East Germany, in the Caribbean

Thursday, 17th May 2007 by

This is the small island formerly known as Cayo Blanco de Sur, Cuba. The island is around 15 km long, about 500 metres wide, and is uninhabited save for the indigenous birds and iguanas.


In 1972 while on a state visit to East Berlin, Fidel Castro gifted this island1 to the former socialist country of East Germany, and renamed it Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann, after the leader of the German Communist Party, Ernst Thälmann.2

Of course, East Germany ceased to exist in 1990 when the (East) German Democratic Republic was absorbed by the Federal Republic of (West) Germany. Well, that’s what everybody thought.

It transpires that Cayo Ernesto Thaelmann wasn’t actually mentioned in the unification treaty – West Germany never made a claim to it – meaning this Caribbean island is arguably the only remaining piece of East German territory.

You can read more about this bizarre story at the excellent Strange Maps blog.

  1. Well, Cuba apparently received 6% of the world market share in refined sugar in return. Which strikes me as pretty poor deal on East Germany’s part. 

  2. The East German ambassador erected a bust of Ernst Thälmann on the island’s south beach in August 1972, which survived until 1998 when it fell over during a hurricane. It might even still be there! Can anyone find it?