Growing up in Cold War East Germany’s Valley of the Clueless (307)

Cold War Conversations

Henrik was born in the late 1960s near Dresden in East Germany. The area was sarcastically known as the Tal der Ahnungslosen or Valley of the Clueless, as the area generally was not able to receive TV from West Germany from the mid-to-late 1950s.

He describes his childhood growing up in a Uranium mining area. His mother was a teacher and his father was required to be a member of the Communist Party as his role at the university involved in map making which was classified as secret work.

It’s not until he is 8 or 9 that Henrik realises there is another Germany and as he gets older he gets into Western music as he can still pick up West German radio. In 1983 his favourite grandmother moved to the West and started to bring him Western clothing and vinyl records.

At 15 or 16 he seriously starts to think about how he can get to the West. Compulsory service in the National Peoples Army beckons increasing his urgency in finding a way to leave.

In 1988 Henrik receives an unexpected postcard from Spain from a friend who had been sentenced for 2 years for trying to escape and this begins to crystallise Henrik’s plans.

If Henrik’s life was made into a movie he says this would be the soundtrack…

Extra episode information

Special thanks to Jonny Whitlam for introducing Henrik to CWC. You can book his excellent Berlin tours here

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