I was born in the ehemaligen (former) German Democratic Republic. And although I was still very young at the time als die Berliner Mauer fiel (when the Berlin Wall came down) and Germany was reunited, I can still recall the Mangelversorgung (scanty supply) that occurred damals (in those days). For instance, I can remember that I once wanted to have an ordinary Malbuch (coloring book) with neat drawings, which catch the eye of a child easily. But this and other things, which are taken for granted nowadays, were simply not erhältlich (obtainable).
Don’t get me wrong. No one was von Hungersnot geplagt (affected by famine). The assortment of the GDR was generally mangelhaft (deficient). Aus diesem Grund (for this reason), Westdeutsche (West Germans) had begun to send sogenannte (so called) Westpakete (West Parcels) to their Familienangehörigen (family members) who lived in the Eastern part of Germany. At the times of the Eisernen Vorhang (Iron Curtain), the people who lived in West Germany and East Germany could hardly visit each other because of the Einreisebeschränkungen (entry restrictions).
Since I myself cannot remember unpacking a “Westpaket”, I got my memories mainly aus Erzählungen von Verwandten und Bekannten (from narrations from relatives and friends). Usually, the parcels contained everyday products like Süßigkeiten (sweets), coffee, shower gel, soap, tea, Backzutaten (baking ingredients), and even Kleidungsstücke (garments). People especially loved the Düfte (scents) of the parcels, which perfumed their houses because similar products of the GDR were usually more or less duftlos (scentless). People always report that soap smelled like soap and that chocolate tasted like chocolate.
Some parcels even had a doppelten Boden (double bottom) where the senders hid things, which were streng verboten (strictly forbidden), such as Zeitschriften (magazines) and Geld (money), D-Mark. The magazines very often out-dated editions but still an acceptable gift, as well as the money, which enabled people to shop in so called “Intershops” – special shops in the GDR where exclusively “West Products” were available.
Of course, it is impossible to give a detailed report about “Westpakete” in a single post since I am sure that every citizen of the former GDR can tell his own story about it. But I hope I could give you a brief look behind the curtain.