Exhibition seeks to ease Cold War children’s show tensions

Exhibition seeks to ease Cold War children's show tensions
East Germany's Sandman is on the left, West Germany's on the right. Photo: DPA
A comparison of East and West German versions of the all-time favourite German children’s TV series Sandmännchen has opened this week at Frankfurt’s Museum for Communication.

Das Sandmännchen ist da! or “The Sandman is here!” focuses on the sweet little bearded man with a red cap who has been sprinkling magic sand into children’s eyes every evening to bring sweet dreams since the 1950s.

The German Sandman came in two different editions before the reunification in 1991, but the more famous and more popular East German version continues to be broadcast across the country to this day. The exhibition is attempting to end a gridlocked class conflict by exploring aspects of the Sandmännchen in folklore, history and the show’s production.

“The Sandman was much more rooted in the culture in the GDR [former East Germany] than in the Western part,” says Isabell Koch, curator of the Sandman exhibition, which comes just one year before the show’s 50th anniversary.

Broadcasters from the former East began a long-standing cultural competition when their Sandmännchen first aired in December 1959 – eight days before West Germany’s first show. The GDR version was far more popular than West Germany’s version, despite being laced with communist propaganda, and was exported to South America, Sweden and Poland. West Germany’s version only made it to Austria.

The East German Sandman had many adventures, including a trip to space with Soviet astronaut Juri Gagarin in 1961. One infamous episode that featured a hot air balloon trip was binned after it inspired an East German family to attempt an escape to democracy using such a balloon, though.

The Sandman exhibition features loops of each show and props like his moon vehicle Luchonod until February 22nd.