The completion of the Palace of the Republic in April 1976 marked the end of the largest prestige project in GDR history. The building costs were officially 485 million East Marks, though internal figures presented to the Minister of Construction increased the sum to 800 million. Other sources have put the total price tag closer to 1 billion Marks. Regardless of this, the money spent was considerable for a country the size of the GDR and the project had significant impact on the country’s finances. Its prioritization also created significant resentment in the “provinces” as many resources (incl. materials and construction crews) were redirected to the capital to ensure this job was completed on time.
For the Party, however, there was a feeling of a job well done. To mark the opening of the Palace, the GDR Post issued a stamp featuring the image of the finished Palace and a construction worker. This stamp also incorporated mention of the 9th Party Congress of the SED which took place there in May 1976.
The workers themselves also received some items as a way of underlining their contributions to an historic enterprise. Chief among these was probably the limited edition watches presented to the workers. Made by VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) (People’s Own Watch Makers Glashütte), a Saxon factory whose products were considered the Rolexes of the East Bloc, each watch was engraved with the words “Palace of the Republic” and had the dates of construction engraved on its reverse. These watches are now real collectors items with the according price tag such items demand.
One item that I was able to acquire is a commemorative coin presented to the workers upon the building’s completion. These silver coins are 40 mm in diameter with the front (see above) featuring an image of the Palace with the words “Berlin – Capital of the GDR – Palace of the Republic – 1973-1976” running around the coin’s edge.
The reverse side features simply the dedication “To the builders of the Palace of the Republic”.