The Reading Room

Das Magazin, A Brief History

The influential Das Magazin…

das-magazin-15One of the leading East German underground magazines from the Cold War period was the wonderful Das Magazin. Re-established in 1954 it quickly established itself as a very desirable and hard to obtain publication. Published monthly, its fabulous artwork and photography captured the cosmopolitan desires of its readers and with its limited print run to an almost exclusive subscriber only customer base the magazine soon became a cult classic.

The covers featured here are from the reformed version of the magazine under the DDR regime. The original magazine was first published in 1924 with the covers featuring a small angel. It struggled through the Nazi period with its intention to remain apolitical and by 1941 publication stopped by order of the party to allocate its materials and resources to the war effort. By 1955 the artist Werner Klemke drew the first of his 423 covers for the magazine and, following in the footsteps of the earlier ‘angel covers’ he incorporated a cat into all of his covers a la Playboy style.

By 1959 the editorship had been taken over by Hilde Eisler who created and sustained a remarkable level of consistency in the magazine for the next twenty years. The magazine was best known for its short stories and mild eroticism in the form of cartoons and photographs by many of the leading East German photographers of the period. Eisler was careful to remain politically neutral, misgivings about the regime were written under the disguise of ‘Letters to the Editor’ but for the most part the publication concentrated on fashion, literature and entertainment. It is testament to her and the contributors that they managed to suppress their frustration at the state imposed banning of Western culture and maintain a source of entertainment for so long. It was clear that she was held in equal high regard by those who sought to restrict her content by awarding her the Order of Karl Marx in 1982.

Many of the covers feature gloriously soft, comedic and titillating art work, bright covers to inspire a grey, state controlled landscape and it was this sense of escapism which ensured the magazine’s success and longevity. By the fall of the Berlin Wall the magazine had to remodel itself and bring in a wider target audience reliant on West side advertising and remains to this day a well loved publication. Hilde Eisler died in 2000

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