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Deutsches Technikmuseum - January 2018

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

Exhibit of the Month January 2018

Photo: Two square radios of the same size are placed one behind the other.

The bakelite housing contains the respective up-to-date technology: an orange "Universum W 111" and a blackish-brown DKE 38. © SDTB / Photo: C. Kirchner

Related Radios: DKE 38 (1938-1945) and Universum W 111 (1974-1978)

At the beginning of the 1970s Fritz Trömel, the owner of a small electronics firm, was given an old radio as a present. The Deutsche Kleinempfänger DKE 38, which was marketed in 1938, was an important communication tool of the Hitler regime. The cheap price of only 35 Reichsmarks contributed to the wide distribution of the DKE 38 that then enabled the nationwide dissemination of Nazi propaganda.

"A bestseller in a new style"

Despite the negative associations connected with this German radio and the very similar Volksempfänger, Trömel decided to restore the radio with modernized inner workings. He replaced the old tubes with modern transistors but kept the bakelite housing.

At the start of the 1970s he pitched the radio to the head of the Quelle mail-order company. She added it to the program under the name "Universum W 111". It was touted as "a bestseller in a new style" in the 1974 Quelle catalogue. Instead of blackish-brown, the model was now orange and white to conform to contemporary tastes. Quelle sold no fewer than 30,000 units before finally taking it out of the program in 1978.

Photo: Pictures of the front and back of a DKE 38 fill the front and back of the cover of the band Kraftwerk’s "Radio-Aktivität" album.

Kraftwerk’s "Radio-Aktivität" album cover © Emil Schult

Critical artists

However, in the 1970s this icon of Nazi propaganda was also dealt with in more critical ways. In 1975 the German band Kraftwerk released its "Radio-Aktivität" album, the cover of which depicted a DKE 38.

The American Neo-Dadaist Edward Kienholz (1927-1994) used Volksempfängers and Deutsche Kleinempfängers that he found in German flea markets to make his assemblage sculpture "Volksempfängers", which was displayed in the National Gallery in Berlin in 1977.