Goldstrand und Teutonengrill: Kultur-und Sozialgeschichte des Tourismus in Deutschland 1945 bis 1989. – Review

Goldstrand und Teutonengrill: Kultur-und Sozialgeschichte des Tourismus in Deutschland 1945 bis 1989. – Review – book reviews

Donna Harsch

Edited by Hasso Spode (Berlin: Werner Moser, Verlag fuer universitaere Kommunikation, 1996, 207pp.).

This edited volume includes twelve essays on the history of German tourism from the end of World War II to reunification. The collection is a first attempt to look at aspects of mass tourism’s evolution in both East and West Germany, an inclusive intent that is nicely signalled by its title: Goldstrand refers to a Black Sea beach in Bulgaria, while the highly popular Italian Adriatic acquired the rather less flattering epithet Teutonengrill. The bulk of the book is, as it turns out, devoted to the holidays of West Germans (eight contributions compared to three on the East and one on Berlin). One can ascribe this unevenness, presumably, to the much larger population of the Federal Republic as well as to the more advanced state of research into its denizens’ famous love of sunny climes. The collection’s editor, Hasso Spode, warns us, however, not to assume that West German tourism encompassed a significantly bigger proportion of the population than tourism in the East. As Gundel Fuhrmann points out in her contribution, East Germans toured far more than other Eastern Europeans and by the 1980s vacationed at almost as great a rate as West Germans. The call for “freedom of travel” in 1989 was the demand of a people possessed of a hardy, if frustrated, Wanderlust. This book offers an initial comparison of the ways in which each set of Germans satisfied their urge to roam.

In both states, the foundations of mass tourism were laid in the 1950s, though only later did millions leave home during their leisure week(s). In the Federal Republic (FRG), the phenomenon of genuine mass tourism emerged in the 1960s, in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) only in the 1970s. On the other hand, from the beginning East German vacations were egalitarian and taken en masse, if not by the majority of citizens. The Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB) arranged group holidays for thousands of workers and their families. Spode notes that this practice fulfilled the promise of the Kraft durch Freude (Power through joy) program of the National Socialist labor organization which had aimed to increase the loyalty, contentment, and productivity of workers by offering them day-long excursions, Baltic cruises or, much less common, Italian junkets. By the 1960s, Communists got the masses not just onto pleasure boats for day-trips but into the countryside and onto Baltic beaches for substantial stays. Beneficiaries of these inexpensive, politicized, and highly organized package-holidays stayed at resorts built and run by the FDGB.

The sociology of tourism in the FRG is more difficult to ascertain, according to Axel Schildt. The evidence suggests, though, that in the 1950s the overwhelming majority of tourists were middle-class. Only in the 1960s did West German tourism become plebeian. Taking advantage of inexpensive tour-packages and modest resorts, working-class families not only traveled within Germany, but headed for the Austrian Alps or the Italian, and later Spanish and Bulgarian, coasts. As in the GDR, the group tour dominated the tourist trade for the masses in the 1960s.

As Gerlinde Irmscher shows, East Germans traveled abroad at a much lower rate than West Germans. Vacations to Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria became fairly common by the 1980s, but by that time West Germans were branching out to explore Eastern bloc countries and transoceanic climes. Even the Soviet Union, the great former enemy, became a fairly frequent destination of older, well-educated West Germans. In both the East and the West, the group tour – whether organized by private agents or trade union organizations – became ever less common. The camping craze had infected families on both sides of the Wall by the late 1960s; similarly, hiking among exotic hills was notably popular among young Germans from East and West.

The chapters on East German tourism suggest that research on this topic is still at an embryonic stage. Spode adopts an explicitly comparative approach and makes some highly evocative remarks on both the nature of the East German state and its similarities and dissimilarities to the first German dictatorship, on the one hand, and its fellow postwar German state, on the other. Though he relates them to the question of tourism, his analogies remain quite speculative; they point the way to future research, rather than synthesizing current findings. The other articles on the GDR are informative summaries of statistical evidence and certain trends, but they neither give a flavor of the East German holiday-experience nor discuss what vacations meant to GDR citizens.

The West German contributions, in contrast, do touch on the cultural experience of tourism, focusing, for example, on the perceptions of demographic sub-sets such as youth and (the microscopic category) “prominent writers who loved Ireland.” Unfortunately, several of these pieces are thin in both content and analysis. Besides Schildt’s skillful survey of West German tourism since 1945, two contributions stand out for their engaging material and insightful interpretations. Birgit Mandel takes the reader on a witty tour of the West German’s changing “image of the Italian vacation” in the 1950s and 1960s, while the late Armin Ganser’s chapter provides an interesting analysis of postwar innovations in “the touristic product,” proceeding from the emergence of the family-tour and children’s vacation to the evolution of the sports holiday and the Club Med idea.

Donna Harsch Carnegie Mellon University

COPYRIGHT 1998 Carnegie Mellon University Press

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