When the Wall came down

Peter Keup can still remember how it felt to hold deutsche marks in his hand.

“It was special to even touch this money,” he recalls. “It felt solid. The East German mark was thinner, flimsier.” As a boy growing up in East Germany, he was sometimes sent West German currency by his grandparents on the other side of the border, be it as a birthday gift or a reward for good school grades. Keup pored obsessively over the notes, minted with the mysterious-sounding titles and images of unknown cities and historical figures. “Names from behind the Iron Curtain, an invisible world,” he reflects. Their worth to him was far more than simply financial.

In any case, there was only so much the 16 million citizens of the communist German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) could buy in a sealed-off country of scarcity, shortages and joyless austerity. Tantalizing tastes of Western consumer goods could be obtained on the black market and at state-run “Intershops,” which only accepted hard currency, like dollars or deutsche marks (DM). Cigarettes, coffee, chocolate and pop records were on offer to those who could afford them. Others had to find their pleasures where they could. “I loved the smell of Persil and Ariel detergent in the clothes,” reminisces Nicole Hartmann, of receiving packages of hand-me-downs from relatives in the West as a young girl. “I always wanted to keep them unwashed.”

in November 1989, followed by the inner German border that ran from Czechoslovakia to the Baltic Sea, the gates to

Estás leyendo una vista previa, regístrate para leer más.

Más de TIME

TIME11 min. leídos
AWKWAFINA | 30 By Sandra Oh The first time I ever saw Awkwafina was in 2013. She was on the cover of KoreAm magazine, staring down the lens after rapping about her vag. I thought, Who is that? The first time I met Awkwafina was in 2015. She was at a
TIME2 min. leídosPolitics
News Ticker
A lawsuit brought by relatives of the victims and a survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, against Remington Arms, will proceed after the Supreme Court rejected a defense appeal on Nov. 12. A 2005 law has shielded gunmakers from suits over crimes
TIME4 min. leídosSociety
How To Reduce Medical Errors
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine—an organization regarded as an authority at the intersection of medicine and society—published a report, “To Err Is Human,” which found that up to 98,000 Americans were dying annually from medical errors. Twenty yea