German Reunification: Words You Need to Know

climbing the wall
Begrüßungsgeld

Begrüßungsgeld

The German word Begrüßungsgeld means "welcome money" - a concept that was created by the West German government in 1970. This money was a gift to visitors from the east, making it possible for them to travel to the west.

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Geisterbahnhof

The word Geisterbahnhof means "ghost train station" and signifies an empty or out-of-service station that gives off a ghostly vibe. This word originated during the Cold War, when so-called "ghost stations" arose in Berlin's public transportation system.

Mauerspecht

Mauerspecht

After the East German border was opened, countless people chipped away at the Berlin Wall with pickaxes and sledgehammers. These people were called "Mauerspechte" (wall woodpeckers).

Ossi / Wessi

Ossi / Wessi

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, generalized nicknames arose to distinguish people who lived on either side of the border. Those in the west were informally referred to as Wessis and those in the east were called Ossis.

Ampelmann

Ostalgie

Despite the fall of the wall and modern Germany's reunification, some Germans still exhibit Ostalgie - a deep yearning for the East German way of life.

Rennpappe

Rennpappe

If you're familiar with East German cars, you probably know that they're not the best quality. But that's probably an understatement: they were so bad, in fact, that Germans began referring to them as Rennpappe, which means "running cardboard".

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Republikflucht

When East Germans escaped over the inner German border during the Cold War, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) described their actions as Republikflucht, which means “desertion from the republic“ or “flight from the republic.”

Stacheldrahtsonntag

Stacheldrahtsonntag

The events of August 13, 1961 brought a new word into the German language: Stacheldrahtsonntag, which means "Barbed Wire Sunday".

Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, © picture-alliance/dpa

Wendehals

After the fall of the wall, the word Wendehals was used to describe East Germans whose political convictions did a 180-degree turn during reunification.

Reunification Vocabulary

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