The Bit of East Germany That Might Still Exist

The Bit of East Germany That Might Still Exist


This video was made possible by Curiosity
Stream. When you sign up at the link in the description
you’ll also get access to Nebula—the streaming video platform that HAI is a part of. 1990 was a big year in history: the Hubble
Telescope was launched into space, the Game Boy was introduced to Europe, MC Hammer told
us that we couldn’t touch this, and of course, the country of East Germany ceased to exist—well,
except that maybe it didn’t. Now, many of you probably already know a decent
amount about East Germany and how and why it fell, because, like all Half as Interesting
viewers, you’re a highly educated and sophisticated person, but on the off chance you forgot,
let’s do a quick review, starting at the beginning. About 13.8 billion years ago, the universe
underwent a sudden expansion, changing from an extremely small, dense collection of matter
into everything. This would eventually lead to World War Two,
at the conclusion of which Germany was simultaneously occupied by a number of the Allied powers
who had just picked up the W—the US, the UK, France, and the Soviet Union. The areas that the US, UK, and France had
occupied were unified into a country called the Federal Republic of Germany, or as it
was more commonly known, West Germany. The area that the Soviets had occupied became
the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. For the next 51 years—a period also known
as the Cold War, or as I like to call it, the Chilly Conflict—things stayed that way. West Germany was a capitalist state that had
independence and made the song 99 Luftballons, and East Germany was a communist state that
was mostly run by the Soviet Union, and because of its struggling communist economy, could
only afford 47 luftballons that it had to evenly divide among its citizens. But then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and
East Berlin and West Berlin all had a big party together and for some reason David Hasselhoff
was there, and soon after, in 1990, East Germany rejoined West Germany and together they became
the Germany we know and love today—the one with Angela Merkel and giant mugs of beer
and most of the EU’s economy and impressive failures of infrastructure projects, and with
the reunification of the two Germany’s, the country of East Germany was no more. Except, that is, for Ernst Thalmann Island. It’s a tiny strip of land—10 miles or
15 kilometers long and only 1,600 feet or 500 meters across—located off the southwest
coast of Cuba in the Gulf of Calzones, which I have to imagine is the cheesiest, sauciest
part of Cuba. Oh wait damn it’s the Gulf of Cazones. Anyway, this tiny island just might be the
last remaining piece of the East German empire. See, back during the Cold War, East Germany
and Cuba were really good friends, like Joe Biden and Barack Obama, or like Joe Biden
and a cone of ice cream, or like Joe Biden and the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. East Germany was communist, Cuba was communist—they
were like two communist peas in a communist pod—and in 1972, during a state visit to
East Germany, Fidel Castro, then the leader of Cuba, promised that he would donate a Cuban
island to his friends in East Germany, which was definitely a better gift than what the
East Germans had gotten for him, which was a teddy bear. Seriously, that’s not a joke—look it up,
they actually got Fidel Castro a teddy bear. I mean, technically they did give them a gift,
but only bear-ly. An island might seem like a big gift, but
Cuba contains about 4,000 small islands, so giving up just one wouldn’t be too big of
a deal, and it was a nice show of support that would strengthen ties between the two
nations, plus give East Germans a little vacation getaway spot during the cold German winter
months. Soon after his announcement, Castro held an
event to make things official—during a state visit by an East German diplomat, Castro took
the tiny, uninhabited island that had previously been known as Cayo Blanco del Sur, and gave
it the equally tropical-sounding name of Ernst Thalmann Island, after a German communist
named, you guessed it, Ernst Thalmann, who had been the leader of the German Communist
Party from 1925 to 1933. Ernst Thalmann Island had never been populated,
but in 1972, the iguanas and birds who lived there were joined by a new friend—a massive
stone bust of Ernst Thalmann himself. Things stayed mostly quiet there until 1975,
when the East German government sent a singer to the island to record some footage for a
music video, because after all, nothing says, “hip new music,” like government-backed
communist propaganda. Despite these efforts, Ernst Thalmann Island
never really took off—it was kind of like Google+: nobody ever went on it, and before
long it was completely and totally forgotten. So forgotten, in fact, that in all of the
documents that were signed when East Germany rejoined West Germany, there was no mention
of Ernst Thalmann island, which means that it never officially rejoined West Germany,
which in theory, would make it the last remaining part of East Germany. But, as countless memes have taught us, there’s
often a difference between what happens in theory and what happens in reality. In 2001, a German newspaper suddenly remembered
Ernst Thalmann Island and contacted Cuba to see what the deal was, and the Cubans responded
that actually, the transfer of the island had only been, “symbolic.” Whether this is actually the truth is up to
interpretation which is why we say this island just might be a bit of East Germany. When the current German government was also
asked to comment, they agreed—presumably because at that point, they had much bigger
fish to fry than disputing the claim over a tiny island in Cuba that may or may not
have belonged to a country that doesn’t exist anymore, and it feels unlikely they’ll
change their mind, especially considering that these days, there’s another island
that’s giving them plenty of headaches. But you know what gives me plenty of headaches? The inherently unstable nature of existing
online video platforms that disincentivizes experimentation. That’s why a bunch of creators, including
myself, got together and founded Nebula. It’s built by us to fulfill all our hopes
and dreams of a video platform so that we can make the best stuff we can in an ecosystem
that supports us. The best part about Nebula is that you can
get it essentially for free. Curiosity Stream and Nebula have partnered
so that, when you sign up for a Curiosity Stream subscription, you get a Nebula subscription
included at zero extra cost. That means you get Nebula, the platform built
by creators home to all of our existing content plus plenty of originals, and Curiosity Stream,
the well-established platform home to thousands of documentaries and non-fiction titles, for
just $20 a year by signing up at CuriosityStream.com/HAI. At that cost, it’s really a no-brainer,
but keep in mind you’ll also be supporting HAI and so many other independent creators
by signing up.

100 Comments on "The Bit of East Germany That Might Still Exist"


  1. You know when you go on Wikipedia link-clicking sessions for fun? Well, how about you moneti$e that (except, for legal reasons, not actually) by submitting topic suggestions to our suggestions bin. If we end up using your suggestion, we'll send you a free HAI t-shirt: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfUdlvw6YgU44J8AnM2U_ZvRMyvh_CUM51LYSqF5nYJB9d1-w/viewform?usp=sf_link

    Reply

  2. Watching this after I went out and walked the neighborhood boys around while dressed as an East German infantry officer lol

    Reply

  3. Most people: to understand why East Germany collapsed let’s go to the end of World War Two
    HAI: To understand why East Germany collapsed let’s go to the Big Bang

    Reply

  4. Ask the German government about Koenigsburg/Kaliningrad, and then ask the German people, who lived there before the Soviets gave them the boot, and their descendants about it. See also: Prussia.

    Reply

  5. 2 new videos…
    The Bit of East Germany That Exists
    not interesting…
    The Bit of East Germany That Might Still Exist
    OMG!!! clicks on video

    Reply

  6. Jumps from Big Bang to WW2
    I mean, yea those events did happen in that order but I feel like there are lots of parts missing?

    Reply

  7. I found a cool thing called The Illinois and it is a tower planned in the 50’s that would have been over a mile high and i think it would make a cool video

    Reply

  8. And there's a difference between Germany and the US. The US, when being told it was only a "symbolic" transfer, would probably sail a battleship down there to show that they clearly don't take it that way.

    Reply

  9. Those VPN ads are out the door ay? I actually respect it, I had no idea before Tom Scotts video. Thank you Tom.

    Reply

  10. Don't you hate it when you have signed a peace treaty with the nation you just defeated to realise you accidently left with with a small pieces of worthless land?

    Reply

  11. Great Transition From Big Bang to World War Two. Also Got It Right That It was Expansion, Not Explosion.

    Reply

  12. You could have may a normal video but you decide that you needed to add anti-comunists jokes like a good capitalist lap dog, keep eating from the trash can men, real nice

    Reply

  13. In the beginning, the universe was created.

    This made a lot of people very angry, and is widely regarded as a bad idea.

    Reply

  14. i can hear Kaiser Wilhelm ii rollin over in his grave that Germany finally got land in north america

    Reply

  15. 5:10 – "But you know what gives me plenty of headaches?", I thought he was going to say Falklands lmao.

    Reply

  16. when you go right fro the big bang to ww2.

    Time moves faster then you realize children….

    Reply

  17. At one point in time I thought those people who claim their land is a different country was interesting so going down that rabbit hole I discovered one who had declared war on East Germany and kept that because of this island. There's apparently a stone there with East Germany on it.

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  18. Isnt technical the island part of modern Germany since East Germany joined the German federation. So why even say the island is still East German?

    Reply

  19. Skip to 2:00 for video to start. Seriously we know the history of the two sides. It was even stated in the video.

    Reply

  20. When you click all the states instead of pressing take all states and forget to take the overseas territory

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  21. Because of this particular island, the micronation of Molossia is currently at war with East Germany.

    Reply

  22. I read about this two days ago as part of a Wikipedia binge that involved Emperor Norton, and the Republic of Molossia which is still "at war" with East Germany. Highly recommended articles.

    Reply

  23. This is wrong actually, Castro said he promised to donate one, but they only had a ceremony of renaming the island for Erich Honecker, this doesn’t mean they gave the island to them which would mean that he fell through on his own promise.

    Reply

  24. 2:00 "FDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY" I think you're missing a letter there hahaha. Do I get to be in part 3 of Every Mistake We’ve Ever Made?

    Reply

  25. 1:12 not 51 years. The GDR was founded Oct 7th, 1949 and ceased to exist on October 3rd, 1990 – 4 days before its 41st birthday.

    Reply

  26. Funny. Today we had a former soldier of the DDR (east Germany) at school to als him about the DDR. Same day a video about east Germany xd

    Reply

  27. How to correctly pronounce German words with "th" in it: pretend the "h" is not there. In the German language there is no sound equivalent to the English "th".

    Reply

  28. Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal Fderal

    Reply

  29. Well dang and I thought I have heard everything regarding East Germany. I mean I have been bombarded with documentaries of every single aspect of it, being German and stuff.
    Interesting

    Reply

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