Ernst Thälmann Island

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Ernst Thälmann Island
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Ernst Thälmann Island
Location Gulf of Cazones
Area7.0 km2 (2.7 sq mi)
Province Matanzas Province
Municipality Ciénaga de Zapata
PopulationUninhabited (2016)
Ernst Thalmann Island
Ernst Thälmann island, seen off the south-western coast of Cuba

Ernst Thälmann Island (German : Ernst-Thälmann-Insel, Spanish : Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann or Cayo Blanco del Sur) is a 15 km (9.3 mi) long and 500 m (1,600 ft) wide Cuban island in the Gulf of Cazones that is named after Ernst Thälmann. During a 1970s state visit to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Fidel Castro made a promise that Cuba would donate an island to the East German government, [1] and Cayo Blanco del Sur was renamed in a ceremony during a state visit by Erich Honecker. After the reunification of Germany, a German newspaper tried to visit the island and was told this transfer had only been "symbolic". [2]




East Berlin, 19 June 1972: Fidel Castro (left) handed over, after the signing of the communique, a Cuban map to Erich Honecker (centre). The map shows an island that bears the name "Ernst Thalmann" and the southern area is named "GDR Beach" (Playa RDA). Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L0619-026, Castro, Landkarte Kubas uberreicht.jpg
East Berlin, 19 June 1972: Fidel Castro (left) handed over, after the signing of the communiqué, a Cuban map to Erich Honecker (centre). The map shows an island that bears the name "Ernst Thälmann" and the southern area is named "GDR Beach" (Playa RDA).

Until 1972, the island was known as Cayo Blanco del Sur. On the occasion of a state visit in June 1972 by Erich Honecker, Fidel Castro renamed the island in honour of German Communist politician and activist Ernst Thälmann. According to a newspaper article in Neues Deutschland dated 20 June 1972, [1] the Cuban leader announced the renaming of the island, and one of its beaches to Playa "República Democrática Alemana" (English: "German Democratic Republic Beach", German : "DDR-Strand"). East Germany's state television newscast, Aktuelle Kamera , reported on the ceremony and the unveiling of a bust of Ernst Thälmann on 18 August 1972 in the presence of the GDR ambassador, some East German delegates, and approximately 100 Cuban representatives.

In March 1975, the East German government sent singer Frank Schöbel to Cuba to make some music videos, and some footage of the island was shot, which was later included in a documentary emphasising the island as a symbol of GDR-Cuba friendship. [3]

Recent history

In 1998, the island was hit severely by Hurricane Mitch, knocking over the bust of Ernst Thälmann. [2] [4]

According to both the Cuban embassy in Germany and the German Foreign Office, the renaming was a "symbolic act": the island was never transferred from Cuba and neither of the German states owned the island at or after reunification. [4]

Regardless, in the early 2000's, the Republic of Molossia (a micronation) used the island as justification to declare "war" on the German Democratic Republic (over a decade after it's dissolution), citing the island's lack of mention in the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany as "proof" of East Germany's continued existence on the island. This supposed conflict has played a large part in the culture of Molossia though the micronation has never displayed any real-world intention to take action against Ernst Thälmann Island, militarily or otherwise. [5] [6]

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Die Insel, die Ernst Thälmann's Namen trägt" (PDF). Neues Deutschland (in German). 20 June 1972. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  2. 1 2 Welle (, Deutsche. "Castro's Caribbean island gift to East Germany | DW | 27.11.2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  3. Gebauer, Matthias (14 February 2001). "Schenkte Castro den Deutschen eine Karibikinsel?" [Did Castro give a Caribbean island to the Germans?]. Spiegel Online (in German). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 "6 uninhabited and mysterious islands with bizarre pasts".
  5. "The War with East Germany". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  6. Machado, Carmen (2013-04-26). "The Imaginary Republic of Molossia". VICE. Retrieved 2017-10-18.

Coordinates: 22°02′00″N81°24′00″W / 22.03333°N 81.40000°W / 22.03333; -81.40000 (Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann)