DDR Museum: travels through time and ideology

DDR Museum Berlin entrance

[Image copyright DDR Museum, Berlin 2019]

Let me start by saying that this is the best museum I’ve ever visited. It helps that I’m deeply connected to the material. But if you’re going to visit just one museum in Berlin, this is the one to see. 

The DDR Museum is super interactive, and offers visitors a deep dive into life in the former East Germany. If you do it right, preconceived notions of suffering under Stasi-enforced socialism will have been reinforced. But, you’ll also develop an appreciation for the pleasures and benefits the DDR offered as well. 

This museum-released video demonstrates the interactivity in a way my paltry pictures never could.

Knowing I was in for a treat, I rose early and headed over to the DDR Museum along the banks of the Spree. 

I’d heard this museum can fill up quickly, as it’s very popular with both German and international visitors. But, I also had plans to get through a couple of East German-themed museums during the course of the day. 

What to expect at the DDR Museum in Berlin

On arrival, I once again made use of my Berlin Welcome Card. And, once again, it simply wasn’t an issue. Then, I pushed into first exhibit floor, filled with light boxes of artefacts and just enough reading to illustrate the importance of each object. With drawers to open and buttons to push, it’s very easy to immerse yourself in the history without getting bogged down with the ideological side of it all. 

Trabi interior DDR Museum Berlin

Quickly, I learned that I would spend some of my limited budget purchasing the full guide to the exhibition, so that I wouldn’t need to rely on my own photos. Rather, I spent my time engaging with the exhibits. 

It’s truly fascinating to see the interior of a Trabi – an East German car with huge cultural significance (then and now). Though, the exhibit is super popular, especially with kids who would certainly rather clamour over an interactive car than spend time reading about which food staples were in short supply behind the iron curtain. 

For the past several years, I’ve had a growing interest in daily life in East Germany. I’m fascinated less by those attempting to flee to the West, than by those who knuckled down, making their lives work, albeit until totalitarian restrictions (and some pretty serious surveillance). 

Movies like Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) and Barbara, as well as series like Deutschland 83 and Line of Separation fuelled my curiosity. But, they also provided me with a filter to view exhibits and choose what to spend time with, when small things like this were desperately trying to catch my eye. 

Socialist propaganda poster at DDR museum

Which exhibits are the best?

There are no average installations at the DDR Museum. As you move through it smaller artefacts give way to curated rooms and alcoves like this one. If you’ve watched Das Leben der Anderen, you’ll be familiar with listening stations such as this one. 

listening station exhibit at DDR Museum

If you’ve not watched the movie, and somehow you’ve stumbled on this post, I really, really suggest stopping your day right now and spending the next few hours in front of the screen. The movie will explain this exhibit better – and why the DDR Museum is so intoxicatingly engaging – and why getting the guidebook is a must for East German history fans.  

Can’t get to the museum now, but want to get your hands on the guidebook? You can. It’s available as an ebook from the DDR museum. (No, I’m not making any money on the recommendation; I just truly find value in my copy.)

In the meantime, you can check out this short video, filmed in one of the exhibit rooms at the museum which mirrors the information and visuals found when visiting. 

Is this museum really that good?

I admit that I have a deeper interest in the subject of life in East Germany than most. Actually, I’ve yet to personally meet someone who wants to spend hours chatting about it as I do. But, I think it’s impossible to over praise the DDR Museum; it’s really that well done – and I’ve spent a lot of time in museums over the years. 

Each corner I turned, each interactive installation beckoned to me, and I wanted to touch everything, see everything. I didn’t want to leave. Even now, as I’ve read, watched and listened to more East German history, I really want to go back to this museum.

For now, as I did when I knew I needed to get to the Stasi Museum, I must content myself with the museum’s guidebook. But, it’s a strong urge to return; all I need is a fraction of an opportunity to do so, and I’ll make it happen. 

What you need to know about the DDR Museum

Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1 | 10178 Berlin

On the bank of the Spree river, opposite the Berlin Cathedral

S-Bahn

  • Alexanderplatz
  • Hackescher Markt

U-Bahn

  • Alexanderplatz

Bus

  • 100, 200, 245, TXL | Spandauer Straße
  • 300 | Lustgarten

Tram

  • M5, M4, M6 | Spandauer Straße

River cruise

  • DomAquarée

Daily | 9h00 to 21h00

  • Adults | € 9.80
  • Concessions | € 6.00
  • Under 6 | free

Concessions include children, students and persons with disabilities. 

Get 25% off adult admission with the Berlin Welcome Card

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