Shopping in Post-War Germany

Life in a German village during the 1950s and 1960s meant shopping close to home. Since only a few people owned cars, we usually shopped by bicycle. That way we had handles and a rack to put our purchases on. There were bakeries, a butcher, hair dressers, a Raiffeisen feed & coal store, and numerous Tante-Emma-Läden (mom-and-pop stores) in a front room of the owner’s house.


You could buy almost anything you needed: bread, groceries, toys, school supplies, magazines and tobacco, film, threads, yarns, clothing, and toiletries. You were never far from a store and it was not uncommon to send a child there alone. After all, everyone knew everyone. If we needed shoes, we bicycled to the next village with its two shoe stores. We walked to the farmer with a milk can. In the fall, my mother and grandfather helped with the potato harvest to earn our winter supply.

All this changed when people began to buy cars. One after the other, the mom-and-pop stores disappeared and supermarkets began to pop up everywhere. They offered a wider variety of goods at often cheaper prices, but not the same human contact. Gone are the days of a friendly chat with the store owner or other customers.

Image: Deutsche Fotothek (Roger Rössing)


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