of 1917. Under his administration the Russian Empire was dissolved and replaced by the Soviet Union. His political theories are known as Leninism. Admirers view him as a champion of working people’s rights and welfare. Critics see him as a dictator responsible for civil war and massive human rights abuses. In East Germany, Lenin was held up as a model communist.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue located?

Designed by Nikolai Tomsky, Lenin’s giant sculpture was originally located in Leninplatz (Lenin Square) in the Friedrichshain district of former East Berlin. A gift from the Soviet Union to East Germany, the monument was carved from Ukrainian red Kapustino granite. Three days before the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth it was unveiled before 200,000 guests. The celebration took place on 19 April 1970. Subsequently, in 1992, the square was renamed Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square).

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin, photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin,
photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Why was Comrade Lenin’s statue removed?

The East German government had commissioned the statue to express East Germany’s reverence for and gratitude toward Lenin. But following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Germans wanted to get rid of Soviet symbols, and Berlin’s then mayor Eberhard Diepgen ordered the statue to be removed. Critics argued that the monument was part of the history of the neighborhood and should remain. Nonetheless, two years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, demolition took place.

Since 1994, a bubbling fountain has taken the place of Lenin’s sculpture in the Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square). Now, water bubbles from five roughly hewn granite boulders in a group of fourteen that grace the square.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue buried?

The demolition of Lenin’s statue began in November 1991 and took several months. It was split in 129 sections and buried in a sand pit at Seddinberg in the district of Treptow-Koepenick, a southeastern suburb of Berlin. It seemed that Lenin’s statue would remain buried forever until historians started campaigning for its excavation last year. When the Berlin government claimed not to know where exactly it was buried, Rick Minnich, a Berlin-based US filmmaker, stepped up. He told the media that he knew its precise location because he had it partially unearthed a few years earlier for his 1990 film, Good-bye, Lenin.

Where is Comrade Lenin’s head now?

On 10 September 2015, Lenin’s 3.5-ton granite head was transported from the Seddinberg sand pit to Berlin’s Spandau Zitadelle museum. It is scheduled to be the showpiece in the Zitadelle’s exhibition, “Berlin and its Monuments,” which will display more than 100 original Berlin monuments from the 18th century to the fall of the Wall. According to Berlin officials, Lenin’s head will remain the only part of the statue to be excavated. All other sections will remain buried.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.