“The Good Old GDR” or “Capitalism Is Not All That Different

After the presentation by Franz-Josef Bierbrauer (who used to work for OSRAM) during the EAA-Kolloquium at “Universität der Bundeswehr” a few weeks ago, I dined with the host and his orator. Since the presentation had been about “light”, I told them a story out of the 1970ies:

Flagge DDR Around 1975, I went from Munich to Berlin via Probstzella in the GDR on the “inter zone train” to attend a mathematical conference on combinatorics, which was what I wrote about in my diploma thesis.

The inter zone train rode through the dark night and, as usual, often stopped in the middle of nowhere. On one of those stops, it was light as day as I looked out of the window. A field was illuminated with enormous light intensity. On the field, you could see a typical GDR notice board with hammer and sickle saying: “plants grow faster for socialism”. Underneath, they had written the name of the combinate, but I no longer remember that.

EdisonsgluehlampeWith this story, I wanted to show my dinner companions how absurdly the GDR used up energy – after all, they had the world’s highest per-capito electricity consumption and with (more than just) their brown coal power stations were one of the biggest environmental sinners of the world.

So much the more I was astonished to hear what Franz-Josef Bierbrauer replied:
Yes, garden centres are, indeed, the best customers of OSRAM. Besides, in order to have plants grow faster, you need about 20 times as much lux as people working in an office with the lights turned on.

A week later, I told this story to a retired manager on my way to Frankfurt by train. During his work-life, he had been active in a world-wide steel wholesale trade. All he could do was shake his head and say: “We humans will never really learn from past mistakes!”
(Translated by EG)

For me, that also clarified something I had been wondering about during our Norwegian Journey in June. The brightly illuminated huge buildings on the hills along the fjords had been greenhouses. And I guess you should only eat cucumber and tomatoes from your own vegetable garden and limit your consumption of vegetables in winter to diverse cabbage types and winter salad (ice salad). Like in my childhood. By the way, in those days salad tasted rather nice.

The picture showing Edison’s light bulb is from the wikipedia article.

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