Update: A Tourist in East Berlin 1971 – Photos

In 1971, my parents and I visited East Berlin shortly after my 13th birthday. The adventure was on a whim, but the experience was a “life changer.” If my memories of the city were not so vivid, I would attribute the faded, grey scenes to the camera and film I used at the time.  Even the weather seemed sunny on the west — mere feet from the wall that separated the sectors. Shortly after the first picture was taken, we entered Checkpoint Charlie where my Archie comic books were confiscated by an East German guard. My father was more concerned when they took our passports — which were returned. I hoped Betty, Veronica, Archie and Jughead made it to some East German pre-teen’s secret stash of contraband from the West.

UPDATE: I have added a photo from our visit to the Hotel Berolina at the bottom of this post. Excerpt from fascinating article about why we were encouraged to visit (link below).

“At first glance, Interhotel was a chain, comparable to Hilton or Radisson. But since the GDR was a socialist state, this chain was property of the government. The remarkable thing about them was that the beloved workers and farmers of the GDR weren’t supposed to stay in the hotels; they were mostly designated for the upper-class of the country and guests from non-socialist states. It was an easy way for the government to earn the foreign currencies it so desperately coveted, since the D-Mark was not accepted in the Interhotels. At the same time, the Ministerium of Staatssicherheit, better known by their secret intelligence service Stasi, made sure everything that happened in these hotels was monitored. There are even confirmed stories of Stasi members who pretended to be prostitutes in order to place western guests into compromising situations.”
http://www.centralberlin.de/blog/how-karl-marx-allee-lost-its-only-hotel-but-you-cant-tell/

Photographed with a Kodak Instamatic camera and Ektachrome slide film. 

 

Checkpoint Charlie, Entering East Berlin 1971

Boy on Bicycle, East Berlin 1971

Famiy Taking a Stroll, East Berlin 1971

Elderly Couple, East Berlin 1971

“Stalin’s Nose” Television Transmission Tower, East Berlin 1971

Automobile Carcass, East Berlin, 1971

 

I took this shot inside the lobby of the Hotel Berolina - one of the "recommended" stops during our visit. It was all about how the government wanted their society to be perceived by visitors from the West.

I took this shot inside the lobby of the Hotel Berolina – one of the “recommended” stops during our visit. It was all about how the government wanted their society to be perceived by visitors from the West.

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About jacullman

Excellent parallel parker & recovering optimist.
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3 Responses to Update: A Tourist in East Berlin 1971 – Photos

  1. I was there in 1971 also and my experience was even more drab. I was traveling with a study tour group and spent just one afternoon there with a teacher and another girl in our group. At the crossing not only did they take our passports (yikes!) but they separated us from our teacher (a man) for a short time. Once in East Berlin I didn’t feel any better. NO ONE was on the street (was it maybe a Sunday or a holiday??). We walked the empty streets and looked into the empty shop windows. Just large, cold, empty buildings. We had dinner at a dark and serious restaurant down a side street, below street level, filled with old people in grey clothing. The oppression hung heavy in the air.
    Never again…

  2. Jim says:

    I visited East Berlin in 1984. It’s amazing how the place looked the same in your photos, 13 years apart!

    • jacullman says:

      It was like visiting a time capsule back to the early 1960’s during our visit — it must have looked even stranger from the vantage point of the mid-1980’s. Can you post some of your pictures? It would be interesting to see them. Thanks for visiting.

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