East Berliners Remember


Testimony of five  East Berliners about life in the Soviet occupied part of the city.


  • Hans R. is a cabinetmaker, thirty-seven years old. He was a corporal in the Wehrmacht and fought in the winter campaign in Russia. He is married, and he and his wife have a ten-year-old son. He wears his thick blond hair short and straight back. His eyes are calm and steady, and he has the blunt, quiet hands of a craftsman. Hans R. was born in the East German city from which he fled, and he lived there all his life except for his army service.
  • Dieter S., twenty-one years old, has classic German good looks: blond hair, clear blue eyes, a fine nose, and a square chin. His father was killed in action, and his mother died after the war. He grew up with relatives in East Berlin and received a secondary school education. He belonged to various Communist youth organizations as the price of securing this education. Dieter crossed the East Berlin-West Berlin frontier the day before the wall went up.
  • Ursula F., twenty-five years old, is a small, pretty girl with a mass of auburn hair. She has a quick laugh and a mobile, expressive face. She speaks a witty German, full of unexpected phrases.
  • Ilse R. is a strong-faced woman of about fifty with iron-gray hair and an air of dignified reserve. She was dressed in a neat gray suit, shiny from much pressing. Her daughter Inge, blonde, looks a good deal like her mother. The younger daughter, with hair dyed black, has a thinner and finer face and must favor her father, from whom Ilse R. has been divorced for five years.
  • Georg K., about forty-five years old, is a graying, untidy, impatient man. He is much absorbed in his profession and seems to be wholly apolitical. He and his wife have two sons, seventeen and eighteen.