Just months before Berlin was divided into East and West by the Berlin Wall, the 1961 European Figure Skating Championships were held in that city from January 26–29. When construction of the infamous wall began in August 1961, it signified the final divide of not only a city but a nation. Additional barriers, including more than one million anti-personnel landmines, along the 850-mile border between East and West also helped to “protect” the citizens of East Germany from the evils of the capitalist West Germany. It would be nearly 30 years before citizens would be free again to pass over the border—in Berlin or elsewhere.
The stark design of the pins produced for the 1961 European Championships perhaps reveals much about Germany itself at the time. The black and white palette can be viewed as a metaphor for the age-old struggle of good versus bad. For example, is the skater in white whose reflection is in black meant to symbolize cultural and political strife? Does it symbolize opposing sides and values? Or something else? Or nothing? One can only conjecture. Bold and graphical, the pins make a solemn statement, whether intentional or not.
The well-made pins are a fine memento of the only major international figure skating championship that took place that year, given the sudden and subsequent cancellation of the 1961 World Championships, scheduled for Prague, Czechoslovakia. In the gallery below are four examples of pins from the European event, each issued to a different participant: Competitor, Official, Judge, and Functionary. Like the medals awarded to winners at the event, the finishes of the decorative borders on the pins are gold, silver, and bronze. Interestingly, the pin given to competitors features a silver border when one would think it might have been more appropriate for athletes—who comprise the reason for the event—to have been honored with gold.
The stark design of the pins produced for the 1961 European Figure Skating Championships perhaps reveals much about Germany itself at the time.
The highly stylized female skater, reflected in what appears to be a spotlight, is both graceful and athletic, mirroring the sport in both respects. Transecting the skater where the imaginary blade meets the ice and arranged on various angles are the event name, location, and date: “Europameisterschaften im Eiskunstlauf u. Eistanz, Berlin, 26.-29.1.1961.” The highly creative and visually compelling way in which these pieces of information is arranged is unlike any other European Championship pin, or any other major championship pin. Collectively, these elements also suggest the six-sided shape of a snowflake crystal. On each pin, below the main artwork design, is the recipient’s designation. The substantial pins have enamel fills and measure approximately 1-1/4″ x 1-3/4″ (3.2 cm x 4.4 cm) each.
Enjoy East Leaves West. 1961.
1961 European Championships Gallery
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