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The Brigade Diary is one of the most interesting items that testifies to working life in the GDR. These books were kept by “Brigades”, the work units created in the late 1950s as part of the program of “Socialist Competition” which was intended to increase efficiency in East German workplaces by having groups of workers compete with one another. The Brigades were supposed to foster a lived socialist culture both at and outside of work and the Brigade Diaries were to serve as a repository for information on a Brigades’ working and social activities.

Bestand:Bild 183 - Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst - Zentralbild Signatur:Bild 183-73766-0083 Originaltitel:info Zentralbild Gahlbeck 13.6.1960 2. Arbeiterfestspiele des FDGB. Schriftsteller-Treffen im Wälzlagerwerk Fraureuth. Ein Schriftsteller-Treffen mit über 20 bekannten Schriftstellern der DDR fand am 10.6. und 11.6.1960 im VEB Wälzlagerwer Fraureuth statt. Die Schriftsteller besuchten einzelne Brigaden des Betriebes und unterhielten sich mit den Arbeitern. UBz: Die Schriftstellerin Helga Höffken-Kast im Gespräch mit dem Brigadier Werner Sachse über das Brigadebuch. Werner Sachse ist schreibender Arbeiter. Datierung:Juni 1960 Fotograf:Gahlbeck, Friedrich Quelle:Bundesarchiv

Author Helga Höffken-Kast speaks with Brigadier Werner Sachse about his Brigade’s Diary during a visit of writers to the People’s Own Anti-Friction Bearing Factory in Fraureuth in June 1960 (photo: Bundesarchiv, 183-73766-0083) 

As originally conceived, the Brigade Diaries were supposed to provide an outlet for workers’ creativity and typically included reports on a collective’s activity, but could also contain drawings, collages and more creative writings. The form a Diary varied from Brigade to Brigade, but many were perfunctory in content and simply kept to satisfy the representative of the Free German Trade Union Associaion (FDGB) charged with vetting these books on a regular basis.

The Brigade Diary for "World Peace" from People's Own Brown Coal Power Plant Bitterfeld (photo: author)

The Brigade Diary for “World Peace” from People’s Own Brown Coal Power Plant Bitterfeld (photo: author)

Recently I acquired a Brigade Diary for my collection which was produced by the Brigade “World Peace” at the People’s Own Brown Coal Power Plant in Bitterfeld during the years from 1984 through to early 1989. This Diary is by no means as elaborate as some I’ve seen, but does include 18 reports of varying lengths and quality and manages to produce a narrative illustrating aspects of both the place of its production and the lives of several of the workers who contributed to it. Read More

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