This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany
This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany

This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany

Tim Flight - December 18, 2019

This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany
An edition of Mosaik from January 1976. Roman und Comicladen

4. East German kids loved a comic called Mosaik

On a lighter note, most East German children read a comic called Mosaik. Set up to rival Western comics, Mosaik is still published today, 64 years after its first issue. Mosaik first followed the adventures of the Digedags, a socialist response to Mickey Mouse, then the Abrafaxe after 1975. The Abrafaxe went on adventures East German children couldn’t, and promoted a socialist German identity amongst their fans. However, Mosaik didn’t make this message too obvious, providing relief from the sort of tedious propaganda encountered at school. Through Mosaik, children also learned about science, geography and history.

This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany
A copy of Sibylle, a GDR magazine aimed at women, from the 1980s. Vestoj

3. The GDR accepted birth control and premarital sex as part of life

The GDR had a very liberal attitude towards sex. Unlike the more conservative West, East Germans saw premarital sex and the use of contraception as normal and acceptable. Women, in particular, reported having much happier romantic lives before the Reunification of Germany. This isn’t a coincidence. With employment for women and a simple divorce system, East German women had more freedom (ironically) in their personal lives. Women could leave bad or abusive relationships freely, without worrying about the economic impact. The decline of the Church’s influence in the GDR also eradicated the guilt surrounding sex.

This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany
West Berliners attempt to smash through the Berlin Wall, 1989. The Guardian

2. The Berlin Wall literally fell on November, 9, 1989

In 1989, national financial difficulties, and the collapse of communist regimes nearby undermined the SED’s rule. People could finally speak out against the GDR and demand reforms. The SED panicked. At a press conference on November, 9 a GDR politician announced East Germans had unlimited free passage to West Germany, effective immediately. He’d meant citizens could apply to leave, but East Germans took him literally. A mob immediately forced unprepared soldiers to let them through the Berlin Wall. East and West Germans started demolishing the hated Wall that very night. Germany officially Reunified in 1990.

This is What Life was Like in Communist East Germany
An empty nudist beach in Germany. CityLab

1. East Germans loved getting naked

A surprising one to end our article. Germans are associated with nudity around the world, and naturism was especially popular in the GDR. When vacationing, East Germans were fond of enjoying the outdoors entirely naked. So many people enjoyed Freikörperkultur (‘Free Body Culture’), as it’s known in Germany, the SED couldn’t do anything about it. Like jeans, nudity became a quiet means of showing resistance against the State. Although Freikörperkultur predates the GDR, it’s still seen as more of an East German thing today. Keep an eye out for signs reading ‘FKK’ if you visit Germany…


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Sourcing Journal – How Jeans Became A Symbol of Youth Empowerment During the Cold War

Berlino Schule – Kurt Drummer: The Most Followed Chef By DDR Housewives

History – Why Stalin Tried to Stamp Out Religion in the Soviet Union

Associate Press – History On Screen: East Germany Through Its Filmmakers’ Eyes

Wired – House of Horror: Inside the Infamous Stasi Prison

CNN – Nudity In Germany: Here’s The Naked Truth

DPA International – What’s Causing the Decline In Germany’s Fabled Nude Culture?

Betts, Paul. Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Fulbrook, Mary, ed. Becoming East German: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler. New York: Berghahn, 2013.

Gieseke, Jens. The History of the Stasi: East Germany’s Secret Police, 1945-1990. New York: Berghahn, 2014.

Grieder, Peter. The German Democratic Republic. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Vaizey, Hester. Born in the GDR: Life in the Shadow of the Wall. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.