Life in the DDR through Film: German II

byArcadia Teel


Our high school is a somewhat atypical urban high school. We have recently celebrated 100 years as a high school and the 40th anniversary of voluntary integration. We are part magnet school and part neighborhood school. That means any student living within the traditional borders of the school itself is allowed to attend the school unless they have a history of extreme behavioral issues. These students do, indeed, take a placement exam, but it is only for the purpose of finding the correct course fit and not used for admittance. The other students come from across the rest of the school district and face a rigorous application process. For us, that means that we are probably the most racially, ethnically, religiously, and socio-economically diverse high school in the district. We are also one of only two high schools in the state with an International Baccalaureate Program. Fifty-four percent of our students are on the free or reduced lunch program and many are in remedial math and reading programs.

We are also a Middle Years Program (MYP) school. The Middle Years Program is part of the International Baccalaureate Program (IB). The IB program fosters cultural awareness and its focus is to develop students who are critical and reflective thinkers. The program also strives to help students make real-world connections to what it is they are learning. Assessments are used to discover the depth of knowledge and the methods are very holistic. Most of the school's general education students do not complete the IB program; however, our curricula are geared towards making sure all students are educated in this manner throughout the school. All 9th and 10th grade classes are supposed to be taught with the MYP standards in mind, so that students entering the 3rd and 4th levels of any foreign language can go on to complete Advanced Placement or IB requirements and pass those programs’ rigorous exams.

Teaching the first two levels of German in our school is accomplished mainly by using Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) methods. TPRS is a method of teaching foreign languages using a mixture of storytelling and reading to encourage students to use the target language instead of just learning about it. It begins with introducing new vocabulary using gestures, which the students repeat, and either a few short sentences or a short story. That new vocabulary is then used repetitively in a longer, more comprehensive story where the teacher supplies the outline of the story and asks the students provide the details. The teacher continuously checks for comprehension by asking who, what, when, why, where, and how questions. This ensures that the vocabulary is constantly recycled. Students then read a slightly different story, which is prepared by the teacher, using the same vocabulary found in the original, oral version of the story. Comprehension is demonstrated by having the students translate this story into writing.


The Tulsa Public Schools website states the following for the requirements for a German II course:

In this course a constant review of the skills acquired in German I is maintained. New vocabulary and grammatical structures are added, widening the areas of comprehension. The student will continue to develop the four skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as developing more cultural awareness. The students will also connect to other academic subjects such as math, science, and language arts using their knowledge of German to access new information.

As you can see, this gives me a great deal of freedom in my classroom. I am constantly trying to keep the German language relevant to my students. Many of them aren't interested in going on to German III and instead are just trying to complete the first two years of any foreign language so that they meet basic college entrance requirements. By using the movie Goodbye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003), I hope they gain historical insight into life in the DDR. This unit is designed not only to increase their vocabulary, but also to increase their understanding of how today’s Germany came into being. By analyzing the first ten chapters of the film with the students, I hope to give them a critical lens with which they can analyze other films. Hopefully, they will then be more fully able to appreciate the subtle messages found in film.

My students come from varied backgrounds. I have students who have well-read and well-traveled parents and who have also had the opportunity to travel to other countries and experience other cultures. However, about 30% of my students in German II have never been out of Oklahoma and many of those have never been out of Tulsa. Using film to help them understand Germany and what it means to be German would be a wonderful way to increase cultural awareness and hopefully, increase cultural sensitivity regardless of what culture they encounter.

I have chosen Goodbye Lenin!, because it was both critically acclaimed and heavily criticized when it was released. In contrast to Sonnenallee, which was farcical in nature, Goodbye Lenin! attempts to handle the idea of “Ostalgie”, or nostalgia for things East German in a slightly more serious, although at times ironic, manner. This movie was made at a time when both East and West were facing the reality that reunification was going to be much more difficult than people wanted to believe. The West was realizing how much it was going to cost to reunify and the East was realizing that not all changes were going to be radically better than what they had.

More about how I am going to deal with the film in the classroom can be found in the strategies section at the end of the analyses section. However, it is worth mentioning that I have only laid out the film analysis for the first ten chapters of the film. My rationale for presenting it this way is that once the main themes have been discussed with the students in detail, they will be able to pick out the elements of the film without being prompted by the teacher. The teacher will simply be able to ask or give them a questionnaire asking them to identify at least one key element and describe the feeling that that one element evokes and how it relates to or conveys a cultural meaning. If a teacher feels as if he or she wants to go into more depth in the analysis with his or her students, then the main themes laid out in chapters one - ten are easily identifiable in chapters 11-16. My main goals for this unit are vocabulary acquisition and cultural understanding. Film analysis is just one of several tools I intend to use to help my students achieve those goals.

A Brief History of Berlin and the DDR

May 8th and 9th, 1945, saw the unconditional surrender of German forces to the Soviets and Western Allies. At this time Walter Ulbricht and other communists returned to Germany from Russia. On June 5, 1945, the Berlin Declaration divided the country into four zones of occupation. What later became the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD), or West Germany, was divided among the United States of America, France and Great Britain. The Soviet Union took charge of what would later become the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), or East Germany. Berlin was similarly divided into four zones, with the Western Allies occupying the western part of Berlin and the Soviets occupying the eastern portion. Between June 18, 1948 and May 12, 1949, the Soviets blockaded the West Sectors of Berlin. During this time the Allies provided West Berlin with over 2.3 million tons of cargo, primarily food and other supplies. The Berlin Airlift actually continued until September 1949 so that provisions could be stockpiled in West Berlin in case the Soviets decided to reestablish the blockade. The Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED) was established on April 21, 1946 from the Soviet-forced merger of the Sozialdemokratishe Partei Deutschlands (SPD) with the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD). The Deutsche Demokratische Republik was established on October 7, 1949. On July 17, 1953 the Soviets crushed a revolt against the SED government in East Berlin in which workers demanded better living and working conditions and free elections. Between 1950 and 1953, the Soviets handed down death sentences for various political reasons. For reasons of secrecy, the accused were sent to Moscow and shot, their corpses were burned, and the remains were buried in mass graves.1

In order to stem the tide of mass emigration from East Germany the Soviets erected the first Berlin Wall during the night on August 13, 1961. The wall became increasingly formidable and 138 people died trying to escape East Berlin. Between 1961 and 1989, over 600 East Germans were shot along the border between East Germany and West Germany.2 On May 3, 1971 Erich Honecker replaced Walter Ulbricht as First Secretary of the SED. Shortly thereafter, on September 10-11, 1989, Hungary opened its border to Austria and allowed citizens of the DDR to pass through. In this way, thousands of East Germans were able to escape to the West.

East Germany had been on the verge of bankruptcy since 1983. Many food items became scarce and long lines began to form in front of grocery stores. The government became desperate for funds and went so far as to secretly allow pharmaceutical companies in the United States, West Germany, and Switzerland to perform drug studies on patients in East Germany. There were up to 165 of these long-term drug studies performed and many doctors kept them secret from their patients. Pharmaceutical companies paid up to 860,000 DM per study. A system was also set up so that West German citizens could buy goods for East German citizens. If a West German could pay in DM for a Trabant, the wait time was eliminated.3 In 1989 protests against the DDR by its own citizens became more and more frequent. On January 15, 1989 more than 500 citizens protested in Leipzig. It was the largest protest in East Germany since June 17, 1953. The subsequent outcry over death of Chris Geuffroy, the last refugee shot trying to flee East Berlin, on February 5, 1989 prompted an end to the shoot-to-kill policy of handling fleeing refugees. Throughout the rest of the year protests of one form or another continued to grow and on October 9th, 70,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Leipzig. The protests didn’t let up and finally, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall Berlin Wall fell. Many points along the East-West German border were also opened on November 9, 1989. On March 18, 1990, the first free elections were held in the DDR and on October 3, 1990 the DDR joined the Federal Republic of Germany.

Life in the DDR

At any time between the end of WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall, life in the DDR was sometimes better at times and sometimes worse. I will be able to bring a few anecdotes to my class discussion about what life was like in East Germany. One of my German professors escaped from East Berlin in the 60s and I still remember most of his story. I visited Berlin for the first time as a college student during the summer of 1991 and stayed for a couple of days in an apartment in the former East Berlin. The owner of the apartment still had to light a fire under the hot water tank to heat water and had a garden hose running from the hot water tank to the bathtub. The entire former East was black with soot because everyone still burned brown coal in their homes and factories to heat their houses, cook, and generate power for factories. I also lived and taught school in Magdeburg for two years and was enthralled by the stories of growing up in the DDR. There was money enough but often not enough goods to buy. If a line formed on the sidewalk, people would stand in it in order to receive whatever it was that was being distributed. For example, you might stand in line and receive a pair of shoes that weren’t your size, but you would take the shoes anyway so that they could later be bartered for something else. The Soviets didn’t invest much money in East German factories, and when the wall fell in 1989, the technology and machinery found in the factories was the same as it had been after the Soviets rebuilt right after WWII. For this reason, many factories were simply closed down after reunification and production moved to the west. In the DDR’s planned economy, all farms, including land, livestock, and farm equipment were not privately owned, rather the farms were common properties of the state. In many areas of East Germany churches were destroyed in order to make room for modern buildings and many city parks and green areas were also new places for concrete, high-rise apartments. Endless waiting was also part of life in the DDR. Eighteen-year olds would sign up for an automobile because it could take up to 20 years to finally receive a Trabant. Young couples would wait three years or longer for a larger apartment, people would have to wait until retirement to apply for the opportunity to travel to West Germany, and there was no telling how long someone might have to wait for a telephone line.

All of this doesn’t even begin to touch on what the ever present Staatssicherheitsdeinst, or Stasi, did. Between 1945 and 1950, 160,000 East Germans disappeared in the Soviet camps. Many of them were never heard from again and only after the last of the camps closed in 1956, were some of them able to return home. My own next door neighbor in Künzelsau was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1945 and sent to a work camp in Poland and then to the Soviet Union. He was finally released in 1954 and returned to Germany. In 1989 over 90,000 people worked for the Stasi. That number equates to one informant per every 180 citizens. Between 1975 and 1989 more than 200,000 collaborated with the Stasi. They read peoples’ mail, wiretapped telephones, recorded conversations, and kept files on the comings and goings of their neighbors.4

Goodbye Lenin! - Analysis

Chapter 1

The first chapter of Goodbye Lenin! is perfect for a discussion about cinematography, more specifically, color as the main aspect of cinematography. The first four minutes shows where the story is going to be taking place, which is actually part of the narrative; however at 00:1:02 we see a home movie of Alex standing in front of the TV tower and suddenly the red part of the flag of the DDR, with hammer and compass, fades into the home movie and color the scene red. Throughout the first few minutes we see home movies of Alex and his sister changing over to pictures of Berlin and the red color fading in and out. We watch as windows turn red, and then the red rectangle turns into a red concrete high-rise before it then becomes just a normal grayish high rise. A statue of Lenin also constantly fades in and out of the film’s scenes. At 2:10 we find ourselves in the living room in the Kerner’s apartment. Alex and his sister are watching the first German go into outer space as the Stasi are interviewing Frau Kerner in the kitchen concerning the whereabouts of her husband. There is even a red thermos on the kitchen counter. As the camera tracks from living room to kitchen and back to the living room, it moves ever closer to the subjects in each scene. This gives the viewer a feeling of apprehension or anticipation of something to come. When Frau Lerner returns home from a stay in the hospital, she is surprised by Alex and her sister and Alex is in a homemade costume portraying a rocket decorated with symbols of the DDR. The rocket is red and blue. Later at school, Alex shoots off a red rocket that he has made.

Students may reach other conclusions, but the the color red does an incredibly good job of showing how the “Reds” or communists permeate every aspect of daily life in the DDR. Regardless of whether one is at home in a newly constructed, concrete, high rise or enjoying a stroll down the street or at work, the presence of the Stasi is always felt. I was quite surprised at how much red permeates chapter 1. As a matter of fact, I didn't see so much red until after I chose color as the focus. I also feel that it is worth mentioning at this point that the use of red is an overarching theme of the film that really ties the entire film together. I will be mentioning this several times in the analysis of the other chapters.

Chapter 2

Students will probably want to keep color as a focus in chapter 2 as well, since red stays at the forefront, but here I have chosen to concentrate on film sound. It is now ten years later and from the very beginning of chapter 2, our ears are accosted by the sounds of an enormous military parade through East Berlin. We hear the celebratory parade music and the rumble of tanks and large transport trucks. The stomp, stomp, stomp of thousands of soldiers marching in goose-step between symbols of military might is like the beating heart of East Berlin. As the scene moves from the parade through a red-draped window of the Kerner’s apartment, we can hardly hear the conversations taking place. The massive parade outside is making everything in the apartment shake. The dishes are rattling in the cupboards, the pictures are banging against the walls, things on Alex’s dresser are rattling onto the floor, and the close-up of the drummers in the military band marking time, all add to the feeling of chaos. As this daytime noise gives way to the relative silence of night, the camera shows us a somewhat smaller “parade”. This parade is not organized like the earlier one. This one starts out small and continues to grow: it is a demonstration for freedom of the press. The quiet is short-lived as the police show up to quell the rebellion. The shrill sounds of police sirens pierce the night and the shouts of “Pressefreiheit” turn into screams of pain as police batons break bones and skulls and protestors are kicked and beaten.

These penetrating sounds have the power to rattle high rise apartment buildings, foreshadowing how the abusive state of the DDR is being shaken to its foundations. The beating heart of the DDR is weakening—just like the heart of Alex’s mother. In place of the old regime, a new power is beginning to take hold: it is the power of the people. Alex’s own strength and determination are likewise going to have to grow in order for him to lead the family into the future.

Chapter 3

It was easy for me to choose to focus on the narrative for chapter 3, as there isn’t so much dialogue between characters. Instead, Alex’s acutely ironic voiceover dominates the scene. While Alex sits with his coworkers watching television and scoffing at an original news report, the voiceover states that his mother’s sleep darkens the retirement of the valuable comrade, Erich Honecker. Yet another original news report informs us of the fall of the Berlin Wall and shows Helmut Kohl with Willy Brandt singing the national anthem in front of Schöneberg City Hall. In the meantime, Alex’s voiceover explains that his mother slept through a classical concert in front of Schöneberg City Hall and tells of the beginning of a gigantic, one-of-a-kind junk collection. As Alex rides his moped past the border guards into the West, visits a movie rental and catches his first glimpse of a pornographic movie, the voiceover explains that she missed his first trip to the West and how a couple of determined and dutiful guards protect the workers and farmers and that, of course, his first cultural experience in the new land also escaped her. Chapter 3 continues on in this vein.

The irony here is rich and provides a bit of comic relief around the fact that Alex’s mother is in a coma. What his voiceover recounts is just the opposite of what happened in East Germany. News footage shown to the citizens of the DDR was always very positive about the regime, the economy, the overall mood of the country, etc., while the reality was often not as positive.

Chapter 4 

Chapter 4 is a bit harder to pin down. By this time, the students will be able to pick out the red Coca-Cola transport trucks passing in front of the last changing of the guard taking place in East Berlin. They will also take note of the red overalls of the new, satellite-tv company Alex goes to work for, and hopefully one of them will notice that the satellite motif on the back of the workers’ red jackets resemble the hammer and compass from the old East German flag. But the overarching theme in chapter four has more to do with character development. Alex spends much of his non-working hours at the hospital talking to his mother, who is still in a coma, about nurse Lara. When he isn’t there, he sends a tape recording of himself talking about nurse Lara, his sister, and his niece. Voiceover is also used in chapter four, but in this case it’s more to explain how Alex came to ask nurse Lara out on their first date. We also learn that Alex’s father had left for the West before the fall of the Wall, and that he’s never heard from him since. While Alex and Lara are on their date, they end up in a crumbling apartment building lit from the inside and talk about the future.

The color red is again put to good use in this sequence. It can signal the change of the regime and moving from a state-planned economy to a free-market economy. The red might also foreshadow the way in which an icon of consumerism, such as the Coca-Cola symbol, will permeate society in much the same way the symbols of communism once did. There’s a tone in Alex’s voiceover that leads one to believe that he is hopeful about the future. This feeling is enhanced by the dialogue between Alex and Lara as they pass through run-down and broken buildings. The rubble of the past stands in stark contrast to the couple’s hope of a new and better future.

Chapter 5

There is so much going on in chapter 5 that I have decided to focus on mise-en-scene. I had several of my own “ah-ha” moments reviewing this chapter so that I almost wish someone had recorded me as I watched. We find Alex and Denis, Alex’s new partner at the satellite-tv company, in Denis’ room. Denis is showing Alex some of the films he’s been making and how good he is at editing. Denis is wearing a T-shirt with a pattern that is similar to the green code-streaming sequences found in The Matrix. Later Alex passes through the border between East and West Berlin and tells us that the border is longer of use. We then cut to a scene in Frau Kerner’s hospital room. As Alex and Lara share their first kiss, Frau Kerner awakens from her coma and knocks a flower vase to the floor. Lights flicker behind Alex as he is leaning over talking to his mother and suddenly we are in the doctor’s office. There is a black coffee mug on the desk that has a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other side. Whenever the camera is pointed at the doctor, we see the sad face, and whenever the camera is pointed at Alex and his sister, Ariane, we see the happy face. The last scene of chapter 5 shows Alex, Ariane, and Paula, Ariane’s daughter in Frau Kerner’s hospital room. For the first time during a visit, Alex and Paula are now wearing long-sleeved surgical gowns making as they lie to their mother about what happened the night she had the heart attack. The gowns are a direct indication that they are hiding the truth.

Denis’ “Matrix” T-shirt does an incredible job of conveying an alternate reality, one where it’s difficult to know what is real and what is created. This foreshadows Denis’ role in helping Alex to create an alternate truth for his mother later in the film. This relates back to the way the old regime provided the citizens of East Germany with an alternate reality. They never really knew the truth about the status of their government. Frau Kerner awaking and knocking off the flower vase just as the kiss is shared shows us how blossoming young love can be interrupted by other circumstances. This relates to the set-backs and difficulties that the people of the former DDR are going to have as things begin anew. The open border still being manned by drunken soldiers alludes to the blurring of the lines between truth and the false reality that Alex will create for his mother. I can imagine that the people of the former DDR must have also had a blurry-eyed feeling, as if waking up from a long sleep and not knowing for certain what their lives would hold.

Chapter 6

It was much more difficult for me to analyze chapter 6 and I’m almost positive that my students will, at this point, be able to catch more than I have. I will try to draw their attention to the editing. The first part of the chapter has many quick cuts, speeding up the narrative of the film. Alex and Denis’ are frantically rearranging Frau Kerner’s room and getting it back to the way t was when she entered the hospital. Ariane and Rainer, Ariane boyfriend from the West, had taken out all of Frau Kerner’s furniture and put it in the basement. All this happens quickly. Later, as Frau Kerner is moved by ambulance back into her bedroom, the shots get longer and lighting softer. The characters also speak more quietly.

This high speed, frenetic pace at the beginning of the chapter is reminiscent of the changes that happened so quickly in the former East. Many people moved into East Berlin from the West in 1990. The rents were cheap and the young “Wessies” felt as if the possibilities of creating a new life were endless. On the other hand, many professionals took the opportunity to leave East Berlin and move to the West. This constant state of change and movement had to eventually slow down so that the government and people could [] assess in what direction things should move. The film had to also slow down so that Alex could gain a perspective on what it is he was trying to accomplish.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 focuses once more on the narrative. We follow Alex as he searches for his mother’s favorite foods. Unfortunately for him, the grocery store has gone from the grey, dingy store of the past to a gleaming new market full of western goods. His mother’s favorites can’t be found, so he digs through garbage to find empty jars to transfer the new brands into old brand jars. One of Alex’s older neighbors and friend of Frau Kerner sees Alex digging through the trash and laments the way things are now. The older man is now jobless. The old East German currency can be changed into DMs at a rate of 1:2. When Germany wins the Soccer World Championship 1:0, there are celebrations everywhere because of the soccer victory and the arrival of “real” money.

This chapter tells the story of how quickly life changed for people living in the East. One day they had jobs, the next day many didn’t. Their brands of food and coffee were no longer competitive and couldn’t be found. If people didn’t exchange their old money for the West’s DM within a short period of time, then their savings were worthless. People who had gone “on vacation” when Hungary opened its border with Austria never came back and their apartments with all their possessions were left for the taking. For some young people, like Lara, this also meant a new start, because all she had to do was move in.

Chapter 8

If time allows, chapter 8 could be shown with chapter 7, as it is a continuation of the story. Alex prepares for his mother’s birthday celebration by inviting friends and former colleagues. He also pays two schoolboys 20 DM a piece to wear the Pioneer bandana and sing the old Pioneer theme song. As he explains to former friends that his mother actually knows nothing about the reunification, one of the men comments that her not knowing is something to be jealous of. While they are talking, we see a red board behind them with photos on it. Alex goes to the apartment of Frau Kerner’s old principal, Dr. Klapprat, and finds him in a pathetic state. He is no longer a principal and laments the time when all teachers and leaders were valuable. He no longer feels valued and explains that Frau Kerner was often too idealistic after her husband left and that’s why she had so many problems with her colleagues at school. At this point in time, the World Cup Tournament is taking place and we see real footage of Germans in the stadiums waving both East German flags and West German flags and singing the German national anthem.

Chapter eight shows us the back and forth the people of the East most have experienced. Many missed the way things were. People had jobs and stability, but no real freedoms. They had loves and friendships, even though many so-called friendships leaned much more towards forced collegiality than friendship. I want my students to pick up on the constant mix of old and new, for example, old TVs and new satellites, old Trabants and new automobiles, old clothing styles and new, and old-time restaurants and Burger King.

Chapters 9 and 10

I am combining these two chapters because the “Coca-Cola” story flows from nine into ten. At this point in the movie it makes sense to start combining chapters when possible and the students should be able to start recognizing how various film elements are used to relate a story. The vocabulary that I have picked out for both chapters is also short and so I will probably combine them as well.

The students will be able to immediately pick out Alex’s red moped helmet and Lara’s red blouse. As Frau Kerner’s birthday celebration is happening in her bedroom, she sees a long Coca-Cola banner unfold from the top of one of the other high rise buildings. This takes us back to one of the first scenes in the movie during the 40th anniversary celebration of the DDR where all the buildings were draped in red. It signals the change from the old, state-planned economic system to the new free-market system and the prevalence of consumerism instead of communism. One of Frau Kerner’s old friends wishes her a happy birthday and says, “may everything be the way it was”. The same man later says something in the background, “They betrayed us and sold us out!…….after 40 years……betrayed us and sold us out!” Students will also be able to pick up on the music in these two chapters, especially as Alex is looking for his mother’s East German currency in the old furniture that is now on the street waiting to be hauled away to the dump. The sounds are also important as Alex tosses the now worthless East German money into the West wind. Lara bids him to scream and as he does, the sounds of celebration and fireworks going off are heard. Here again, in theses two chapters we get a sense of some people trying to hold on to the past and the way things were, while some are celebrating the future and the way things will be. This time, when we see people in the soccer stadium, we see that many East German flags are missing their hammer and compass. This could also signal that while people are happy they are free, there is still something missing, that somehow they aren’t quite whole. In fact, the country isn’t quite whole.

As stated earlier in the rationale section of this unit, I will not include an analysis of the last six chapters. I believe my students will be able to follow the themes already presented. Please see the strategies section for ideas on how to complete the last six chapters.


  1. Berhorst, Ralf. "Die Gewalt Der Neuen Herren." In Die DDR Alltag Im Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Staat ; 1949 - 1990, 42-54.
  2. "Die Berliner Mauer." - Accessed July 31, 2015.
  3. Botzenhardt, Tilman. "In Der Schuldenfalle." In Die DDR Alltag Im Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Staat; 1949 - 1990, 134-137.
  4. Knabe, Hubertus. "The Dark Secrets of a Surveillance State." H


I will introduce no more than 15 new words per film chapter using TPRS. I will then “ask” a story in which I provide the basic framework and my students provide the details. This should take no more than 20 minutes of class time. Please see the activities section for one story idea and a list of the vocabulary words I have chosen. We will then watch the relevant chapter of the film once without sound and discuss what they see. We will then watch the chapter again with the German sound and I will ask questions about what is taking place. We will then discuss one formal element of film in that chapter and how that formal element is used to convey cultural elements of the DDR. I will help them extensively with the first ten chapters. For chapters 11-16, I will give them small questionnaires asking them to identify one or two film elements, what those elements are trying to convey, how they relate to what they’ve already seen or what they may be foreshadowing, and the cultural aspect that is being explained. The students will then be given a story, similar to the one asked at the beginning of the chapter, to translate. I may even give them some of the movie text to translate and rewrite in their own words. Every chapter will end with a short five to ten question quiz. The entire unit will be evaluated with a questionnaire pertaining to film and to the culture of the DDR. It will also include some elements that test language mastery.


This section includes a list of vocabulary words and/or phrases I plan to teach and reinforce for every chapter of the movie. At the end of the section I include an example of a TPRS story I might use.

Chapter 1

Hält dich fest!, sprechen, langweilig, Ich habe dich lieb., die Planwirtschaft –en, die Wiedervereinigung, das Vaterland, Finger weg!, Überraschung!, die DDR, die Freie Deutsche Jungend (FDJ), der Trabant – en

Chapter 2

arbeitsfrei, die Parade –en, das Mädel –s, draußen, abhauen, die U-bahn –en, sich beeilen, die Pressefreiheit, die Gewalt – en

Chapter 3

das Krankenhaus, Was ist los?, im Koma, aufwachen, der Herzinfarkt – e, die Mauer –n, Mach das Tor auf!, der Ausflug / die Ausflüge, der/die Austauschengel -, die Sorgen (pl.)

Chapter 4

der Kapitalismus, der Besuch –e, weinen, laut, die Laune – n, schlechter Laune sein, die Lehrerin – nen, der Wind der Veränderung, Schade!, die Zukunft

Chapter 5

Auf uns!, der Genosse -n / die Genossin –nen, die Hochzeit, die Taufe –n, zeigen, genial, hören, die Hoffnung –en, überleben, die Enkeltochter, Was ist passiert?

Chapter 6

der Fahrstuhl, unterschreiben, die D-Marks, der Chef, vorstellen, aufs Klo, Ich gebe mir Mühe., die Spreewald Gürken

Chapter 7

die Schlange –n, das Sparbuch, fieberhaft, vergessen, arbeitslos, unangenehm, der Fernseher - , der Kunde / die Kundin / die Kunden, der Geburtstag

Chapter 8 and Chapter 9

der Kombi –s, die Kinder, wunderschön, lernen, der Korb – Körbe, die Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP)

Chapter 10 and Chapter 11

der Wissenschaftler -, die Wissenschaftlerin –nen, die Nationalmannschaft – en, der Fußballweltmeister, die Schuld –en, schuld sein, die Jungs, die Ossies, merken, aussehen, leben, die Stimmen (vote), der Wahnsinn

Chapter 12

der Wohnraum, die Bürger (townspeople), der Flüchtling –e, das Land, wohnen, helfen, schwanger

Chapter 13

klopfen, das Klopfen, die Antwort –en, schwer, der Brief –e, die Angst / die Ängste, der Fehler –

Chapter 14 and Chapter 15

die Jugend, die Kindheit, das Idol –e, das Sandmännchen, die Rede –n, die Geschwister, im Sterben, vorbei, das Vergnügen

Chapter 16

der Vorabend, schauen, zurücktreten, das Wunder, die Menschheit, das Ziel –en, einmauern, die Grenze –n, die Wahrheit, glücklich, irgendwo, die Erinnerung -en

Introductory TPRS for Chapter 2

(Girl 1) ist ein Mädel. (G1) hat heute arbeitsfrei. Sie geht nach draußen. Heute gibt’s in Berlin eine Parade. (G2) hat heute auch arbeitsfrei. Sie fährt mit der U-bahn nach Berlin. (G1) und (G2) will zusammen die Parade sehen. (G2) kommt spät an und die Mädels müssen sich beeilen. Überraschung! Die Parade ist keine Parade! Die Leute protestieren gegen Gewalt und die Polizei ist auch dabei. Die Mädels haben Angst und hauen ab.

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