But the first floor of the Stasi Museum is not about spying. Instead, it is devoted to the propaganda that East German bureaucrats used to foster socialist consciousness in an unwilling public. One display explains the GDR's efforts in the 1950s to politicize what in the past had been family and religious occasions. The state sought to transform weddings, confirmations, and other personal events into "socialist celebrations," to be "committed collectively and aimed at a confession to socialism," according to the awkward English translation of the exhibit.
The exhibition informs visitors that the project "did not gain popular acceptance." Amazingly enough, people didn't want to turn their family holidays into socialist celebrations.
Here at home, this Thanksgiving brings an effort by the Obama administration to turn a day of giving thanks into a day of discussion about the virtues of national health care. On Wednesday afternoon, just hours before Thanksgiving, President Obama's Twitter account -- which has more than 40 million followers -- sent out this message: "Make sure everyone who sits down with you for #Thanksgivukkah dinner is covered." ("Thanksgivukkah" refers to this year's rare overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.)
The president's tweet linked to a photo of a young man sitting at a table with a turkey and a menorah. The accompanying text: "Celebrating Thanksgiving. Lighting the Hanukkah candles. Talking about health insurance. Gotta love dinners like these."