Free without borders

The old rules no longer applied, and the new ones only took hold gradually. In this transitional situation the East Germans' attitude to life developed rapidly, their hunger for everything on offer mingled with hopes and fears. Their country was changing and they knew it.

The democratisation of state and society during the GDR's last months opened up many opportunities. A great variety of grass-roots political and social initiatives were set up.

People took the initiative, established representative interest groups and deposed the remaining SED-PDS officials. Some activists campaigned for the environment and the conservation of their cities; others started newspapers or championed education and employee rights. They often received spontaneous, unbureaucratic help from West Germany, and discovered many different facets of the previously forbidden West.

Unemployment figures, however, were rising. For many people, the newly won freedom was tainted by fear of what the future might bring.

The nationwide changes became visible in daily life. Their effect seemed particularly intense in Berlin as the Wall vanished and the divided city gradually started growing together again.

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