33 Vintage Photos That Provide A Peek Into Life In East Germany

Published August 2, 2015
Updated January 9, 2018

During the Cold War and especially after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, many parts of the world had few ways of fully ascertaining what life was like in East Germany. Indeed, the Eastern Bloc state was isolated from the West in both the physical and ideological sense for decades.

Today however, decades after the wall’s 1989 demolition, photographers from behind the Iron Curtain have been able to disseminate, via the Internet, images of this “closed” life in the East to the public, giving us visual insights into the many differences — and similarities, at least superficially — between East German and Western life:

Masked People Eating
A pantomime theater group eats on a rooftop in East Berlin, 1984.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Black Clothing Sunglasses
A German punk youth in East Berlin, 1984.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Large Portraits Flags
May Day celebrations take place at Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

War Rubble
World War II ruins in East Berlin display the words "never war again" in graffiti, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Many Fences
Armed guards watch over a public soccer event to make sure the hooligans in the crowd do not get out of hand.Harald Hauswald

Crowded Together
Three men riding public transit look dreary from a long day on the job.Harald Hauswald

Messages Anti Nazi
Anti-Nazi graffiti on a wall in an East German city, 1990.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

East Germany Performers
A group of female performers dancing for the audience at Friedrichstadt Palace in East Berlin, 1984.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

East Germany Train Car
An abandoned train car covered in graffiti on the streets of Prenzlauer Berg, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Kissing Vehicles
During an airshow in Magdeburg in 1974, a soldier and his girlfriend spend some personal time together.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Makeup Woman
Actors sit in the cafeteria of East Berlin's Berliner Ensenble theater, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Punks Hair
A "hooligan" in East Berlin, 1987.Harald Hauswald

Soldier Rooftops
A Soviet soldier looks over an event in the medieval city center of Bautzen.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Girl In Street
A young girl walks through the streets of Quedlinburg, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Many Soldiers
The Betriebskampftruppen paramilitary group marches through East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Long Hair Teens
A group of teens sit around a fountain in East Berlin, circa 1970s.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Water Fountains
A man rests under the dandelion fountain in Dresden, in the city center of Prager Strasse.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Anniversary Crowd
A rally celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of East Germany takes place in East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Leaning Against Tree
A hooligan passed out under a tree following a soccer match, while the others in attendance leave the area.Harald Hauswald

Store In Berlin
A storefront displays propaganda poster in East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Red Flags
Members of the paramilitary Betriebskampfgruppen group march in East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Fence Jumping
Hooligans jump a fence and rush the field after a closely fought soccer match.Harald Hauswald

Carrying Flags
Young men in a rainstorm with German flags at Alexanderplatz Square in East Berlin.Harald Hauswald

Large Missiles
A parade marking the 35th anniversary of the proclamation of East Germany held at the Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin, 1984.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Kids Ice Cream
Schoolchildren on a class outing having an ice cream break in front of a shop in Erfurt, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Red Shirts Drums
A Free German Youth Organization band plays in front of a statue of Vladimir Lenin in East Berlin, 1974.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Embrace Street
A young couple getting close on the sidewalk as a "hooligan" looks on.Harald Hauswald

Crowd Proclamation
A parade in East Berlin in 1959 marking the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of East Germany.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Bikers In Field
A group of youths gathers on their motorcycles near Hoyerswerda, 1975.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Dancing Blur
A couple out dancing. Location unknown.Harald Hauswald

Women In Field
Women planting potatoes in a field in 1975.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Carrying Baskets
Two men in East Berlin deliver coal to apartments in the city.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Soccer Ball Kids
Children playing with a soccer ball at the Berlin Wall in 1963.Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos

Next, take a look at this photo history of the Berlin Wall that divided East Germany from West throughout the Cold War.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "33 Vintage Photos That Provide A Peek Into Life In East Germany." AllThatsInteresting.com, August 2, 2015, https://allthatsinteresting.com/east-germany-photos. Accessed June 19, 2024.