Posters from the DDR

Influencing opinion in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik

Influencing the public opinion was important during the Cold War in the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik - DDR). The communist ideology as carried out by the Soviet Union had to be carefully monitored and promoted. An important way to accomplish this was through the publication of posters. They could easily carry out the communist and present the communist way of “the truth” and what was “right” and “wrong”. In this source collection, you can see how this works in practice. It consists of Socialist Realist artworks that were used as propaganda posters. The message of the poster had to be easily understood, and had to direct the ordinary people. It goes without saying that the posters had to support the message of communism, where the Soviet Union was the role model. The images are thus always presented in a positive way with all kinds of ordinary people like farmers, workers and soldiers. Both male and female characters are depicted, as well as political and ideological leaders. The posters have a happy atmosphere with bright colours and show hard working people. Most of the posters were made at the beginning of the 1950s, in the early years of the communist regime in East-Germany.

Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Laura Steenbrink with the support of Helen Snelson and Bjorn Pels. The source collection makes use of sources provided by the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig.

Ami, Go Home!

An American man is lying comfortably in a landscape that seems to be in construction. The subscription states that he feels at home in Germany. To this, Germany answers: “Ami, go home!” (4 July 1950). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/93a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Ami, Go Home!

An American man is lying comfortably in a landscape that seems to be in construction. The subscription states that he feels at home in Germany. To this, Germany answers: “Ami, go home!” (4 July 1950). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/93a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

1 May: International Labour Day

This poster shows five people in simple workers’ cloths. The leading worker is carrying a hammer to illustrate the fact that he is a worker. The workers have happy, contented facial expressions, which makes it a typical image of Socialist Realism. The accompanying text states “Labour Day for the workers of all countries” (1950). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/100, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

1 May: International Labour Day

This poster shows five people in simple workers’ cloths. The leading worker is carrying a hammer to illustrate the fact that he is a worker. The workers have happy, contented facial expressions, which makes it a typical image of Socialist Realism. The accompanying text states “Labour Day for the workers of all countries” (1950). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/100, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Korea for the Koreans! Germany for the Germans!

On the upper part of the poster, a man with a serious facial expression and physic attitude, is standing with a gun in his hand. He is accompanied by the text “Korea for the Koreans!” The lower part of the poster is filled by a man that appears to be running away. He dropped his gun and he is followed by notes that say “Go home”. This man is accompanied by the text “Germany for the Germans”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/10, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Korea for the Koreans! Germany for the Germans!

On the upper part of the poster, a man with a serious facial expression and physic attitude, is standing with a gun in his hand. He is accompanied by the text “Korea for the Koreans!” The lower part of the poster is filled by a man that appears to be running away. He dropped his gun and he is followed by notes that say “Go home”. This man is accompanied by the text “Germany for the Germans”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 50/10, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Learning From the Soviets is Learning How to Win

This poster shows two men shaking their hands. Behind them, the German and Soviet flag are depicted and this would imply that they are a German and a Soviet. The title illustrates that for Germans, working with and learning from the Soviets is beneficial for the country. The style, colours and facial expressions of the two men underline this (1951). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 51/74a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Learning From the Soviets is Learning How to Win

This poster shows two men shaking their hands. Behind them, the German and Soviet flag are depicted and this would imply that they are a German and a Soviet. The title illustrates that for Germans, working with and learning from the Soviets is beneficial for the country. The style, colours and facial expressions of the two men underline this (1951). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 51/74a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Youth First

Three young men are working in a factory. The German text states “Become Ruler of the Machine” and implies that the three men are learning how to control the machine (1951). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 51/15, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Youth First

Three young men are working in a factory. The German text states “Become Ruler of the Machine” and implies that the three men are learning how to control the machine (1951). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 51/15, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

What We Have to Defend

On this poster a woman with a little girl on her lap is depicted in front of a German flag, with the text “what do we have to defend” written above marching soldiers. The small images show various aspects from East-German society. The woman and the girl are in bright colours, a sign of the Socialist Realism style of posters (1952). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/201a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

What We Have to Defend

On this poster a woman with a little girl on her lap is depicted in front of a German flag, with the text “what do we have to defend” written above marching soldiers. The small images show various aspects from East-German society. The woman and the girl are in bright colours, a sign of the Socialist Realism style of posters (1952). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/201a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Rebuilding Our Berlin Together

This poster shows a woman cheering in front of a cart and a pile of bricks in front of her. She appears to be cheering, with the text “Beautiful as ever is our Berlin” written above. The poster is accompanied by the text “Everybody join to help rebuild the German capital”, which implies that the poster is encouraging people to help rebuild the capital city. The cheerful appearance of the woman illustrates the Socialist Realism style of the poster (1952).  (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/144, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Rebuilding Our Berlin Together

This poster shows a woman cheering in front of a cart and a pile of bricks in front of her. She appears to be cheering, with the text “Beautiful as ever is our Berlin” written above. The poster is accompanied by the text “Everybody join to help rebuild the German capital”, which implies that the poster is encouraging people to help rebuild the capital city. The cheerful appearance of the woman illustrates the Socialist Realism style of the poster (1952).  (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/144, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Day of the Teachers

This poster announces Teachers’ Day on 12 June. The text states that by learning we fight for peace. The two adults appear to be teachers surrounded by their students. The poster has a style typical for Socialist Realism and thus emphasises the importance of education. The sign on the building says that “we teach, learn and fight for peace” (1952).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/236, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Day of the Teachers

This poster announces Teachers’ Day on 12 June. The text states that by learning we fight for peace. The two adults appear to be teachers surrounded by their students. The poster has a style typical for Socialist Realism and thus emphasises the importance of education. The sign on the building says that “we teach, learn and fight for peace” (1952).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/236, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Matthew Ridgway in Western Europe

A spider with the face of a man is standing on an airplane with an injection in its hands. The plane with the spider on to appears to be representing the United States because of the “US” written on the tail of the plane (1952). The face of the man is Matthew Ridgway, a senior officer of the US Army. The text states that the “highest vigilance and combat readiness protects our German Democratic Republic”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/187a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Matthew Ridgway in Western Europe

A spider with the face of a man is standing on an airplane with an injection in its hands. The plane with the spider on to appears to be representing the United States because of the “US” written on the tail of the plane (1952). The face of the man is Matthew Ridgway, a senior officer of the US Army. The text states that the “highest vigilance and combat readiness protects our German Democratic Republic”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/187a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Let the Youth do their Thing

A young boy and girl appear to be dancing together. They have happy facial expressions and the colours of the poster are light, which makes this poster an example of Socialist Realism. In the background, other young couples are dancing together and seem to be enjoying themselves. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/48, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Let the Youth do their Thing

A young boy and girl appear to be dancing together. They have happy facial expressions and the colours of the poster are light, which makes this poster an example of Socialist Realism. In the background, other young couples are dancing together and seem to be enjoying themselves. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/48, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

New Production Successes

On this poster a man is surrounded by a group of children, a standing young man behind him and a woman in front of him. The children just gave him flowers and the texts state to thank the Soviet Union and move forward, which may imply that they are congratulating him with his new production successes. The accompanying texts say: “Thank the Soviet Union for the surrender of the 66 SAG Ben” and “Our own enterprises – our pride, forward to a new production success!”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/316a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

New Production Successes

On this poster a man is surrounded by a group of children, a standing young man behind him and a woman in front of him. The children just gave him flowers and the texts state to thank the Soviet Union and move forward, which may imply that they are congratulating him with his new production successes. The accompanying texts say: “Thank the Soviet Union for the surrender of the 66 SAG Ben” and “Our own enterprises – our pride, forward to a new production success!”. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/316a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Cooperation Between Worker and Scholar

A man is sitting at a table and appears to be looking at some paperwork. Another man is looking over his shoulder. Their physical appearances lead to the impression that they are a worker and a scholar. The description of the poster states that cooperation between workers and the intelligentsia is good for the welfare of the state as a whole. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/168, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Cooperation Between Worker and Scholar

A man is sitting at a table and appears to be looking at some paperwork. Another man is looking over his shoulder. Their physical appearances lead to the impression that they are a worker and a scholar. The description of the poster states that cooperation between workers and the intelligentsia is good for the welfare of the state as a whole. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/168, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Happy Family

“This was a happy family”, is the translation of the title of this poster. A man with a satisfied expression on his face is portrayed together with a smiling woman holding a baby. The facial expression of the couple and the soft colours lead to the impression that this poster is an example of Socialist Realism. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/183a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Happy Family

“This was a happy family”, is the translation of the title of this poster. A man with a satisfied expression on his face is portrayed together with a smiling woman holding a baby. The facial expression of the couple and the soft colours lead to the impression that this poster is an example of Socialist Realism. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/183a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Working Together for Peace

On this poster two men, both farmers, are standing in the countryside with an industrial city on the background. The text states that “together we will fulfil our plan for peace”, thus emphasising the importance of cooperation among farmers. The hand on the shoulder, contented facial expression and soft colours make this a typical Socialist Realism poster (1953). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/111a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Working Together for Peace

On this poster two men, both farmers, are standing in the countryside with an industrial city on the background. The text states that “together we will fulfil our plan for peace”, thus emphasising the importance of cooperation among farmers. The hand on the shoulder, contented facial expression and soft colours make this a typical Socialist Realism poster (1953). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 52/111a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Young World

On this poster a young boy holds a pamphlet to promote a youth organisation, organising various leisure-time activities. The poster thus encourages young children to join societies and associations. The happy face of the boy shows that it fits in the Socialist Realism collection (1953).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 53/76, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Young World

On this poster a young boy holds a pamphlet to promote a youth organisation, organising various leisure-time activities. The poster thus encourages young children to join societies and associations. The happy face of the boy shows that it fits in the Socialist Realism collection (1953).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 53/76, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Visit the Parenting Seminar

On the poster two parents are shown, apparently educating their son, using a book. The text encourages parents to visit the parenting seminar, which will “give you advice and help by raising your children”. The colours, style and contented faces of the parents show that this poster belongs to the Socialist Realism style (1953).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 53/196, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Visit the Parenting Seminar

On the poster two parents are shown, apparently educating their son, using a book. The text encourages parents to visit the parenting seminar, which will “give you advice and help by raising your children”. The colours, style and contented faces of the parents show that this poster belongs to the Socialist Realism style (1953).   (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 53/196, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Socialism Wins

A blond man is standing below a crane. His physical appearance is strong, which contributes to the message of the poster, “Socialism Wins” (1958). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 58/34, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Socialism Wins

A blond man is standing below a crane. His physical appearance is strong, which contributes to the message of the poster, “Socialism Wins” (1958). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 58/34, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Youth Consecration

A young girl and boy are standing in front of an older man, the boy shaking the hand of the man. The girl is holding a copy of “Weltall Erde Mensch” (“Space Earthman”), the best sold book during the separation of Germany (1959). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 59/89, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Youth Consecration

A young girl and boy are standing in front of an older man, the boy shaking the hand of the man. The girl is holding a copy of “Weltall Erde Mensch” (“Space Earthman”), the best sold book during the separation of Germany (1959). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 59/89, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Ten Years Old Like Our Republic

This poster shows a boy in front of the East-German flag, with the text “I am ten years old like our Republic”. The boy has a happy, proud appearance and this implies that the Republic is like a young boy with an important anniversary. This poster is from a few years later than the others in this collection, but the style is still typical for Socialist Realism (1959). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 59/48a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Ten Years Old Like Our Republic

This poster shows a boy in front of the East-German flag, with the text “I am ten years old like our Republic”. The boy has a happy, proud appearance and this implies that the Republic is like a young boy with an important anniversary. This poster is from a few years later than the others in this collection, but the style is still typical for Socialist Realism (1959). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 59/48a, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Let the Technique Work For You

A woman is standing with her hands in her waist in a kitchen. In front of her are two electric kitchen tools. The subscription of the poster states “Let the Technique Work For You” (1961). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 61/1, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Let the Technique Work For You

A woman is standing with her hands in her waist in a kitchen. In front of her are two electric kitchen tools. The subscription of the poster states “Let the Technique Work For You” (1961). (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig PL 61/1, CC BY-NC-SA - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)