Next month marks the 25th anniversary fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the headlong collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
To celebrate this milestone, I’ve decided to feature some of the items from my Cold War collection, which includes flags, helmets, visor caps and related items.
The exceptionally well preserved banner of the Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth), pictured right, was purportedly displayed in East Berlin during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution.
The label on the flag indicates that it was manufactured at the Radebeul flag factory near Dresden.
You may notice that this banner is not explicitly communist in design. There is a fascinating reason behind this discrepancy. The FDJ was initially founded in the Soviet-occupied sector with the stated goal of attracting youth from Christian Democratic, Social Democratic and other anti-fascist backgrounds. Over time, though, the non-communist elements were expunged, leaving the FDJ effectively functioning as a communist youth organization – needless to say, the goal from the beginning.
Interestingly, the FDJ functioned a nursery for several prominent Socialist Unity (Communist) Party leaders, notably Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the party and the effective leader of East Germany as things began to unravel, and Egon Krenz, who replaced Honecker and presided over the crumbling regime only long enough to witness the end of the party’s hegemonic role in East German society.
Remarkably, the FDJ, almost completely marginalized in the years following the collapse of East German communism, has undergone a kind of resurgence in recent years.