If anything can be said to have been in oversupply in the DDR, it was probably the days on which various occupational groups were honoured on a national scale. This started with the Day of the Postal and Telecommunications Worker and the Day of the Trade Employee in February, the Day of the National People’s Army on 1st March, and the Day of the Metalworker in April. Things were even more lavish in June, which featured the Day of the Teacher, Railway Worker and Transportation System Worker; the Day of the Water Management Worker, Collective Farmer, and Worker in the Socialist Agriculture and Forestry Industries; as well as the Day of the Construction Worker.
In July, there was another small helping of such days before a break in August – when the working population preferred to relax in beach chairs by the Baltic Sea or go hiking along the Rennsteig ridge walk in Thuringia, rather than let the country pay tribute to them. The first Sunday in July was the Day of the Miner and Energy Worker, and 1st July was the Day of the German People’s Police.
While the former were celebrated in cities and municipalities in the form of processions and public festivals, the so-called “VoPos” (short for Volkspolizisten or officers of the People’s Police force) preferred to keep to themselves in their precincts on their special day. This was consistent with how they usually appeared, outwardly, to be rather modest. However, the traffic police or the “white mice” were an exception to this. They often flocked to schools and Young Pioneer establishments to act as road safety educators, both out of obligation and willingness. When they did, they were dressed to the nines.
Sometimes, they even brought with them nice little souvenirs and gifts as rewards for correct answers to their questions concerning road safety. The representational, lovingly designed examples shown here date back to the late 1960s. Even then, they were considered rarities and were used only as special prizes. After 1972, they too fell under the national ban on advertising which had been implemented in the DDR for economic reasons. This turned out to be to the detriment of the government, as the policy made the population of the DDR even more receptive to Western advertising.
Günter Höhne grew up in the DDR and is the author of several books about DDR design such as “Penti, Erika und Bebo Sher”, “Wohnungen für alle: Vom Leben im Plattenbau” (Apartments for everyone: About life in prefabricated concrete buildings) and “Das große Lexikon: DDR-Design” (The Big encyclopedia: DDR Design). His books were published by Komet Verlag and can partly be purchased in our museum shop.
You can find more articles about exciting design objects from the DDR under the category “DDR Design” in our blog.