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Trabant 601 S "Delux"

DAYTON, Ohio - Berlin Wall exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Berlin Wall exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo)

Throughout the Cold War, the communists used East Berlin as a showcase for the success of socialism. Visitors were shown carefully maintained areas with shops, department stores and restaurants carrying some of the finest merchandise available in the communist block. However, the average East German only had access to drab shops with little variety and limited amounts of merchandise.

The Trabant 601 automobile provided a stark example of how socialism failed to provide the promised worker's paradise. Powered by a 2-cylinder, 2-stroke engine, which produced approximately 28 hp, the Trabant's body consisted of compressed plastic and cotton panels attached to a galvanized steel chassis. The citizens of East Berlin often had to wait eight years or more to get one of these small vehicles. After the reunification of East and West Germany, the Trabant factory could not compete in a free market society with such an inferior product, and the last Trabant came off the assembly line in 1991.

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