Global Studies professor Jonathan Bach on Public Seminar

What Remains: Everyday Encounters with the Socialist Past in Germany

An excerpt from Jonathan Bach’s latest book

The Taste Remains

In October 1998, a squat building with oddly sloped walls and a big red M over the door appeared on a grassy empty lot in an industrial area near the former border. The oddly modernist, vulnerable building was one of the last surviving “space expansion halls” from the former East Germany, a telescoping portable house of aluminum and beaverboard that could be assembled in one day and carted around on a trailer. Once produced in the thousands and ubiquitous in the socialist landscape, this forlorn specimen now formed a temporal and spatial contrast against the backdrop of massive, nineteenth-century factory buildings. Five years earlier these impressive edifices still housed the East German Narva lightbulb factory. Now they were undergoing transformation from an “age of industrial exteriors,” as the area’s development company put it, to an “age of information interiors.”