About the Exhibition

East Berlin had many faces: it was the centre of power for the ruling SED (Socialist Unity Party) and a showcase for the GDR. At the same time, it offered space for many different lifestyles and a diverse culture. How did these contradictions shape people's everyday lives and what were the lived experiences that defined them? Ost-Berlin. Die halbe Hauptstadt (East Berlin. Half a capital) takes you on a voyage of discovery from the end of the 1960s to 1989.

Museum Ephraim-Palais | Ost-Berlin - Die halbe Hauptstadt | Sonderausstellung

Video of Museum Ephraim-Palais | Ost-Berlin - Die halbe Hauptstadt | Sonderausstellung

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Exhibition trailer

Exactly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Stadtmuseum Berlin and the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF) are diving into the social and cultural life of the GDR's former capital city. The exhibition looks past both the nostalgia of East Germans and the aloof distance of West Germans, turning its gaze instead to the many facets of everyday urban life. A city of the past comes back to life, and the traces that it left throughout Berlin are brought to light.

The Foyer of the Ephraim Palace Museum @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | visualisation: Thomas Meter
East Berlin as a showcase for socialism @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | vsualisation: Thomas Meter
Presentation of a scale model of East Berlin @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | Visualisation: Thomas Meter
Simulation of the television tower's revolving restaurant in the exhibition @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | visualisation: Thomas Meter
View into one of the exhibition's rooms @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | visualisation: Thomas Meter
Scenes of East Berlin photographed in black & white @ Stadtmuseum Berlin | visualization: Thomas Meter

Late GDR society was marked by many contradictions, which were particularly visible in the everyday lives of East Berliners. For the SED, East Berlin was the centre of power. As the State's showcase for socialism, it had an enormous allure and brought a touch of cosmopolitanism into the otherwise very closed GDR. At the same time, East Berlin offered space for modes of living that countered the political norm. For dropouts, the capital was a longed-for destination; extreme leftists in the West saw it as an alternative, and many East German politicians and academics built their careers here.

The exhibition shows how these contradictions manifested in the city through a selection of fascinating original objects and photographs as well as film and audio documents, some of which will be on display here for the first time. Visitors are invited to embark on a multimedia journey of discovery into a vanished city. Though East Berlin has left traces throughout the contemporary city, it also faces the risk of disappearing completely.

Denim jacket with homemade lettering “No Power for Noone”
Denim jacket with homemade lettering “No Power for Noone” © & photo: Museum Lichtenberg


How many memories and stories does a city hold? A group of private individuals, collectors and staff members of Berlin's district museums will each be presenting a personally selected object that represents for them a special memory of East Berlin. New objects will be added each month, along with the stories they carry. These objects will gradually build a colourful, multi-faceted image of the city – a collage of memories that grows over the course of the exhibition.
Do you have an object of your own related to East Berlin that could contribute something special to the exhibition? Then we look forward to hearing your story! Just send a mail to mein@ost.berlin.

Berliner students and school classes will be accompanying the journey of discovery with their own projects. In cooperation with Berlin's district museums, the exhibition also extends beyond the Ephraim Palace Museum out into the city.

A joint exhibition by Stadtmuseum Berlin and the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam. With the kind support of the Lotto-Stiftung Berlin.