DDR island in the Caribbean

Cayo ernesto thälmann

zdf-aspekte/dw-kultur 21 (2004)

A glorious June day in 1972: Cuba’s Fidel Castro glides down the gangway of East Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport in a good mood and into the arms of the new DDR head of state Erich Honecker. The nuclear poker game between the superpowers in Cuba, which almost catapulted the world into the apocalypse, dozens of assassination attempts, the economic blockade – Castro survived it all. Fidel is extremely cheerful and lively, his hosts extremely pleased, and with him a breath of world history blows into the small DDR. “Aktuelle Kamera” reports enthusiastically, showing Castro on a tour of the republic. Back in East Berlin, it is the Cuban’s turn to spread out a huge map with a grand gesture. What the DDR spokesman and the new germany announce becomes the birth of the legend: Castro gifts the GDR an island. The sandy archipelago of Cayo Blanco del Sur in southern Cuba, barely half a kilometer wide but over twenty kilometers long, a palm-covered Caribbean paradise, is given a new name: “Cayo Ernesto Thälmann”. 30 years later, the DDR is history, the Wall has fallen and the country has long since joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Did the DDR have a small island in its luggage that was overlooked during reunification? We travel to Cuba and meet contemporary witnesses who know more.

Author: Kersten Schüßler
camera: Tom Friedl, Werner Peter
Editing: Drag rath