Eva Neuling

As Interviewed by Tara Lassiter, March 29th, 2015

Eva Neuling: In Her Own Words

I went to KŲln in 1947, to the West, but at that time the DDR [Deutsche Demokratische Republik or East Germany] didnít exist yet, The DDR was only founded in 1949 -- by then Iíd already crossed. Iíd visit back home in the summertime, over break, but in order to do that I would need an interzonenpass, and that wasnít something given to everybody. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldnít. So thatís that, before the founding of the DDR in 1947 and in 1949. After it was founded, Iíd just go back to visit.

My relatives couldnít come visit from the East. They werenít given permission to travel to the West, except to my wedding, which was an exception for which they were allowed to come.

The poor people over in the East didnít have it so easy. You couldnít buy everything. Of course, there was enough to eat -- they didnít starve -- but not everything was so nice. It was no comparison to what we had over here, and definitely not coming close to what we have today, but even back then the difference was immense. Thatís why many people from the West, including me of course, would send packets back home. And in these packets there would be certain things, coffee being one of the most cherished things to the DDR citizens, since it was something they didnít get very much of. Almost, almost nothing. When there was coffee offered, the lines would be huge. You would have to show up early and wait hours.

I can tell you about an experience. I was there with my brother, who lived there, in the DDR, and he had an aunt who had just turned 90, and there was to be a small family celebration with coffee and cake. So he went to the store and wanted to buy a little coffee cream, which there was, and so he took six little portions in his basket, and immediately someone came and took them from him and said, ďThatís just not ok, more than one packet is not allowed.Ē And something like that wasnít rare. So that wasnít fun.

Another thing the East was lacking of was south fruit, so, for example, bananas -- thatís why the thrill for bananas was so huge when the wall fell. That was one of the first times for many people to buy bananas,

When I graduated high school, I wanted to study, but wasnít possible that I would be accepted into a university in the DDR since my father was neither a worker or farmer -- only the children of farmers and workers were accepted. So I went to KŲln to study. At the time my younger brother, eight years younger than me, still went to school. He couldnít go to high school since he wasnít the kid of a farmer or worker. He finished school at fourteen. Itís difficult to find an apprenticeship at fourteen. Since the family needed food, he started an apprenticeship as a farmer. That was practical since he could always bring food home. He got into it and went to special school -- later he was even able to study agriculture because of his good grades. Originally he had wanted to be a lawyer like me, but he hadnít been able to, so he became an agriculturist -- he studied agriculture and was assigned a position as a farmer. So then he became a farmer, even though it wasnít what he had wanted to be.