© DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst
Between 1962 and 1989 the East German Ministry for Foreign Affairs commissioned around 500 documentaries from the DEFA Film Studios that were dubbed into foreign languages and distributed abroad to promote “Auslandsinformation.” Auslandsinformation was public diplomacy and propaganda directed at foreign audiences inside and outside of the Soviet Bloc. During the 1960s, films like Belgian director Franz Buyens’ excellent yet controversial Deutschland—Endstation Ost (1964) emphasized the GDR’s position on the Berlin Question and on ending its own international isolation. In 1969, DEFA created a special studio called Camera DDR to work with the Foreign Ministry, and over the next 15 years the Foreign Ministry Films saw their heyday. Major themes from the 1970s and early 1980s included the socialist camp’s peace policy and the GDR’s growing importance in the world, as seen for example in Camera DDR leader Joachim Hadaschik’s series Begegung der Freundschaft on Erich Honecker’s visits abroad (these films were considered important enough to be shown on GDR television). However, the Foreign Ministry Films cover virtually every aspect of life in East Germany, including educational and youth policy, cultural life, the social welfare state, the status of women, industry and agriculture, the political system, sports, regional studies, and special events and anniversaries.