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DDR Museum or the Everyday Life in the DDR exhibit at the KulturBrauerei Museum

Have you been to both, if so, how would you compare the experiences? We can probably only do one. Only one of us speaks German, rusty at that. Thanks!

Posted by
27227 posts

I've only been to the DDR Museum, but I can vouch for the presence of English-language explanatory material. The museum was crowded during my 2015 visit. I remember wondering whether it would have been better to go in the late afternoon. I believe it's open till 8 PM or so. Allow at least two hours if you're seriously interested in the subject.

If no one on this forum can compare the sights for you, you might take a look at the TripAdvisor reviews.

Posted by
3877 posts

I visited both museums last May. They are definitely different. I can't really say one is better than the other. They are both worthwhile but in different ways. If you can only visit one, it depends on what you want to experience. English is heavily featured in both museums, so I don't think that should make much of a difference in your decision.

DDR Museum: Private museum that entertains visitors and allows them to leave happy (which promotes return visits to the museum). More nostalgic with respect to the DDR than evaluative (though there is acknowledgement of negative sides of the DDR). Exhibits are set in a very attractive, very engaging manner. Has a recreated DDR flat, which is fun to explore.

Everyday Life in the DDR: Publicly-owned museum with free admission. The exhibition is geared more toward chronicling the history of everyday life in the DDR (sometimes in almost encyclopedic fashion) than entertaining visitors. It's much more critical of the DDR. For example, there is a video at the back of one of the museum's rooms that showed a reporter for an official DDR television station interviewing someone who had requested to leave the DDR and afterward could only get a job as a grave digger; the interview was conducted while the guy was shoulder-deep in a grave he was digging (showing DDR citizens what happens when you request to leave the DDR while humiliating the guy). This museum imparts more intellectual knowledge and induces more reflection than the DDR Museum. I left the museum in a somewhat somber, contemplative mood.

Posted by
22 posts

Dave, thanks for the side-by-side. Did you end up glad that you went to both? I plan to go to Hohenschoenhausen, which will be grimm, so I am not sure I would require something more to sober me on DDR reality. But, the example you provided would be a very different/interesting aspect of that dark side of life for the average citizen. Did the KulturBrauerei exhibit have anything interactive or anything like the apartment at the other one? It does sound like the DDR museum makes it come to life.

How would you compare the crowds? Guessing the DDR museum would be crowded, as acraven mentioned?

Posted by
27227 posts

Dave's descriptions have made me realize that the place I visited was in fact Everyday Life in the DDR. Sorry about the confusion. As of 2015, the place was referred to as the DDR Museum in at least some English sources.

Posted by
15602 posts

I didn't know about the Kultur Brauerei Museum. I went to the DDR in spite of its not being recommended in any of the research I did for my visit. I have more lasting memories of the DDR than most other places I visited. I didn't find it at all pro-Soviet or even nostalgic. It brought home to me the grim details of daily life - the shoddy clothing (it's very hands-on so you can feel all the fabrics, for instance), the limited resources, the systematic repression of individualism and the grinding down of the economy and the workers by the Soviet system. The only other similar museum I went to was Checkpoint Charlie - very overpriced total waste of time. There were billboards flanking the line of the Berlin Wall with very interesting information in English (German too :-)

A couple of times, I tried to speak German (just a polite greeting) and responses were invariably in English.

Posted by
3877 posts

Yes, I’m glad I went to both museums. I found both of them to have value in increasing my understanding of the DDR.

The private museum (“DDR Museum”) near museum island was more crowded, but I still got to see everything. By “nostalgic,” I don’t mean pro-Soviet. The exhibits just spend a smaller proportion of time on the darker sides of the DDR.

The Museum in the Kulturbraurei (“Everyday Life Museum”) delves into the darker side of the DDR more, but it also shows other, things too... like a Trabant with a tent on top for camping, DDR fashion, etc. There was nothing comparable to the DDR flat there.

Posted by
3877 posts

It may be that those who go to the DDR Museum near Museum Island without the juxtaposition of the Museum in the Kulturbrauerei experience that museum differently than I did. I’ve also read a fair amount on the DDR (though am definitely no expert).

I will put it this way... when one exits the DDR Museum near Museum Island, it does not seem odd at all to exit through a gift shop that is selling things like reproductions of crappy DDR boiled egg holders, and it does not seem odd that someone would want to buy those (I felt a bit of a pang to get one myself, though I didn’t).

At the Every Day Life exhibit at the Museum in The Kulturbrauerei, though, it would be really weird to pass through such a gift shop, given what had been viewed in the exhibit. Indeed, there is a only a tasteful, small area that sells books.

Posted by
4009 posts

I have been to the DDR Museum and LOVED it. I can only speak for that and highly recommend you go.

Posted by
15602 posts

I see now. The KulturBrauerei Museum only opened at the end of 2013. My trip to Berlin was a year and a half earlier. If I ever get back, I will certainly visit.

Posted by
3877 posts

I just happen to be in Berlin this week and met up with a friend who is in Berlin for the first time. He wanted to go to the DDR Museum, so we went. He really enjoyed it (as did I). Having done it again, I stand by my prior assessment. I asked my friend how he felt the museum made him feel (with no reference to this post). He said it made him feel glad he didn't live in the DDR. I followed that up with a question of whether the museum emotionally moved him. He said, "No."