My name is John Paul Kleiner and I reside in Toronto, Canada. This blog is my attempt to add a footnote to the “footnote of world history” that was the German Democratic Republic (quote by Heinz-Ulrich Wehler). In The GDR Objectified, I present a collection of objects produced in, or related closely to, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany. These items were produced primarily during the years between the founding of the GDR in October 1949 and its accession to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in October 1990. The objects presented here are from my collection of East German ephemera, I provide information on these items with the aim of providing a window onto East German history in an historical and/or personal way.

I hold an M.A. in History from York University, Toronto, Canada. During my graduate studies, I focused primarily on aspects of the history of the German Democratic Republic and wrote my major research paper on how the Saxon city of Leipzig dealt with manifestations of the East German state in its public spaces during the ten years following German unification. I have contributed to Einblick, the magazine of the Federal Republic of Germany’s Bundesrat, on topics related to East Germany

I have traveled extensively throughout the former East Germany and lived for a year and a half in Leipzig during the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the fall of 2008, I was a co-organizer of an eleven-day study tour which took a group of students from York University’s Canadian Centre for German and European Studies to the “New German States” for an interdisciplinary look at this region on the eve of the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

My interest in the GDR arises out of the contradictions between the utopian aspects of the state’s socialist ideology and the realities of everyday life for the vast majority of East Germans. The GDR’s Marxist ideology helped inform its insistence that it be judged on the basis of how well it satisfied the material needs (and to an extent, wants) of its citizens. Given this, I would contend that those items produced in the GDR – both within and without its centrally planned economic system – are especially eloquent in telling the story of East German society and the culture which produced it.

John Paul Kleiner
Toronto, Canada
October 2012

  1. Boban Klobucar said:

    I’m ”stunned”. I have a special ”love” for the GDR. I can’t explain it better. Maybe is fascintion a better word but I’m not sure. Of course its not in the way that atrocities comitted during this nations existance is something that I support. Au contraire.
    My parents were born in Yugoslavia but moved in the mid 60’s to Sweden as labour. And thats where I’m born. But during my whole childhood we travelled by car to Yugoslavia thru the Eastern bloc (GDR, CSSR and Hungary before reaching Yugo). GDR was the country that fascinated me most. It was kind of ”greyish” and in a way the most ” hard-core” cold-war contrast. But I imagined how it was to live in DDR. Besides all what was written in Western media about the life in GDR I thought that it must be a more ”everydayish” life for their citizens. Not only what was described thru the politilized spectars of our western media but something little ”beyond”. And it seems that I found something really refreshing here. I’m really looking forward to read more!
    And I found the page thanks to your text on hockeyplayer Dieter Frenzel. I saw him live a couple of times since Dynamo played against our local hockey team here in Sweden (Södertälje SK) a couple of times in the early 80`s.
    However: keep up the good work!
    Sinc. Boban

    • Thanks for your kind words. Always nice to connect with someone who shares the enthusiasm for GDR history, especially one who had the privilege of seeing Dieter Frenzel play. I am jealous! Regards, John Paul

  2. Brendan W-k said:

    Awesome read and awesome site. I live in Prague and have a huge interest in Eastern Bloc history (you can check my instagram commietravels). Just wanted to reach out to let you know if you come to Prague I can show you all the good stuff from the communist era which have entirely been forgotten in time. I found myself often at Dresden Dynamo games and all over the former DDR so glad to grab a coffee or beer with you guys as well.

    Keep up the good work!


    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read/watch and for the kind words. Had a look at your instagram and those are some great pictures.

      If I ever make it to Prague, I’ll be sure to get in touch for a tour. I was there in ’96, but took far too few photos (to my eternal regret), so I have a lot of catching up to do there.

      John Paul

  3. Ulrich said:

    No comment! Just notify me of new stuff.

  4. Raymond Lee said:

    Hi. Came across this by accident.. In 1972, as an 11yr old boy living in England, I went to East Germany as part of summer youth festival. I was in the Woodcraft Folk at the time. Anyway, 49 years later, I still have some of the badges and arm patches I was given while there. Wondered if you’d be interested in seeing them

    • Hello Raymond, thanks for writing and my apologies for the delayed response. We were away on holidays when this came in and I’m just seeing it now.

      Yes, I’d be interested in seeing those badges, etc. If you can send them to me at jpkleiner(at), that’d be great.


  5. Brian said:

    Been reading your Blog off and on.

    Any new content?

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