Monday, December 14, 2015

Etiquette for East German Troops

Barbed wire and an odd energy merge, as the Berlin Wall was first being built.

 Ulbricht's East German Troops Got Tips on Being Gallant in 1969

 By Leon Dennen, for the Desert Sun, 1969 —

Who said chivalry is dead? According to a book of etiquette just printed by Communist East Germany as a "manual of good manners" for its armed forces, kissing the hand of a woman is indeed a “chivalrous gesture.” It is also recommended as an example of good Communist behavior. 

"The kiss on the hand, which is more a breath than a kiss, belongs of course, on the back of the hand," says the Red manual. "If another spot is chosen, the gesture will far surpass the gallant function of the hand-kiss.” 

Specifically addressed to the soldiers of Communist East Germany, the 340-page treasury of Red courtesy bears the appropriate title of “Refined or Not Refined—Chats on Good Behavior.” It is said to be the brain child of Walter Ulbricht, East Germany’s aged boss, who has the distinction of being the most despised Red chieftain not only in the capitalist West but also in the Communist East. 

Ulbricht convinced Russia’s rulers to invade Czechoslovakia. He feared, not without reason, that the wave of liberalism in the neighboring Communist state would find an echo in East Germany. However, the unimaginative Russians made a fatal error when they' decided to include East German troops among the Warsaw Pact nations that occupied Czechoslovakia.

Europeans, including Communists, have not yet forgotten Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the subsequent tramp of German boots through their countries. They were shocked even more by the presence of East Germans among these invaders than by the occupation itself.

To add insult to injury, the East Germans obviously forgot that in 1968, unlike 30 years ago, they invaded Czechoslovakia as Communist “liberators" and not as Nazi conquerors. Communists or Nazis, they proceeded to behave like German invaders and the Russians were soon forced to send them home. It is apparently to avoid future embarrassing situations— future invasions, perhaps?—that Ulbricht decided to issue his book of etiquette. 

It provides every conceivable bit of advice on the conduct of the soldier "who does not only represent the People’s Army, but also socialist society and the German Democratic Republic.” For instance, drunkenness is a disgrace of the Communist army’s honor "and drinking straight from the bottle is not done either.” If there has been a party in a public place where certain quantities of food and drink have been consumed, the book of etiquette urges its readers "not to forget to pay.”

The military uniform is recommended as an entirely acceptable garb for all social events. However, it is not permitted to carry an umbrella "when wearing a uniform.”

Etiquette Enthusiast Maura J Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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