Virtual Socialist Reality

Last call for boarding to Cold War Berlin. Don’t forget your VR goggles.

Berlin

Who says time travel isn’t possible?

30 years later, Berlin Wall comes back to life with virtual reality – German startup offering visitors and history buffs an ‘authentic’ and immersive Cold War-era tour of the divided capital.

A packed bus approaches Checkpoint Charlie, the Cold War’s most famous border crossing, as grim-faced East German guards whisper among themselves about whether to hold you for questioning.

After a few heart-stopping minutes, you and your fellow passengers are free to pass into the smog, soot and shadowy intrigue of 1980s East Berlin.

Das Ost-Berlin vor dem Mauerfall ersteht für Touristen wieder auf. Mit VR-Brille kann man eine Stadtrundfahrt vom Checkpoint Charlie zum Palast der Republik unternehmen, vorbei an Gendarmenmarkt und „Ahornblatt”.

173 Stations

And 166 of them are ugly as sin. That’s Berlin’s subway system for you, folks.

Station

But, hey. Beauty is in the eye of the Schwarzfahrer (“black rider” or fare dodger). So enjoy them already or something.

The city’s U-Bahn system also felt the impact of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for nearly three decades. Many train lines pre-dated the Wall, so some of the West Berlin lines necessarily passed through East Berlin stations. These stations were closed and guarded, and became known as ghost stations. The guards were visible to the West Berlin passengers as the trains slowly moved through the dimly lit stations.  

Practice Your German Tonight

And your Cold War attitudes from the 80s, while you’re at it. Looks like we might be needing them again.

Deutschland 83

“Deutschland 83” premieres 11 p.m. Wednesday on SundanceTV.

SundanceTV’s “Deutschland 83” is the first German-language series ever broadcast on a U.S. network. The eight-part fictional spy thriller is set in 1983, when the then-split Germany was the hot spot for escalating nuclear tensions between NATO and the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin: “More than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles able to overcome even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems will be added to the make-up of the nuclear arsenal this year.”

Russian Propaganda? What Russian Propaganda?

The speaker of the Russian Duma has asked a parliamentary committee to study a proposal to condemn the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Annexation

Sergei Naryshkin earlier this week faced scathing criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimean peninsula when he spoke at the Parliament Assembly of Europe.

Russian news agencies say Communist deputy Nikolai Ivanov on Wednesday proposed a resolution to condemn what he called the “annexation” of East Germany in 1990. Ivanov said that unlike in Crimea, there was no popular vote to support the German reunification.

…Deutsche Welle, an international television and radio broadcaster akin to the British Broadcasting Corp.’s World Service, plans to launch a new multimedia English-language service called DWNews in April. Deutsche Welle President Peter Limbourg has said the new service is designed to “defy [Russian President Vladimir] Putin ’s propaganda.”

With A Little Help From My Friends

To keep Willy Brandt as Chancellor, the GDR was prepared to bribe members of German Parliament. Brandt’s intimate friend Egon Bahr (both SPD) negotiated with a GDR mediator in 1972 about payoffs for CDU and CSU parliamentarians. This has emerged in Stasi documents available to Der Spiegel. Brandt should thereby be kept in office. Bahr was State Secretary of the Chancellery at that time.

Brandt

And this is completely unrelated, of course, but for you history buffs out there: There was a very controversial Misstrauensvotum (vote of no confidence) in German Parliament back in 1972 which Willy Brandt won – with two decisive votes mysteriously missing for the conservative opposition that had proposed it.

“Das muss absolut verschwiegen bleiben.”

At Least It Wasn’t The NSA

The Unification Day celebrations are now officially over. Red-Red-Green coalition talks anyone?

STASI

Well what do you know? It turns out that the chief executive secretary of the Left Party in the Bundestag was a “top agent” of the Stasi. Sachen gibt’s die gibt’s gar nicht (what will they think up next?).

Left Party boss Gregor Gysi is absolutely shocked, of course, and just cannot understand how a person like that could infiltrate a political party like his.

But at least Left Party members are able to take solace in the fact that said agent was clearly not an insidious agent of North American imperialism (excluding Canada) and a rotten capitalistic scumbag opertive working for that reactionary bourgeois NSA spy system so in the news and up in our faces these days but rather an easy-going and progressive comrade type who was not at all forced to work for a quaint totalitarian state once located in the immediate vicinity but then inexplicably disappeared and was only trying to make the world a more, you know, social place to live

Schwerer Schlag für die Linke: Die Geschäftsführerin der Fraktion im Bundestag, Ruth Kampa, war offenbar eine Top-Agentin der Stasi. Fraktionschef Gysi will davon nichts gewusst haben.

He’s Back

I’m really starting to like this guy. Günter Grass has now become so predictably “bad” that he’s good.

Grass

This week provided yet more proof that the 85-year-old has jumped the shark. In a Wednesday appearance with this year’s SPD candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrück, Grass took it upon himself to blast Chancellor Angela Merkel and, in a verbal assault not without irony, to criticize her past as a member of the East German youth organization FDJ, the Communist Party’s version of the Boy and Girl Scouts.

In condemning Merkel for “tarnishing our relations with our neighbors in an extremely short amount of time” by virtue of the course she has pursued in the euro crisis, Grass said that her approach is a product of her political upbringing. “During her time in the FDJ, she learned conformity and opportunism. Under (former Chancellor Helmut) Kohl, she learned how to wield power.”

“Günter Grass, of all people, a man who kept his own membership in the SS silent for decades, is now criticizing Angela Merkel’s past in East Germany? That is nothing but an embarrassment.”

PS: Speaking of German heros, Edward Snowden is becoming more heroic here in Germany with every passing day.

„Das ist schon heldenhaft, sich gegen solche Organisationen aufzulehnen.”

Back Then When The World Was Still In Order

This is just what we need these days: Uplifting communist photography. More specifically, a nostalgic retrospective of art photography produced in communist East Germany.

They just don’t make German democratic republics like they used to.

Our Curricula Can’t Cover Everything

Happy German Unity Day or something.

The GDR is part of school curricula – at the end of the 10th grade, after the unit on World War II. Some teachers say they just never get to the GDR, because their students need more time to digest all of the heavy history that came before it. Other teachers and parents simply don’t want to relive their past.

“When I give tours like this now, [two decades] after the end of the GDR, I’m amazed at how little is known about it.”

The GDR wasn’t so bad, her godmother said, as long as you didn’t criticize the system; you could have a normal family life just like in the West.

But in general, many young people are unfamiliar with East Germany: a majority doesn’t know who built the Berlin Wall or whether Willy Brandt was a politician in the East or the West.

“The division of Germany and the postwar period are probably some of the most documented times in history. There are endless shelves full of books on the subject,” Hillmer said. “But the collective historical memory is at zero. All these countless anniversary events aren’t changing anything.”

“The main finding of our study is that young people today, from both the East and the West, are not really able to differentiate between democracy and dictatorship.”

What do you mean abandoned amusement park?

“Berlin is littered with relics of its communist past, with one of the eeriest being Spreepark, where the remains of what was once East Germany’s only amusement park still stand.”

This whole city is one big abandoned communist funfair, lady (or at least big chunks of that Wild East part of town are).

They are everywhere I tell you, all around us, immer und überall, like vampires, or even zombies if you prefer. But maybe that’s just me.

By the way, that park was way cool when it was still running. Really cheesy and schräg. But maybe that’s just me too.

The amusement park’s history is as colorful as its rides once were. The Kulturpark Plaenterwald, as it was known under communism, was also used as a meeting point by youths rebelling against the state’s collectivist system.