Postcard from... Berlin

Anyone who has been on the streets of Berlin on New Year's Eve will know that the experience is exciting, if not easy. For most of the year Germany enforces strict controls on the sale and use of fireworks. But these are waived for New Year celebrations and every corner shop suddenly has a host of firecrackers, rockets and other pyrotechnics on sale to the general public.

A batch of patients were unwittingly subjected to testing for the blood pressure drug Ramipril

Drug firms bought East German patients to use as human guinea pigs

Bruchmüller described how the patient in the bed next to him suddenly died of a  heart attack

Postcard from... Berlin

Communist East Germany may have been killed off with the fall of the Berlin Wall 23 years ago, but its products live on – and on. Some 90,000 former East German citizens queued up in freezing temperatures over the weekend to get into east Berlin's Yuletide phenomenon for insiders – a Christmas market dedicated to selling “Ossiware” – goods that were being produced in East Germany before 1989 and still are.

Postcard from... Berlin

The Sex Pistols made a deep impression on Frank Willmann. He first listened to their music at home in communist East Germany at the age of 14. By the time he was 17, he belonged to the group of around 900 East German punks who were subjected to almost daily humiliation and insults from the regular police, the Stasi, and ordinary citizens. “We were banned from all the pubs, discos and youth clubs and on the street we were called scroungers,” he recalls.

Ikea used forced prison labour to make furniture

Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant whose flat-pack offerings grace homes from Bolton to Bangkok, has admitted that East German political prisoners had been used to make its goods for as long as three decades.

Postcard from... Germany

The mayor of Wolgast, close to the border with Poland, decided to set up a “model” hostel for asylum seekers on a tower block estate. The aim was to integrate the 180 newcomers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Ghana into the existing community. But then a TV documentary exposed the project's nastier side. The estate's German residents gave interviews saying they didn't want any foreigners in their neighbourhood. A neo-Nazi rock tune blasted out of the windows of one of the flats overlooking the hostel. Some of the asylum seekers' children were shown dancing to the music blissfully unaware of its racist lyrics. A youth told the reporter: “They want to burn down the asylum block.”

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56

Communism's end was in its beginning

Capture the castle: Neuschwanstein

We're not just here for the beer

Oktoberfest draws millions of visitors to Bavaria each year, but there's much more to this quirky German state

Magnetic: Nina Hoss draws the attention in Christian Petzold’s Barbara

Barbara, Christian Petzold, 105 mins (12A)

Remember the 2006 drama The Lives of Others, about surveillance in the old East Germany? Its ambitious novelistic sprawl would have expanded nicely into a television series – you could imagine the film's Stasi snooper as a TV anti-hero, a shabbier Don Draper or Tony Soprano in ill-fitting headphones.

Women’s shot putter Valerie Adams had her silver medal upgraded

Impatient Valerie Adams forced to wait a little longer for her golden lining

There was a surprise for Valerie Adams after her victory in the women's shot put at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix yesterday. Asked how she felt about setting a stadium record, the big New Zealander replied: "Oh, thanks. I didn't even know I got that."

Postcard From...Berlin

The story of Peter Fechter sums up the Cold War's brutality more than most. Fifty years ago this week, the 18-year-old trainee bricklayer was gunned down in a hail of bullets fired by border guards while trying to flee from East Berlin over the city's infamous wall to what was then capitalist West Berlin.

Angela Merkel has returned from holiday, during which she visited the Bayreuth festival

Angela Merkel returns from holidays and wades straight into eurozone row

Chancellor's senior ally warns Germany will veto next Greek aid package if reforms are not pushed through

Jeter brings it home to smash 27-year-old 'tainted' world record

As the American sprinter Carmelita Jeter crossed the finish line at the end of the women's 4 x 100m relay last night, she pointed towards the trackside clock in wide-eyed astonishment. This figures on the in-field display were: 40.82. It was a seismic moment not just for London 2012 but for track and field.

Michael Phelps enjoys the victory over his friend Ryan Lochte

Michael Phelps reasserts authority with his 16th Olympic gold

The total now stands at 16 and this one was all his own work. Michael Phelps claimed his first individual gold of London 2012 last night with a devastating swim in the 200m individual medley that proved too much for a tiring Ryan Lochte. Phelps, the master of Beijing, has reasserted his authority in the pool.

Carrying the weight: Despite his formative years in East Germany, Jürgen Grobler has made Britain his home and British rowing his passion

The Last Word: Coach with a dark past has lit up rowing

Jürgen Grobler turned his own life around then remodelled the GB squad into world-beaters

Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project