Farbige Impressionen aus der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik

 

This relic of the cold war was published by Leipzig publisher VEB Brockhaus in 1974 and is clearly designed as a coffee-table book extolling the wonders of East Germany. The text and captions in the book are in German only but there is a separate brochure with the captions in English, French, Polish, Czech and Russian making it an ideal memento for fellow travellers from other Iron Curtain countries. The production quality of this square 10 inch hardcover book isn’t bad with a mixture of gloss pages for the photographs (although the printing could be better) and matt for the text.

The publication attempts to provide a brief overview of the various regions and cities of the old DDR, showing the usual crowd-pleasing depictions of picturesque scenery, mountains, sunsets and architecture that tourists and the general public seem to enjoy. We have the usual contrasts between the ‘old’ city full of timbered medieval houses and then the shiny ‘new’ city primarily made up of plattenbau, the prefabricated concrete tower blocks that were used to provide instant housing after the war. The contented looking people lounging about in the city squares and the kids playing in apartment complexes all serve to show that these concrete blocks built by the benevolent state are inhabited by happy workers who seem to have lots of leisure time to enjoy the wonders of socialism.  As can be imagined, there are no references to the wall or the all-pervasive Stasi secret police that kept the population on a tight leash.

References to the Soviet Union’s importance are given prominence with the appearance of Brezhnev and Honecker and the Soviet war memorial in Berlin appearing early on in the book. This to me would seem to indicate just how insecure the old DDR felt; even in a book clearly designed to showcase socialist East Germany as a shining success to the world it was impossible not to include the Russians.

As this is clearly a tourist book, images of the usual themes that communist propaganda seems to enjoy (heavy industry, collective agriculture, the military) are heavily toned down and only make fleeting appearances so as not to disturb the reader’s illusion that all was well in the DDR.

 

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