German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: WAS und WIE was the monthly magazine for agitators (lower level propagandists) in East Germany. It contained nothing confidential, but summarized the arguments and evidence that agitators were to use in talking with their neighbors and workmates. They were encouraged to master a wide range of rather complicated material. A perennial problem East Germany faced was the higher standard of living iin West Germany. In this article from 1978, the attempt is to demonstrate that although there were differences between the two countries, East Germans on the whole were better off than West Germans. The critical omission in the article is the average incomes of both countries: West Germans earned about three times more than East Germans. Another key factor was the exchange rate. The East Germans set an official exchange rate of 1:1. The black market rate in East Germany, however, was around 10:1.

The source: “Was unsere Mark wert ist,” WAS und WIE, #6/1978.

The Value of Our Mark

June 1978

Nearly every day, the bourgeois mass media in the FRG and West Berlin attempt to convince their readers, listeners, or viewers that their standard of living is higher than that of citizens of the GDR.

How are things in reality? What is our mark really worth in comparison to the West German DM?

A few facts:

For 100 marks, one can on average rent a two-room apartment for two months in our republic.

100 DM is sufficient to rent a comparable apartment for ten days. That is for public housing — on the “open” market rents are substantially higher.

For 100 marks or 100 DM, one can buy the following basic foodstuffs:

10 kg. potatoes 10 kg. potatoes
3 kg. rye bread 3 kg. rye bread
5 kg. white bread 5 kg. white bread
2 kg. butter 2 kg. butter
10 liters whole milk 10 liters whole milk
2 kg. schnitzel 2 kg. schnitzel
10 eggs 10 eggs
.5 kg. cheese .5 kg. cheese
1 kg. white sugar 1 kg. white sugar
1 kg. flour 1 kg. flour
1 kg. sausage
1 kg. chicken
1 kg. fish
20 bread rolls
2 kg. apples
1 kg. oranges
1 kg.margarine

We do not ignore the fact that some consumer goods such as televisions, refrigerators, and cars are less expensive there than they are here.

For 100 marks, a worker in the GDR can buy a weekly train pass for 40 weeks (for a distance of 15 kilometers).

For 100 DM a FRG citizen can buy such a weekly train pass only for seven weeks.

One can buy 500 bus and tram tickets for 100 marks.

One can buy on average 76 bus and tram tickets for 100 DM in the FRG.

In the GDR, parents pay an average of 27.50 marks a month for child care. For 100 marks, the child can be in child care for almost four months.

In the FRG, on the other hand, the cost for child care is between 250 and 600 DM monthly. That means 100 DM will scarcely last a week.

Kindergarten costs between nine and twelve marks by us.

The corresponding cost is at least ten times as high in the FRG. That means that in the GDR 100 marks will cover the costs of kindergarten for a year. In the FRG, 100 DM will last a month.

There inflation and price gouging prevail — by us income is constantly growing for workers and prices are stable.

Such is the value and stability of our mark.

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