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View Full Version : East Germany. Then and now.



Mainecoonmaniac
05-08-2012, 12:23 PM
http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-59943.html

This photo gives me hope that things can be better when people are given freedom.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
05-08-2012, 01:48 PM
Fascinating, really.

However, I wonder how much of the decrepitude was the scars of Allied bombing vs. Communist lack of care. Any Germans/history buffs can comment?

Klainmeister
05-08-2012, 02:01 PM
Not to toot my own horn, but I do have a degree in this type of stuff and lived there for a while. The essential idea for the Russians was to Russify (not made up) east Germany. They saw updating existing homes/structures as a waste of resources and instead went about building new buildings in the Russian style, i.e. big ugly cement buildings meant for holding the most people at the least expense to the government.

Most of the "ugliness" seen by us modern Westerners was due to the lack of resources given to the population to restore/build/beautify their country. The Soviets didn't have any capital, and without money from exports--which was huge for East Germany prior to the war--things became decrepit and wasted.

Oddly, they did spend a good amount on cinema and have wonderful films. There's a resurgence of East German nostalgia showing it's head in more recent films such as Goodbye Lenin, where the good things about communism are being remembered and the worst parts, conveniently, forgotten.

bsdunek
05-08-2012, 07:41 PM
Why would anyone try to get ahead under "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". And, the government determines your needs, not you. We all need to get something for our efforts or we just get by with the least it takes to keep out of trouble.
You're right, Mainecoonmaniac. Too bad our government doesn't understand this.

amsp
05-09-2012, 04:09 AM
Very fascinating indeed. Thanks for the link!

Diapositivo
05-09-2012, 05:49 AM
The link is interesting but the political message is quite a bit forced. Urban decay and urban renovation exist anywhere. A similar portfolio could have been made in years past in districts of New York, Rome, London, Buenos Aires etc.

Many of those buildings were publicly owned (by the state, or trade unions, or whatever) and façade polishing was not a high priority in East Germany. Their promise was to give a house and a job to anybody. They did keep that promise. At their own game, they were not failing at all. Germans wanted to change game, which is fine, but the critique to East Germany on the playing ground where it did not play is unfair.

They were giving a house (a small apartment in a huge grey condominium, still is a house) to anybody for basically nothing, while in the Western world most people have to pay for 30 or 40 years to buy a house, or pay a rent which costs a substantial amount of wage, and when they don't pay we have a domino effect which is still sinking us.
Maybe in these sad days where 30% or more of youth is unemployed and have the nightmare of providing for house and children we should humbly recognise that Communism did take a lot of angst away from life, and that for many people (not for me) this is worth more than political freedom or the dream to become rich.

I am a convinced liberist-liberal pro-capital pro-free market visceral anticommunist person but to be frank I find a certain anticommunist propaganda preposterous.

Fabrizio

Mick Fagan
05-09-2012, 06:24 AM
Many thanks for the link, I visited East Germany in 1994 essentially as the restoration work was really starting to gain momentum.

It was fascinating to see and go inside buildings and note the bullet holes in buildings of more than one town or village I visited. One couple invited me up to their roof-top apartment, fifth floor with sloping ceilings and hot and cold depending upon the weather. In their building, parts of the stairwell walls still had a myriad of bullet holes in the falling apart plaster.

They told me that there was no possibility of doing any repairs as there was just no money, living in an occupied country is tough. I felt sorry for them, they were both about 25 years old and were virtually unemployable. Their schooling had been heavy into many things political, which was mandatory for all students. The western part of Germany, was basically shut off to them as their university education was considered valueless in West Germany as there were too few subjects they had studied, that mattered to western businesses.

In Jena, which had a thriving photographic industry in pre-war times, had by 1994, changed dramatically. I was told that there about 5,000 residents who held a PhD in Jena alone. I was led to understand that about 500 of them retained their jobs, or a job, the other 4,500 highly technically educated and trained people, were mostly jobless.

In the family owned Guest house on the outskirts of Jena that I stayed in, the waitress had a PhD in Chemistry. She had that job because not only did she speak German and Russian, she spoke English, which was essential for any hospitality staff in that place at that time. I learnt from this waitress that the head of the security forces from Russia spoke German, so it was a bit of a two way street. I found out years later, that the person she was talking about was Putin.

Sad situation.

Mick.

Mainecoonmaniac
05-09-2012, 12:12 PM
I am a convinced liberist-liberal pro-capital pro-free market visceral anticommunist person but to be frank I find a certain anticommunist propaganda preposterous.

Fabrizio

Just to make it clear, I believe that power falling into the hands of a few is bad. This goes for Communism as well as Capitalism. When that happens, this power is used to oppress the masses with both systems.

Klainmeister
05-09-2012, 12:51 PM
Whoa, level headed discussions of power and economy on the internet???

....nah, this can't be.

himself
05-09-2012, 03:31 PM
but regeneration isn't a question of freedom but of capitol.
and I guess aesthetic preference I suppose.

the communists built just as nice and fancy buildings (for themselves granted), they just looked different to what the people before wanted.
add to the fact that they wanted to build as much as possible in their image and not in the image of the bourgeoisie of the past, is it any wonder they wanted to let the past crumble away, literally and metaphorically.

and are those buildings that now look so nice still affordable for the people that lived in the area or have they been pushed out?

tyranny is tyranny.

ideology doesn't change that.

Ian Grant
05-09-2012, 03:45 PM
Just to make it clear, I believe that power falling into the hands of a few is bad. This goes for Communism as well as Capitalism. When that happens, this power is used to oppress the masses with both systems.

I think it's too easy to make it political, so I agree with you here.

There's areas in many countries of all political persuasions where areas become neglected for various raesons. There' a couple of threads on APUG of a US city where the public buildings are collapsing and decaying (maybe Detriot but if not one of the cities in that region) and I could take people to small areas here in the UK, and also in Greece and Turkey where you's find quite similar decay.

Ian

himself
05-09-2012, 03:52 PM
I think it's too easy to make it political, so I agree with you here.

There's areas in many countries of all political persuasions where areas become neglected for various raesons. There' a couple of threads on APUG of a US city where the public buildings are collapsing and decaying (maybe Detriot but if not one of the cities in that region) and I could take people to small areas here in the UK, and also in Greece and Turkey where you's find quite similar decay.

Ian

agreed, you just have to take a trip to my Abertillery - in the free UK

Diapositivo
05-09-2012, 05:39 PM
My point is that the urban renovation was linked, by the OP and probably by Der Spiegel, to the concept of freedom: How bad it was and how better it is now. And I agree it is overall better now, but not at all because of the urban renovation, or the urban development in general.

If urban development were correlated to freedom, then one could infer that the most free places on Earth are China, Saudi Arabia and Dubai*.

In Germany the idea of old architecture being "related" to Nazism was quite widespread in leftist circles. In cities governed by the left, such as Frankfurt, reconstruction took the American architectural "example" literally (skyscraper district, glass and iron, "international style") while in cities governed by the right the reconstruction of historical centres was, as far as possible, adherent to the old architecture.

That happened because architecture was perceived to reflect somehow a political manifesto and the left wanted to be "democratic", "westerner" more than "German". You have to consider this in light of the deep guilt complex in which the Germans buried themselves for decades (that would be another thread).

The Poles had no such "guilt" and to great pain and effort rebuilt the historical centre of Warsaw as it was.

Something similar happened in Rome. The EUR district, which is a beautiful IMO example of Fascist architecture, and of which the building in my "avatar" is an example, was left unfinished by the war. After the war, when the quarter was completed, basically all new buildings, with a few exceptions, were built in "international style". The contrast between the two styles is striking. Just like the "fascist" style was perceived, by anybody at the time, like a political manifesto, so the completion of the quarter was decided in a way to pass a political manifesto.

Although the Rolling Stones are quite far from my musical tastes, I wouldn't judge them unaccomplished musicians because they never wrote a Requiem or a string quartet. That was not their "purpose in life".

Fabrizio

* And the same goes if availability of capital were linked to freedom.

Klainmeister
05-09-2012, 06:06 PM
Excellent description Fabrizio. It is interesting how on the outskirts of such cities as Nuernberg you have the Western international architecture and the rest of the city was rebuilt so perfect, when you stand atop the central hill, the before, after and the current pictures they have posted of the city are surreal.

jesterthejedi
05-09-2012, 08:47 PM
Not to toot my own horn, but I do have a degree in this type of stuff and lived there for a while. The essential idea for the Russians was to Russify (not made up) east Germany. They saw updating existing homes/structures as a waste of resources and instead went about building new buildings in the Russian style, i.e. big ugly cement buildings meant for holding the most people at the least expense to the government.

Most of the "ugliness" seen by us modern Westerners was due to the lack of resources given to the population to restore/build/beautify their country. The Soviets didn't have any capital, and without money from exports--which was huge for East Germany prior to the war--things became decrepit and wasted.

Oddly, they did spend a good amount on cinema and have wonderful films. There's a resurgence of East German nostalgia showing it's head in more recent films such as Goodbye Lenin, where the good things about communism are being remembered and the worst parts, conveniently, forgotten.

Love that Film!

himself
05-10-2012, 03:40 AM
very well put Fabrizio