From the Wende Vault with Love

As Valentine’s Day approaches we decided to comb through the collection to bring you a few objects of affection, forbidden love, and youthful innocence from East Germany.

The story of Paul and Paula’s relationship in Heiner Carow’s film, Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula), was one of the most passionate and tragic to come out of East Germany. Set in East Berlin, this 1973 film presents the viewer with the realism of daily socialist life, while also offering scenes that verge on the edge of surreal. Addressing issues of love, marriage, children and family, this film was as popular as it was controversial.

The Legend of Paul and Paula

In 1989, Heiner Carow produced another film, this time addressing forbidden love, that being the love between two men. Coming Out‘s premiere occurred on the same night that the Berlin Wall fell, giving this film even more historical importance. Serving as the first film to depict the lived experiences of gay men in East Germany, Coming Out helped give a marginalized group presence in mainstream culture. Homosexuality was outlawed in East Germany, as well as West Germany, under Paragraph 175. Although homosexuality was legalized in East Germany in 1968, it was still made criminal under Paragraph 151. Paragraph 151 outlawed acts of homosexuality that occurred between someone who was under the age of 18 and someone who was over the age of 18. Finally, in 1988 homosexuality was made completely legal, no longer appearing anywhere in the constitution. Coming Out’s importance lies in Carow’s use of a controversial issue as a way to speak about larger themes occurring in the final years of East Germany.

For some, love doesn’t come that easy. Regardless of power or position, some people need a little extra help when it comes to the art of romance. The book, Wie ist das mit der Liebe? (What is Love about?) was part of Erich Honecker’s personal library. Having married twice, Honecker’s use of this book probably came in handy. Addressing love from a physiological and scientific perspective, Klaus Tosetti’s book gave the reader a more comprehensive understanding about the Voegel and the Bienen (the birds and the bees).


The last object of affection is the Social Democratic Party (SPD) political poster that was used during reunification. The poster features two young lovers that symbolize both sides of the wall and the special new relationship that the SPD wanted to emphasize. The graffitied Berlin Wall serves as the physical barrier that the young couple has overcome. Speaking to larger themes of reunification and the youth of the new German nation, the SPD poster casts the two innocent children as the unifying hope for the future of Germany.

From everyone at the Wende, we would like to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Also, make sure to check back for highlights from our new shipment that we will be receiving at the end of February.

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