Segments in this Video

Transition to Capitalism and Democracy (02:42)


After the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989 East Germany and other communist regimes collapsed. Eastern Bloc citizens faced a new political and economic system after more than forty years of Soviet control. (Credits)

Growing Up Under Soviet Rule (03:53)

Martina Ulbrich had a happy childhood in East Germany; a highlight was visiting Lenin in Moscow. Slavomir Idziak was told to spy on his parents for the authorities in Poland. Czech dissident John Bok was traumatized by the secret police.

Cold War Border Tension (02:29)

After World War II, the Soviets controlled East Germany and the Allies occupied West Germany. Educated young people left the GDR through West Berlin in waves, prompting Ulbricht to appeal Khrushchev for permission to build a wall.

Sealing the Cold War Frontier (03:25)

Berliners were devastated when the Soviet regime divided their families and communities. During construction of the wall, many attempted to cross to the West through barbed wire or by jumping out of buildings.

Initial Appeal of Socialism (01:45)

Eastern Europe was devastated by World War II; communism ensured a decent life for everyone—Including food, housing, education and work. On the other hand, society was controlled by a regime.

A Fully Employed Society (01:13)

Everyone under communism was required to work. In theory, people labored to their ability and received based on their needs. In practice, people worked as little as possible and waited years for basic consumer goods.

Economic Inefficiency in the Soviet Union (01:07)

The communist system manufactured goods according to plan rather than in response to demand. Basic commodities were rationed, including food.

Communist Work (01:27)

A woman recalls training to become a teacher in East Germany. Czech dissident John Bok discusses how educated people were assigned to factory labor if they came from bourgeois families.

Disillusionment with Socialism (02:12)

Polish cinematographer Slavomir Idziak recalls learning of the West through films and hoping leave the Soviet Union. A teacher was rejected from the Communist Party because her parents had been middle class.

Censorship Under the Soviet Union (02:08)

Policies preventing a revival of Nazism turned into an instrument silencing all criticism of the regime. Eastern European journalists tried to convey humanity and hope beneath the propaganda.

Communist Education: Ignoring the Truth (02:54)

Soviet children learned a false version of history; the system rewarded political loyalty rather than academic excellence. Poland's rebellious nature gave citizens greater freedom from censorship than in other Soviet states.

Big Brother: Trust No One (Questionable Language) (04:02)

Communist censorship was supported by informant networks. East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, employed 100,000 operatives—suspicion even infiltrated families. We hear from people who lived under the system of fear.

Coming Under the Stasi Radar (03:15)

A woman from East Germany recalls being tricked by an informant posing as a West German. Former citizens of the Soviet regime share observation and fear tactics used by secret police.

Soviet Imprisonment (03:41)

The communist system disregarded human rights. A Czech dissident shares being jailed by the secret police and an East German describes undergoing psychological torture by the Stasi.

Rebelling Against Communism (04:11)

We see footage of East German and Hungarian uprisings during the 1950s. Czechoslovakia passed liberal reforms in 1968; the Red Army invaded and reinforced Soviet rule.

Prague Spring Crushed (02:58)

After Czechoslovakia attempted to pass reforms in 1968, the Soviet Union implemented a policy of extreme oppression. The Czech society was devastated; in 1969 student Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest.

Berlin’s Impermeable Wall (05:13)

Attempts to escape to West Germany became increasingly difficult; we hear from organizers who engineered a tunnel and forged passports. Between 86-200 people lost their lives trying to leave the GDR.

Consequences of Attempting to Defect (04:41)

A West German escape organizer describes being arrested during a failed mission to collect East German refugees. A woman recalls being detained at the border and sentenced to labor making products to sell to the West.

Buying Freedom from Communism (01:23)

Some political prisoners in East Germany were “bought” by the West German government—a trade worth millions of marks by the 1970s.

Soviet Union's Gradual Collapse (02:09)

In January 1989 the Polish government held a free election and in May Hungary opened its border with Austria. In the fall hundreds of thousands of East Germans took to the streets, demanding democratic reforms.

Berlin's Peaceful Revolution (03:37)

East and West Germans recall the wall coming down on November 9, 1989. Easterners were each given 100 Marks to spend as they wished in the West—their first taste of capitalism.

Czech Republic Celebrates (03:38)

Although the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Soviet Union tried to keep its Eastern European states under control. Czech citizens recall the end of communist rule in December 1989 when dissident Vaclav Havel was elected president.

East Germany in Transition (02:29)

After the Berlin Wall fell, there were hopes of reforming the GDR's oppressive side and salvaging its positive aspects. However, West Germany wasn't receptive to combining the two systems.

Reunification Challenges (02:12)

After the initial euphoria of the Berlin Wall coming down, East and West Germans had to learn to live together again. Four decades of partition had changed their values—it would take a new generation to unite society.

Free but not Democratic (03:11)

The people who ran institutions in the Czech Republic under the Soviet Union remained in office after its collapse. Today many feel the justice system is corrupted by former communist interests.

West Germany Takes Over (02:56)

After having had employment security under the GDR, many East Germans lost their jobs when Western companies privatized factories and institutions. Without a market for East German goods, the economy was ruined.

Unemployment in the Former GDR (01:13)

West Germany established the Treuhand agency in 1990 to privatize East German companies. 2.5 million employees lost their jobs. Many moved West to find work, abandoning whole towns and leaving the elderly and discontented youth behind.

Brain Drain from East to West (01:13)

Many skilled East Germans moved to the West after Reunification. A lower pay scale in East Germany has decreased the number of qualified professionals—complicating the long term economic depression.

Nostalgic for Communism (02:15)

A Czech woman recalls her father losing his job after the Berlin Wall came down. The older generation struggled to adjust to capitalist competition—many preferred the financial security that socialism provided.

Addressing Regime Skeletons (02:45)

After the Soviet Union fell, many former Eastern Bloc countries made secret police records public. Former informants and oppressors were never brought to justice and continued living normally—victims dealt with this in different ways.

Appreciating Freedom and Democracy (04:48)

Twenty years after the Berlin Wall fell, former Eastern Bloc citizens reflect on how their lives have changed under the capitalist system. We see images of daily life under communism.

Credits: Beyond the Wall: Life in Communist and Post-Soviet Europe (02:16)

Credits: Beyond the Wall: Life in Communist and Post-Soviet Europe

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Beyond the Wall: Life in Communist and Post-Soviet Europe

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It may seem unthinkable to older viewers, but for an emerging generation of young adults, the Cold War is little more than an abstract historical concept. Its impact on Eastern European society becomes vivid and concrete, however, when those who experienced it firsthand are given a chance to speak. In this film, citizens of Poland, the Czech Republic, and what was once East Germany describe life under postwar communism and offer candid assessments of the transition to freedom, capitalism, and democracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Topics include state-run education, government surveillance and torture methods, prison conditions, escapes to the West, the collapse of the Wall, German reunification, the dramatic corporate restructuring implemented by the Treuhand Agency, and more. Conversations with respected historians and authors are interwoven with the personal, emotionally charged recollections of civilians. (91 minutes)

Length: 91 minutes

Item#: BVL50571

ISBN: 978-1-61753-478-2

Copyright date: ©2010

Closed Captioned

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