In the American history class I’ve been teaching this term we were recently talking about the importance of the kitchen and its fittings as a symbol of Cold War-era consumerist American society in the 1950s. Thus, the opposite of that caught my eye when I saw it on 360cities.net. This is a restored residential kitchen in a period apartment dating from the Communist era. It’s on display at the DDR (GDR) Museum in Thale, Germany.
Check out the full panorama and look at some of the fascinating details that tell us a lot about what the life of ordinary people was like in Communist Europe at this time. There are no modern appliances unless you count the ancient refrigerator (you have to click the full panorama and pan left to see it). The washing machine is two rollers across a barrel, the way washing machines were in the early part of the 20th century. The stove is probably gas, but given how shoddy appliances were in the Eastern Bloc I would probably feel pretty reticent trusting my own and my family’s health to the gas pipes and venting system in this apartment. Yet this would be a very spacious apartment by East German standards, and a family would probably wait years to get it.
Consumerism certainly does have its problems, and the U.S. side of the Cold War divide wasn’t the idyllic paradise that 1950s politicians made it out to be. But it would suck to have to cook in this kitchen, especially in an era where technology and consumer goods should have been improving the quality of life for everybody. It’s a pretty fascinating look at real life in the East.
This photo was taken in June 2012 by Burkhard Koerner.