Ernst Thälmann Island

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Ernst Thälmann Island
Ernst Thälmann Island is located in Cuba
Ernst Thälmann Island
Ernst Thälmann Island
Location Gulf of Cazones
Province Matanzas Province
Municipality Ciénaga de Zapata
Population Uninhabited (2016)
Ernst Thälman 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 kilometre long and 500 metre wide Cuban island in the Gulf of Cazones named for German Communist politician and activist Ernst Thälmann. Many have claimed that the island is the last official territory of East Germany as it was not mentioned in the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany,[1] which united East and West Germany in 1990. The island was transferred over to East German control in 1972, however when a German newspaper tried to access the island after reunification, they were told this transfer was only "symbolic".[2]


Ernst Thälmann Island contains highly developed reef formations with a high degree of biodiversity and hosts a number of endangered species, including black coral and various ornamental reef fish species. It has extensive largely untouched beaches and provides nursery areas for snappers. The island is uninhabited, other than occasional tourists and the indigenous Cuban Iguanas and birds that have their habitat there.



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, the leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) during much of the Weimar Republic, who was imprisoned without trial after the rise of the Nazi Party, and after eleven years of solitary confinement was shot by order of Adolf Hitler at Buchenwald concentration camp. According to a newspaper article in Neues Deutschland dated 20 June 1972,[3] 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.[4]

Recent history[edit]

In 1998, the island was hit severely by Hurricane Mitch, knocking over the bust of Ernst Thälmann.[5]

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 technically, neither Germany owned the island when all of East Germany's territory was ceded to West Germany on October 3, 1990.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Die Insel, die Ernst Thälmann's Namen trägt" (PDF). Neues Deutschland (in German). 20 June 1972. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ a b 6 uninhabited and mysterious islands with bizarre pasts

External links[edit]

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