The Trabant in Transition

A Look at its Significance Through The Ages
The Emergence of the Trabant
 East Germany 1957
 Small, Spacious, Fast,
Affordable, East to Repair
 “Satellite” “Companion”,
inspired by Soviet Sputnik
 Lifespan = 28 years
 Made out of
a form of plastic
recycled wool
or cotton 
with a sense
and freedom
 Western
 Enhance
status and
Ketman: capitalist ideals
hidden from socialism, selfrealization against
something, identity making
Draculic readings:
transition from socialism to
post-socialism, consumer
goods=sense of identity/class
(make-up, toilet paper)
 Verdery: socialist
production= hoarding and
Trabant Video
The Trabant in Transition
The Trabant was the car
used by many East
Germans to cross the
border into West
Germany after the fall of
the Berlin Wall on
November 9th, 1989.
Thus it became a
symbol of the
reunification of East
and West Germany.
Despite this, many
abandoned their
Trabants in favor of
second-hand Western
cars which were more
attractive, better
produced, and more
“More than any other object, it
facilitated and represented the
arrival of the East German.”
Mural of a Trabant by Birgit Kinder on a segment of the
Berlin Wall
Trabants were the butt of
many jokes created by and
spread amongst West
After the initial euphoria of
the fall of the Berlin Wall,
there was a rise in West
German antagonism against
East Germans as they began
to crowd the Western half of
the city.
In addition to expressing their
anger at East Germans
through these jokes, West
Germans also committed acts
of physical violence, such as
slitting the tires on and
setting fire to many Trabants.
“The Trabi allowed aggression
toward the Other to be displaced
onto an inanimate object and
physically distinguishable symbol
of that Other.”
Trabi Jokes
How do you double the value of a Trabi?
Fill it up with gas.
How many people does it take to produce a Trabant?
Two. One to fold, the other to glue.
A Mercedes 500 comes to an intersection. The driver
asks the passenger: ‘Is it clear?’ He answers, ‘Yes, to the
right a Trabi is approaching and to the left it is also
What is the difference between a woman’s panties and a
Nothing, they both prevent traffic (sexual intercourse).
Go Trabi Go!
My body and soul long for hot sun
I’m taking my chances today
The engine, it sounds like a steel drum
There’s nothing that’s left in the way
A trip full of thrilling adventures
The feeling excitingly new
Don’t wonder why we’re taking off now
So suddenly out of the blue
Westward Ho!
Trabi, Go!
Hit the road to the sun
Let’s take off and have fun
On or done
Westward ho, Trabi go!
Trabi go!
We’ll fly over valleys and mountains
We’ll always remember these days
I’m dreaming of blue sea and fountains
The sun bids all troubles away
Above me the sky seems so endless
I’m free like a bird on the wing
The air full of music and action
I’m feeling it under my skin
Westward Ho!
Trabi, Go!
Hit the road to the sun
Let’s take off and have fun
On or done
Westward ho, Trabi go!
Westward ho!
Trabi go!
Hit the road to the sun
Let’s take off and have fun
On or done
Westward ho, Trabi go!
Trabi go!
Go Trabi go!
Go Trabi go!
Trabi go!
Trabi go!
Go Trabi!
G-go Trabi!
Go Trabi, go, g-go Trabi go!
Trabi Go!
Trabi Go!
Trabi Production
Following the reunification of
East and West Germany on
October 3rd, 1990 the demand
for Trabants plummeted.
East Germans experienced a
period of
Konsumnachholbedarf (need
to catch up on consuming)
where they bought
predominantly West German
Factories that produced
Trabants either went out of
business or were privatized by
larger companies (ex.
Volkswagen), similar to how
Gerber privatized the Alima
Fruit and Vegetable Processing
Company in “Privatizing
The Trabant Today: Nostalgia
Noisy, ugly and most of all,
unreliable, Trabants became a
symbol of everything that was
wrong with Soviet Bloc
The Trabant's nostalgic appeal extends
to other former communist states,
many of which imported the car:
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
“If there was any doubt about who
won the Cold War, look no further
than this: When the Iron Curtain
finally came down, Tabbies were
being traded for Levis blue jeans."
Western Germany: people here
are more apt to remember the
Trabant as an example of
romantic pluck than of
Communist ineptness.
Today, the defanged Trabant
conjures up nothing but love.
"But we treasured things in those
days. The Trabant was a symbol:
You had your family, you had a
house, and you even had a car."
The Trabant Today: Ostalgie
East Germans began to reminisce
about some of the more attractive
elements of socialism which didn’t
always exist in a capitalist world.
– Ost: East
– Nostalgie: Nostalgia
Trabants were symbolic of what
they yearned for and became
popular again as collector’s items.
This symbolism has been
demonstrated recently in popular
Goodbye Lenin!
The Lives of Others
The Trabant Today: Society
Historical Icon
The prime minister's trabant was
also blessed by Pope John Paul II in
In 2005, which had become a
symbol of Bulgaria's NATO
accession, to the National Historical
Museum of Bulgaria.
Used by former Bulgarian foreign
minister to take NATO secretaries
for rides.
The Deputy Head of Mission in the
British Embassy of Budapest uses a
green trabant as his diplomatic car.
Pop Culture
Used by U2 for music video.
The Trabant Today: Revival
In the late 1990s, there were plans
to put the Trabant back into
production in Uzbekistan as the
Olimp. However, only a single
model was produced.
Increased presence (via ostalgie):
“Grown larger in death than it
was in life.”
In January 2008 Herpa, a
German company that makes diecast model cars, acquired the
rights to the Trabant name.
Teamed up with another German
company to make a car they are
calling the new Trabi.
The Trabant Today: Revival
Unveiled on September 17th at the
2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 2012 Trabant will be an
electric car.
Keeps most of the lines of the
original model.
The car will come in a four-door
hatchback body style.
Powered by an electric motor.
(get it's juice from a solar panel
mounted on the roof of the car)
– Be able to run for 250 km on a single
charge of the battery.
The 2012 Trabant
Bibliography: Images
Bibliography: Images
Verdery, Katherine. What was socialism, and what comes next?. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1996.
Drakulic, Slavenka. How we survived communism and even laughed. London: Hutchinson,
Dunn, Elizabeth C. Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 2004. Print.
Go Trabi Go Trailer Deutsch/German Part 1. YouTube. 18 June 2010. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Go Trabi Go VHS Cover. Photograph. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 01
Dec. 2011. <>.
Neely, Brett. "East German Brands Thrive 20 Years after End of Communism | Business
Deutsche Welle | 03.10.2009." Home | Deutsche Welle. Ed. Andreas Illmer. 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 01
Dec. 2011. <,,4752593,00.html>.
"Ostalgie or Berlin's Past." What to Wee in Berlin, Berlin Blog. 30 Jan. 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Photograph. BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 22 Feb. 2007. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Photograph. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Stein, Mary B. "The Banana and the Trabant: Representations of the "Other" in a United
Germany." Ed. Ernst Schu%u0308rer, Manfred Keune, and Philip
Jenkins. The Berlin Wall: Representations and Perspectives. Vol. 79. New York: Peter Lang,
1996. 331-46. Print. Studies in Modern German Literature.
Trabant 601. Photograph. Macrobuddies - Economic Insight and Analysis. Farrokh
Langdana Ph.D., Rutgers University, 12 May 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Trabant Logo. Photograph. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Trabant Mural. Photograph. Classic Cars. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.
Bibliography: Images
Ellen Carter
Ellen Carter

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