In pictures: Life behind the Iron Curtain

It separated families, cut people off from their jobs, and claimed the lives of 136 people as they tried in vain to escape over it. Now, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new book reveals what life was like in the German Democratic Republic, East Germany


From fashion photography to secret police surveillance equipment, Beyond the Wall: Art and artifacts from the GDR features more than 2,500 artifacts, design pieces and everyday objects, gathered from the collections of the Wende Museum, Los Angeles. The book, published by Taschen, also includes commentary from scholars and specialists from across Europe, Canada, and the United States.


Here, we bring you some of the highlights…

The longest stretch of the Berlin Wall in the United States, acquired by the Wende Museum and brought to Los Angeles in 2009, with original artworks by American and European artists, including Retna, D*Face, and Thierry Noir. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Artifacts and street signs from the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing in the museum’s Facing the Wall exhibition. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Advertisement, Fan, “Swing In and Around the Hair,” 1973, VEB Friseurchemie. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Portable radio, Rema Trabant T6, 1964–65, Fabrik für Rundfunk, Elektrotechnik und Mechanik Berlin. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Poster, “The Reconstruction is Moving So Quickly That No Lies Can Succeed,” 1954, Alfred Beier (design). (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Photochrom images, from “Uniforms of the National People’s Army of the GDR, 1956–1986,” 1990, Klaus-Ulrich Keubke/Manfred Kunz; Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Suitcase, used for Passport Control and Border Security, 1980s. Essentially a portable passport office, this briefcase contained an arsenal of stamps and special inks for the use of border officers checking travel documents and updating visas. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Pen microphone, used by the Ministry for State Security, 1960s–1970s. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)

Straitjacket from Nazi Germany, later used in the GDR, 1940s–80s, Franz-August Mühlenfeld, Barmen. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)


Page from brigade group scrapbook, “Brigade IV, Train Station Braunsbedra”, 1973–88. (© The Wende Museum/TASCHEN)