Deutsche Post Controversy Commemorative Coins for Communists

The German postal service has sparked outrage by producing a coin commemorating the formation of former East Germany's ruling Communist Party. Protest came from the highest echelons of the German government.

Germany's national postal service has been forced to stop selling a coin commemorating former East Germany's Communist Party in the face of protests.

The silver disc, included in a new 36-piece collection called 60 German Years, attracted fierce criticism from politicians due to its celebration of the union of two political parties into the grouping that ruled East Germany with an iron grip.

There are many who prefer not to remember East Germany's SED.

There are many who prefer not to remember East Germany's SED.

The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) was formed on April 22, 1946, from the merger of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

The Soviet occupation authorities are widely believed to have applied great pressure on the SPD to force the parties to join. The repressive SED ruled East Germany for the next four decades but eventually lost power with the fall of communism in 1989.

SPD cabinet member Wolfgang Tiefensee, responsible for the eastern states, expressed outrage that the coin appeared to commemorate what he described as a forced union which led to many Social Democrats being thrown in jail.

The coin depicts East Germany's first prime minister, Otto Grotewohl, alongside the state's first and only president, Wilhelm Pieck. Around the edge of the disc stands the slogan: "A new beginning and party unity".

Deutsche Post confirmed Thursday it had withdrawn the coin from sale and added it had never intended to cause any ill feeling. "We did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings, and will no longer sell the coin," a spokesman told the Associated Press. "The coin was only meant to document an event in German history after World War II, we did not intend to make any judgements."

But Tiefensee, who is also the German government Transport Minister, hit out at Deutsche Post and called for the destruction of any coins which had not already been sold. A post spokesman told the AFP news agency 1,000 of the coins were in circulation. They have been on sale as part of the set since March.

Speaking to the German tabloid Bild, Tiefensee called on postal chiefs to "immediately melt down these scandalous coins." He continued: "After the forced union (of the SPD and KPD), many Social Democrats were thrown in jail. The coins mock the victims of the SED," he told the paper.

The coins are just the latest scandal to hit Germany's gaffe-prone postal chiefs. In May, Neo-Nazis misused Deutsche Post to make stamps of one of the most senior Nazis in the Third Reich. The right-wingers used a personalized stamp service to create a stamp carrying the picture of Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's deputy. An order for 20 stamps featuring the war criminal was sent out by the company.

Hess is a hero in the German far-right scene and is worshipped as a martyr. One of Hitler's most senior deputies, he was sent to prison for life for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials. He killed himself in Berlin's Spandau prison in 1987 at the age of 93.

sjr -- with wire reports


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