Irma’s Teddy


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Irma rarely saw “Teddy” in the flesh. That’s what friends, supporters and comrades called her father. As a KPD leader and Reichstag deputy, Ernst Thälmann’s chosen family were the working class, and because working-class children went hungry, his daughter had to manage without the stuffed teddy-bear she longed for, too. Irma probably understood that. Just as she shows almost total understanding for him in her “Memories of My Father”.

He sent “revolutionary greetings” from Moscow and Berlin, wrote from Gestapo custody to his “steadfast, plucky girl” in Hamburg, where her mother was busy cooking for the militant workers. Irma remembers visits to the prison: “Both of us cried, filled with ardour and joy as we thought of the party.” Platitudes, half-truths and transfigurations carved in stone. Did she really believe it herself? Perhaps a secretary in the service of the SED guided her pen. After all, some letters to her imprisoned father were dictated by the party’s private envoy. As compulsory school reading, Irma Thälmann’s book has left its mark on generations of children post 1954.

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