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YouthPhoto (detail): Harald Hauswald @ Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung

Youth

You have heard, most likely, of the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend/Free German Youth), an organization that counted over 75 percent of the East German youth between 14-25 years old among its ranks. But what were East German youth interested in, beyond FDJ? What were their concerns? How did they express resistance? How did they negotiate the space between control/surveillance and their desire to simply have fun? What did their West German peers think of their East German contemporaries on the other side of the border- and vice versa? 

Student Panel Diana Erinna Natalie Borman Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Growing up in the East, Growing Up in the West

Sofia Sepulveda-Pizarro (East Brunswick High School, NJ) Luiza Vazquez (Mt. Lebanon HS, Pittsburgh), Fox Rifenberg- Stempel (Shaker HS, NY) and Bert Mocklebust (Mahopac High School, NY) engage in a vivid conversation with Diana Erinna and Natalie Bormann about their experiences growing up around the same time, but on different sides of the border.

 East and West: What remains? Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

What remains of East and West?

David Gill, German Consul General in NY, discusses with Sofia Sepulveda-Pizarro (East Brunswick HS, NJ), Anna Mares (Mt. Lebanon HS, Pittsburgh, PA), Jack Schneider (Shaker HS, NY) and Donald Zoffel (Mt. Lebanon HS, Pittsburgh PA) the East German educational system, religion, peaceful demonstrations, fake news and obstacles in unifying East and West.

David Gill Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Youth activism

Sofia Sepulveda-Pizarro, East Brunswick HS in NJ asks German General Consul David Gill: Should young people be actively involved in politics and current issues? What role should the government play in encouraging teen activism?

Mario Röllig Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Meet Mario

Mario Röllig, born 1967 in East Berlin, takes you on a tour of his childhood and teenage years in the GDR. In German with English subtitles. 

Open Memory Box © Open Memory Box

My Ducky

Memories of a young girl on summer vacation just outside Berlin, in the GDR. The girl, now a woman, reflects on her past life. In German with English subtitles. 

Ideology or Reality? Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Freedom, restriction and coded language

According to GDR propaganda, East Germany was a state for young people. The balance between allowing them some freedoms, while restricting others, proved tricky. Though basic needs like food, shelter and clothing were met, the GDR youth had to negotiate the space for all other extras that make life fun, like music and fashion and often applied coded language and subversive messages to address these.

Total Freedom of Speech: East Germany Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Freedom of Speech: East Germany

The GDR state labelled "negative decadence" those youth cultures that it thought were vestiges of Capitalism that had not been expunged. Skinheads were literally a punch in the face of a state that called itself anti-fascist. 

 

East German Youth Culture Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Freedom of Speech: West Germany

The restriction of freedom of speech is taken for granted in the case of East Germany, but what about West Germany?

East German DIY Culture Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

East German DIY Culture

How did young people in East Germany's shortage economy get the latest in cool clothing and music?

Youth Culture and Political Rebellion Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Youth Culture and Political Rebellion

How did young people in the GDR negotiate their place within GDR's society? 

East German? West German? Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

East German? West German?

Do young Germans nowadays still self- identify as East- German or West German? In German with English subtitles. 


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