Chris O'Dell Photographs

East Berlin 1964

Berlin IWorld Youth Rally 1964
World Youth Rally, East Berlin 1964

This picture was taken at the World Youth Rally in East Berlin in 1964.  The East German leader Walter Ulbricht has just arrived in the covered stand on the left hand side of the far side of the stadium that carried his name.  The Berlin Wall was closed to West Germans but foreign visitors could get a temporary visa and cross into the Eastern sector through Checkpoint Charlie.  I was staying in West Berlin with a school friend who was teaching as part of his degree course in the German language.  We crossed the border into the Eastern sector a number of times, but eventually we were arrested by Vopos, (the Volkspolizei) and the roll of film in my camera was confiscated.  Fortunately it was a new roll with few shots on it.  We decided that it might be better not to make any more return visits.  The gymnasts in the picture did hours of soviet-style prancing around making pictures and words with pieces of cardboard and flags.  This was followed by an interminable speech from the revered leader.  My friend, fluent in German, translated the speech to me in a whisper, adding his own comments.  I was in great danger of injuring myself in my attempts not to be seen exploding with laughter.  Although it was called the “world” youth rally, we were probably the only two people in the crowd from the other side of the Iron Curtain.  Twenty years before I took this picture, the parents of these young people would have been accustomed to waving their arms about in similar salutes to a very different leader.  Or was he so different?

Camera: Asahi Pentax, 55mm Takumar lens, Kodak Tri-X film.

Exhibition prints of this photograph and all others on this site are available size A2 on Permajet Distinction Fine Art paper 325gsm price €100 including packing and posrtage to all parts of the world.  Send email here with title of image and I will invoice you via PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account, you can pay with major credit/debit cards.

See home page for all other reproduction details

Back to home page