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Original Issue


East Germany puts on a sports and fitness demonstration like nothing seen in Deutschland since the days of Adolf Hitler

Not since Hitler's '30s have the German people seen such an ambitious sports spectacle as unfolded recently at Leipzig's new stadium (see following pages). A crowd of 100,000 spectators watched while 25,000 sleek-muscled boys and girls, who had been trained and especially well fed in camps for six weeks preceding the show, traced out great pinwheel patterns, cavorted about the green sisal-carpeted infield in calisthenic maneuvers and clambered up steel-piping frames to form human pyramids from which shapely girls dived into nets. A beautifully trained 15,000-member rooting section dressed in immaculate white uniforms spelled out political slogans by means of brilliantly colored red, green and blue cloth squares.

To keep up the tempo of the spectacle, airplanes buzzed overhead and dropped parachutes with flags attached, motorcycles heavily draped with pretty girls whizzed around the athletic track and two German bands oom-pahed an accompaniment. Even the youngsters got into the act with a mass demonstration of tossing and catching gigantic red and green inflated rubber balls. The kids were strictly disciplined; there were no wild independent scrambles after the ball; everything was done to whistle command. The Communists, capitalizing on the Teutonic love of precision and pageantry, put on a show in which the entire emphasis was on collective rather than individual action. The East Germans, hoping to impress the West Germans with their progress, invited the Westerners to attend and even offered free rail travel from Berlin to Leipzig. Added attraction: a chance to visit the birthplace of Wagner.

Few Westerners showed up, but a host of East Germans arrived at the stadium on foot and via antiquated red wooden trolleys to pile into the sun-baked stands. There they devoted themselves to the orderly pageantry of the show while they sipped lemonade, ate sausages and sucked on precious oranges which magically appeared on this health and strength-giving occasion.

Along with the festivities, the Communist party leaders addressed the crowd. "Fight for a peace-loving Germany! Be against militarism!" cried Party Boss Walter Ulbricht as squads of bare-chested, goose-stepping (Russian style, but with sneakers) Volkspolizei tramped around the track. Manfred Ewald, chairman of the physical culture program, boasted that "the East German State now has 1,300,000 men, women and children organized for sport."

The ultimate sports authority in East Germany is the polysyllabic Staatliche Kommitee für Körperkultur und Sport in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, which organizes mass sport at a community level. These local associations are led by union functionaries with the responsibility of explaining "the role and character of the national People's Army of the German Democratic Republic," of leading "an energetic fight against the speculators and the attempts by western agents to buy top athletes" and "winning over athletes for the aims of our workers' and peasants' state."

With such an ideology at stake, East German athletes, like those of other Iron Curtain countries, are expected to win in international competition. If the athletes fail they are lashed by critics for ideological unpreparedness. Actually, the East German Communists have gone further than even the Nazis in their emphasis on sport programs, for which they spend $60 million a year. The Nazis allowed independent sport clubs, but in East Germany everybody plays for the state.

Such demonstrations as were held in Leipzig are not encouraged in West Germany, despite the fact that Germany was once one of the most dumbbell-conscious nations in the world; such shows are considered militaristic and too heavily reminiscent of Hitler's Strength Through Joy youth movement.

But in East Germany? Well, as these rare pictures show, a lot of people are having regimented fun to the old commanding cry of "Achtung!"

Youngsters work out with bladder ball before the white-jacketed cheering section at East Germany's sports and fitness festival in Leipzig's new Stadium of the 100,000. On the following pages older demonstrators march in procession and form human pyramids.