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Object Timeline

-0001

1928

  • Work on this object began.

1986

  • We acquired this object.

2014

2015

2016

  • You found it!

Volksempfänger Radio, ca. 1933

This is a radio. It was designed by Walter Maria Kersting and manufactured by DeTeWe. It is dated ca. 1933 and we acquired it in 1986. Its medium is molded bakelite, textile (speaker cover). It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

In his final speech at the Nuremberg trials, Albert Speer, Nazi Minister of Armaments and War Production, described how under Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship the use of "technical devices like the radio and the loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man." These Volksempfängers, or "people’s receivers," are material evidence of Hitler’s technological manipulation. Developed at the request of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and designed to be cheaply produced, these basic, Bakelite-encased receivers made radio technology available to the general public. With tuners indicating only those German and Austrian stations that broadcasted Nazi propaganda, these devices played a central role in Hitler’s regime. However, clever listeners could tune in to Allied wavelengths using external antennae, a bold act considering it was a criminal offense punishable by fines, deportation to concentration camps, or even capital punishment. These radios thus encapsulate the dual nature and powerful potential of communication in modern times. Though intended as vehicles for Nazi propaganda, the Volksempfänger was transformed by brave citizens into tools for resistance.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled The People’s Receiver.

This object was donated by Patricia Pastor and Barry Friedman. It is credited Gift of Barry Friedman and Patricia Pastor.

Its dimensions are

Overall: 38.7 x 28 x 16.5 cm (15 1/4 x 11 x 6 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Volksempfänger Radio, ca. 1933; Designed by Walter Maria Kersting (German, 1889 - 1970); Germany; molded bakelite, textile (speaker cover); Overall: 38.7 x 28 x 16.5 cm (15 1/4 x 11 x 6 1/2 in.); Gift of Barry Friedman and Patricia Pastor; 1986-99-7

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18621889/ |title=Volksempfänger Radio, ca. 1933 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=4 December 2016 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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