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Germanic Collections

Transnational Poster Art : Former East Germany (GDR) and Latin America 1970-1989

Homepage History: GDR Poster Art GDR Poster Art and Chile GDR Poster Art and Nicaragua GDR Poster Art and other Latin American Countries GDR Poster Art and other Developing Nations Anti-USA Posters

"For Anti-Imperialistic Solidarity -- Peace and Friendship"

Juergen Muecke (1984)
This poster in itself displays 25 of of the political propaganda posters commissioned from East German artists by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) government during the 1970's and 80's. The GDR strongly advocated for anti-imperialism and declared general peace and solidarity with numerous countries including Chile, Uruguay, Vietnam, Laos, Angola and Palestine among others up until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

International Solidarity and East German Poster Art: An Introduction

The images of political leaders, writers, revolutionaries, and others in this exhibit display not only an international "language" of images depicted in a non-typical form of "mass" media, but a sense that this type of international communication has a unique power in mobilizing human interest and emotion. Posters are effective because of their combination of massivity and art. A poster image not transmitted on a screen but rather pasted or tacked onto walls. Poster art is an alternative space for the mass production of images, unlike television, radio or periodicals.

In this introduction, we will describe the forms of artistic and sociopolitical communication in posters and graphic arts of this type. Then we will discuss the particular contexts which we have chosen to study the posters, in the former East Germany and Latin America, with posters all sharing the common themes related to political events in Latin America.

This World Wide Web exhibit contains over 30 posters, all of which were designed in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), and whose production was funded and encouraged by the East German government. The viewer will also encounter some posters produced in Nicaragua and Chile which compliment the East German ones in terms of content, and other types of artwork created by Germans as well as Latin American citizens. Our purpose is to show the GDR's foreign policy towards developing countries during the 1970's and 80's, a foreign policy which the East German government strove to reinforce and legitimize through this popular art form.

The GDR sponsored a triennial contest and exhibit entitled Intergrafik . This contest's official goal was to "make graphic arts considered as a means of understanding and as a convincing way to maintain security and peace." International artists from around the world would participate in this show by displaying their artwork which incorporated the theme peace. For example,Intergrafik 73 was held in conjunction with the Xth World Festival of Youth and Students. Its slogan was "For Peace, Friendship and Anti-Imerpialist Solidarity." The art displayed was "a result of the necessity of waging the political struggle." Numerous pieces of art exhibited in this website originated from Intergrafik exhibit catalogs.

Intergrafik was sponsored by the "Solidaritaetskommittee der DDR," or the GDR Solidarity Committee. This committee, which was subdivided by region (i.e. Latin America, Africa, etc.), was founded out of "Help committees" which followed the tradition of the Red Cross. These committees supported various countries and governments in political, moral and material form. The Account "444" was created for GDR citizens to help the East German government's cause in sending textbooks and teaching aids to developing countries. Also, the money from the account, which was well supported by free donations, supposedly went to training facilities, the building of hospitals, battling hunger, disease, illiteracy, aggression and occupation by imperpialist governments like the USA.

The posters in this exhibit express political solidarity with Latin American socialist and communist parties and revolutionary movements. These posters, which were displayed in hospitals, government offices, schools and other public places fostered an awareness about political situations. Such posters reminded the East German population that communist movements exist all over the world, not only in Europe. Furthermore, many GDR posters reinforced the idea of the common enemy, the United States: the political enemy of communist leadership all around the world. The GDR took advantage of this shared political view and enlisted artists to portray the United States the the populace. Consequently, the artists, who were directly funded by the GDR political party, often used images of a cruel, underhanded United States in their posters about Latin America.

The GDR was particularly active in its foreign policy for two reasons. First, the GDR had to strengthen its own image in the eyes of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The GDR and the FRG each wanted to prove to their respective citizens that their government/nation was the better one, the "right" one for Germans. Consequently, the GDR was active in its foreign policy partly to counter the FRG foreign relations efforts.

Secondly, the GDR used political propaganda in its foreign policy development in order to strengthen its relations with the Soviet Union. GDR propaganda books, describing the nation's identity, political philosophy and foreign policy agenda, openly stated that the GDR was using its foreign policy to gain approval and political clout in the eyes of the Soviet government. However, other books by western/capitalist writers asserted that GDR was forced by the Soviet Union to have such a foreign policy agenda. In essence, western writers have said that the GDR had little say in how their own country was run, and that the USSR used the East German government as a pawn in carrying out their own foreign policy agenda.

In this exhibit we organized the poster images, which we obtained from original posters in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, according to major themes presented in the posters themselves. We hope that the viewers will use this exhibit as a tool to understand how East Germany used posters to express its political agenda. Viewers should come away with a knowledge of the language of images repeated over and over in the posters, and a basic understanding of the historical uses of political poster art as a way to create international solidarity among nations and, therefore, legitimacy for them as well.


The Curators

Homepage History: GDR Poster Art GDR Poster Art and Chile GDR Poster Art and Nicaragua GDR Poster Art and other Latin American Countries GDR Poster Art and other Developing Nations Anti-USA Posters

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Last modified: May 22, 2009

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