The importance being that of course they don’t have any. Even Cuba, a tropical island fer cryin’ out loud, is not replete with the freely growing tropical fruit.
All of this was well known in Germany and was even used as a marker of the difference between the two ruling systems.
That such a basic commodity was a luxury good in East Germany tells you all you need to know about that system’s manifest failings. The fruit’s absence typified the shortages and penury of life in the old GDR. Indeed, when a shipment did come in there would be queues around the block.
Meanwhile over in West Germany, the banana was a potent symbol of the country’s 1950s economic miracle – so much so that West German president Konrad Adenauer once brandished one in the Bundestag and hailed it as “paradisical manna”.
The best part of the story is what happened immediately after the formal reunification of Germany, a year after the wall fell. As the hours and the minutes ticked down lorries full of bananas queued at the soon to be defunct border crossings. As midnight passed and freedom reigned again, they powered their way to every town, village and hamlet carrying their vital cargo.
By that first rosy dawn every shop, flower stall, tobacco kiosk and newsagent in the no longer socialist republic was festooned with bananas. It was a political statement, of course, a message to former East Germans that their new polity could deliver this simple and yellow thing with total efficiency. And such was the enthusiasm for this new bounty that for a time the Easterners were referred to their by their Western cousins as ‘bananen’.
At which point we can ditch the Red Flag and provide socialism with the appropriate and correct theme tune, can’t we: