The GDR existed for four decades and ended on October 3, 1990. But relics still exist. Photographer Andreas Metz tracked down the “East Places” by bicycle. Before it’s too late.
Who does not know the (East) Berlin television tower: it is 368 meters high, when it was inaugurated on October 3, 1969, it was a symbol of the achievements of socialism in stone. At least the unit party SED believed. But 21 years later, the GDR was a thing of the past, as was socialism.
The Berlin TV Tower is still there, a clearly visible tourist magnet in the middle of the reunited capital Berlin. But much other evidence of the GDR has now disappeared. Or quite hidden, like the stone Lenin head that photographer Andreas Metz discovered one day in the woods near Fürstenberg / Havel. Like Lenin’s utopia of society, his bust is not doing very well either: it is badly weathered, its nose is tattered.
Photo series with 19 photos
For Andreas Metz, however, the find was a moment of happiness. The passionate photographer has been traversing East Germany for some time in search of the large and especially smaller testimonies of the GDR. In his book “East Places. On the Disappearance and Recovery of the GDR” he has documented hundreds of testimonies of life in East Germany.
The GDR did not have a “bright” future
Be it the oversized mural “The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy” that once hung in all its might on a building of the mining company Wismut that mines uranium for comrades in the Soviet Union. And now stands on a huge meadow of the former Beerwalde dump in Thuringia. Lonely and desolate, yet with a touch of faith in progress that once inspired creator Werner Petzold’s principal.
Another find is quite small, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the obvious landmark of the Berlin TV Tower. The geographic center of the former workers ‘and peasants’ state at Bad Belzig, between Potsdam and Magdeburg. Symbolized by a marking in concrete.
But why does the native West German Metz devote himself to the legacies of the GDR? “I find it very appealing to capture things that are inconspicuous or threatened with disappearance at least once,” explains the photographer. In addition, Metz has had a relationship with East Germany for quite some time, he lives in East Berlin. Where the traces of the GDR are gradually fading. During the three years that he worked alone on “Ost Places”, they got fewer and fewer.
In Metz ‘Kiez, for example, the old neon sign at the intersection of Am Friedrichshain and Greifswalder Strasse has disappeared. It was designed in the form of a cassette, advertising the state-owned Stern-Radio Berlin. The factory was closed in 1990.
GDR instead of Italy
But not only the big city of Berlin attracted Metz, but the rest of East Germany also left the photographer by bicycle and regional train. And eventually took about 10,000 photos. However, he could not photograph everything he had planned. “I really wanted to visit the former Rheinsberg nuclear power plant,” says Metz. “I was also at the gate, but unfortunately that was not possible at that time.”
Lenin’s bust: The discovery in the forest was a stroke of luck for Andreas Metz. (Source: Andreas Metz / Eulenspiegel Verlag)
But again the question: why is Metz so interested in the past of East Germany? “I think you shouldn’t look at the GDR exclusively from negative aspects,” replies the photographer, who first went to East Germany in 1987 as a schoolboy. A school trip to Rome was unsuccessful, so it went to Dresden, Weimar, Erfurt. The beginning of a long passion.
“Of course the GDR was also an unjust state, with a Stasi, a wall and prisons,” said Metz. “But also a state in which millions of Germans have spent a large part of their lives and have shaped their daily lives with a lot of dedication and creativity.” Metz wants to keep this story photographically, for better or for worse. For example in the form of the large wall mosaics, which, of course, offered a lot of art in ideological terms in the freely accessible space for the citizens of the GDR.
“Socialist legacy and today’s modernity”
But what place especially impressed Andreas Metz on his travels through the east of the republic? “Halle-Neustadt,” he says without thinking too much. “You have heard and read so many bad things about this part of the city. For example the massive emigration of residents, the demolition of many buildings. But today Halle-Neustadt is again a very young, vibrant part of the city and a laboratory where the socialist heritage and our present time Modern are connected in an exciting way. “
Andreas Metz does not want to teach or educate people. What he has in mind is a more active involvement in the history of the workers and peasants state. Before his last testimony can be gone in the future.
Andreas Metz selected hundreds of photos of relics from the GDR for his book “Ost Places”, some of the best can be found in the photo gallery above. Or click here.