During the Cold War and following the construction of the Berlin Wall, 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 physical and ideological senses for decades.
Aided substantially by the Internet, years after the wall came down photographers from behind the Iron Curtain have been able to disseminate images of “closed” life to the public, giving us visual insights into the many differences – and similarities, at least superficially – between East German and Western life.
These stunning photos were taken by photographer Thomas Hoepker that show everyday life of East Germany in 1974.
Magdeburg, 1974. Uniformed couple flirting during a military air show in Magdeburg.
East Berlin. The rear window of a “Trabbi” (Trabant) car with a decorative plastic cushion.
East Berlin. 1974. Two men deliver brown coal to apartment blocks in Berlin / Prenzlauer Berg.
Erfurt. 1974. An outing of school children has ice cream in the town center.
Bautzen. A Soviet soldier takes in the view of the medieval town center from a church tower.
Leipzig. Rokoko house “Zum Kaffeebaum”, a historic cafe downtown.
East Germany, Karl Marx Stadt. Three women walking on the sidewalk in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz).
Wernigerrode, Harz, the medieval town center.
East Berlin. 1974. A Free German Youth Organization band plays at a Lenin Statue in front of new concrete buildings.
East Berlin. 1974. A window of an orthopedic shop with patriotic decorations in Berlin Mitte.
East Berlin. 1974. A boy playing. Paintings on asphalt in a school yard.
East Berlin. Adolescents sitting at the fountain on Alexanderplatz.
Bautzen. 1974. Traditional Easter Riders of the Sorbic minority.
Bautzen. 1974. Traditional wedding procession of the Sorbic minority.
LŸbbenau. 1974. A weekend boat trip on a typical canal in the Spreewald region.
LŸbbenau. 1974. Weekenders alongside a typical canal in the Spreewald.
East Berlin. 1974. Store window in the district of Prenzlauer Berg.
East Berlin, 1974. store window with GDR flag in the district of Prenzlauer Berg.
East Berlin. 1974. Street in the district of Prenzlauer Berg.
East Berlin. 1974. The window display of an East Berlin hairdressing salon is decorated festively for Christmas.
East Berlin. 1974. Celebrating 25 years of the GDR on the Karl-Marx-Allee.
East Berlin. 1974. People in the uniforms of “Betriebskampfgruppen” carrying red flags.
East Berlin. Rally held during the celebrations marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the German Democratic Republic (DDR).
East Berlin. The singer-songwriter and political activist Wolf Biermann.
Dresden. Fountains in modern city center of Prager Strasse.
Women lifting potatoes in a field near MÙhlhausen in Thuringia.
Berlin. A family in their new apartment in Berlin-Weissensee.
Berlin, 1974. Monument for Soviet Army and liberation of Germany in East Berlin in the district of Treptow.
Potsdam. A group of visitors at Sanssouci castle and park in Potsdam.
Potsdam. Tourists in Sanssouci Park at the Chinese Tea House.
Half-timbered houses in the old town of Quedlinburg in the Harz mountains.
East Berlin. 1974. Actors in the cafeteria of “Berliner Ensenble,” formerly Berthold Brecht’s thateater, on Schiffbauer Damm.
East Berlin. 1974. New apartment blocks at Leipziger Strasse.
East Germany. Mecklenburg. 1974. Young women dancing in a disco in Mecklenburg.
Binz, GDR, 1974. Vacationers having lunch delivered in the woods close to the coast of the Baltic Sea and near the city of Binz, island RŸgen.
Ruegen. 1974. Vacationers in the woods on the shore of the Baltic Sea have lunch in a parking lot in front of their Trabant and Skoda cars.
East Berlin. 1974. Ruins left from World War II, with the insciption: “Never again War”.
Erzgebirge. 1974. Nutcracker production is a traditonal cottage industry, especially for Christmas.
East Berlin 1974. Celebrations of 25 years of the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Gymnastic displays by members of FDJ (communist jouth organization) on Karl Marx Allee in front of a new housing project.
East Berlin. 1974. Start of the “Friedensfahrt” the annual peace-bicycle race on Karl Marx Allee.
East Berlin. 1974. Lenin statue in front of new apartment blocks.
ThŸringia. Weimar. 1974. A political billboard near a railway station reads: “Honored, Respected, Recognized – that’s our Republic.”
East Berlin. 1974. Parade of Volksarmee on Karl Marx Allee for May 1st celebrations.
East Berlin. 1974. Celebrations of 25 years of DDR. Russians bring an historic 1945 victory flag to Berlin and display it during a parade along Karl Marx Allee. The flag on the car is for the youth organization FDJ, Free German Youth.
School children in Greifswald.
East Berlin. 1974. Demonstration on First of May at Soviet monument.
Pro-Soviet slogan on a factory wall near Halle.
Quedlinburg. 1974. Framework houses and cobblestone roads in an old town in the Harz mountains.
East Berlin. 1974. The “Betriebskampftruppen” in East Berlin in the district of Treptow.
East Berlin. 1974. A wall with torn posters of Ernst Thaelmann and an East German flag behind broken glass in the Prenzlauer Berg district.
East Berlin. 1974. Proud parents carry a traditional candy bag on the first day of school for their in Berlin-Friedrichshain.
East Germany, East Berlin. 1974. Spectators betting on a horse race at the Hoppegarten trotting course.
East Berlin. 1974. A store window of the Ministry of Culture’s Office of Events.
An SED propaganda poster reads “Thank you Soviet soldiers” on an oak lined road near the Baltic Sea.
East Berlin. 1974. Tournament dancers are dressed up before a contest in Berlin-Guenheide.
(Photos © Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos)