Ernst Thälmann Island

Coordinates: 22°02′00″N 81°24′00″W / 22.03333°N 81.40000°W / 22.03333; -81.40000 (Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann)
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Ernst Thälmann Island
Ernst Thälmann Island is located in Cuba
Ernst Thälmann Island
Ernst Thälmann Island
LocationGulf of Cazones
Coordinates22°02′00″N 81°24′00″W / 22.03333°N 81.4°W / 22.03333; -81.4 (Ernst Thalmann Island)
Area7.0 km2 (2.7 sq mi)
ProvinceMatanzas Province
Ernst Thälmann island, seen off the south-western coast of Cuba

The Ernst Thälmann Island (Spanish: Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann or Cayo Blanco del Sur; German: Ernst-Thälmann-Insel or Südliche weiße Insel) is a 15 km (9.3 mi) long and 500 m (1,600 ft) wide island in the Gulf of Cazones that is named after Ernst Thälmann, a German communist politician. During a 1970s state visit to the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (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. But after the reunification of Germany, when a German newspaper tried to visit the island, they were told this transfer had only been "symbolic".[2]



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", with the southern area named "GDR Beach" (Playa RDA, DDR-Strand).

Until 1972, the island was known as Cayo Blanco del Sur (English: Southern White Key). During 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 the bust of Thälmann on 18 August 1972 in the presence of the GDR ambassador, some East German delegates, and approximately 100 Cuban representatives.[citation needed]

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

Recent history[edit]

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

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

The film Ernesto's Island [de] (2022), starring Max Riemelt, tells the story of an East Berliner who travels to Cuba to fulfil his late mother's wish to scatter her ashes on the Cayo Ernesto Thälmann.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Die Insel, die Ernst Thälmann's Namen trägt" (PDF). Neues Deutschland (in German). 20 June 1972. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Castro's Caribbean island gift to East Germany". DW. 2016-11-27. Archived from the original on Oct 10, 2018. 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. ^ a b "6 uninhabited and mysterious islands with bizarre pasts". The Daily Star. Oct 22, 2015. Archived from the original on Dec 4, 2022.

External links[edit]

22°02′00″N 81°24′00″W / 22.03333°N 81.40000°W / 22.03333; -81.40000 (Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann)