In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities after World War II

In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities after World War II
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The following provides an overview of the evolution of the pathways that were most significant for cultural developments in postwar Berlin. The nationalist element of postwar preservationist discourse would be relatively muted and often avoided using the term Heimatschutz , but basic beliefs about culture and historic urban form remained intact. The scientific tradition or traditions and ideas about its relation to technological progress are important to this study for several reasons.

During the early s, Communist theories of culture emphasized the impact of artistic expression on the public, attributing science and technology a supporting role. However, by the mids a surge in enthusiasm for the power of technology inspired Soviet and German Communists to retheorize the significance of science for economic and social progress.

This fervor was a crucial factor driving a paradigm shift in East German architecture and urban design, and it infused cultural expression with a veneration of technological power: a cultural high modernity similar to that in America but not the same. German Exceptionalism. Theories of German exceptionalism positing fundamental differences from the rest of the West have appeared in various forms over the ages.

Yet negative assessments have appeared more frequently and can be traced back as far as the Roman writer Tacitus. The centuries-old humanist tradition has been multifaceted and ever changing. Nineteenth-century humanists witnessed the transformative effects of industrialization with some ambivalence, but many believed the new wealth would ultimately improve the welfare of all humans, which along with nationalist and democratic challenges to the old order would contribute to social progress.

Marx was deeply engaged with the impact of these same technological changes. He entered a humanist phase in the early s, positing that the achievement of true democracy with unrestricted voting would enable emancipation, and the elimination of all conditions that degrade humankind to attain a form of socialism based on a liberated human community. Here, humanism was defined in accordance with stages of world historical progress, resulting in separate definitions of classical humanism, bourgeois humanism, and finally socialist humanism.

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It had immediate political currency as shared German culture and would serve as a long-term, educational strategy to bring the population closer to socialism. In public speeches and press reports Communists in postwar Berlin employed a framework for interpreting the national situation that pitted humanism and democracy against past Nazism.

As the Soviets were the first to occupy the city, they established a German-run local government for the whole city, including an administrative branch, the Berlin Magistrat, and an executive branch, the Senat hereafter, the City Council. This government would assume normal municipal functions and guide the reconstruction effort, although the occupying powers would retain significant influence.

The Soviets attempted to portray this government as democratic but placed Communists in key positions to control important decision-making. However, our German people will live on. It is valid now to undertake a fundamental cleaning. Their shameful past must be concluded. This has to do with a new birth of our people, with a new beginning in their entire thinking and acting. New people, a new Germany must come about, in order to live in peace and friendship with other peoples and to guarantee the German People against a repetition of the aggression from the German side.

Marx emerged from his humanist phase when he determined that given the communal nature of humankind, liberation was possible only through class struggle and the end of class exploitation. Many German Communists returning to Berlin after the war adhered to this ideology and were unfamiliar with cultural theory developed under Lenin and Stalin.

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Grounded in materialism, German Marxist teleology foresaw a trajectory of world historical progress based on economic development and class conflict generating revolutions that would culminate in a Communist world order. Progress toward Communism would unfold through the eradication of inequality—that is, through the elimination of private property, state control of credit and means of production, and so on.

Yet Marx would continue to struggle to reconcile egalitarianism with individual freedom throughout his life. Scientific socialism offered a clear perspective on housing reform and raised questions about the very structure of the living arrangements it was intended to serve. Liberal and conservative housing reform efforts, from the s on, held up the single-family home as the ideal form of housing for the health and morality of the family, which was the building block of the nation.

The Communist Manifesto even called into question the idea of the family, and later socialist theorists posited alternatives. August Bebel condemned marriage and the family as oppressive institutions, suggesting that in the Communist future equal rights and equal opportunities for women would allow sexual freedom and public provision of child care and household labor. Yet even socialist politicians ignored these ideas, which were apparently too radical to enjoy broad support.

When the housing crisis became acute in the s, Social Democrats denounced the situation as evidence of market failure and resolved that the only solution was the creation of a socialist state in which all land is held as communal property.

In the wake of war : the reconstruction of German cities after World War II

They contrasted this situation with the large sums of money spent on monumental architecture to aggrandize the wealthy bourgeois apartments and the state a new city hall. They brought forth a series of failed housing bills that were vehemently opposed by propertied interests. Yet, as East-West tension grew during the late s, this policy changed. The Soviets initiated a campaign of terror directed at Berliners supporting the Western allies, with thousands disappearing from the streets of East and West Berlin.

In the wake of war : the reconstruction of German cities after World War II

The SED gradually began employing subtle methods of developing class consciousness and increasingly overt presentations of elements of socialist ideology. East-West tensions exploded in June with the introduction of a new Western currency and the Soviet response, the infamous blockade. The Western Allies responded with the famous airlift to keep West Berlin from collapsing and coming under Soviet control. In September, Communist demonstrators disrupted meetings of the local government, which relocated to West Berlin, and a duplicate government was established by Communists in East Berlin.

In May the Soviets called off the blockade, but division was imminent. The mayor of Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, initially exerted a great deal of influence over city building issues, but his role was soon constricted by the state leadership. Stalin restrained the German leadership in this regard as he attempted to negotiate with the West for a united, neutral, unarmed Germany. Stalin died in March , and Khrushchev gradually consolidated power and initiated a de-Stalinization process that included a more open cultural atmosphere. The modernist cultural movement developed as a reaction against tradition and its alleged culmination in the tragedy of World War I.

During the Weimar era, leading German architects played a key role in the development of modernism. In particular, the Bauhaus school with Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and others attained worldwide renown.

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Although some landmarks would be deemed worthy of preservation, there were no qualms about clearing most structures to make way for the new. Architecture was to be designed in a contemporary style and not imitate the past or attempt to conform to a historic district. These last tenets set modernists in direct conflict with traditionalists. During the housing crisis that followed the First World War, modernism became the dominant style for new social housing projects.

coestocsinna.tk With Berlin firmly under SPD rule, government policy spurred the construction of more than , new dwelling units by trade unions, cooperatives, benevolent associations, and local government. GEHAG was the first union organization established with funding from the Reich and constructed ten thousand units from to A survey of Berlin grade-school children revealed that in , of children, 70 could not picture a sunrise, 49 were not familiar with a frog, and 87 did not know what a birch tree looks like.

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The solution lay not in incremental changes to the city but in defying traditional urban form with new, large-scale, residential projects on the urban periphery. Wagner called for standardized building components and rationalized construction process to increase affordability. Based on scientific analysis of spatial needs, modular, ornament-free row houses and walk-up apartments overlooked ample green space and were detached from the street where possible. Each housing unit was provided considerable light, air, and views of greenery. Leading architects such as Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Hans Scharoun, and others designed modernist housing settlements that received international acclaim.

In Berlin suburban Kameradschaftsiedlung exemplified this approach with one-third detached houses and two-thirds rental units in small buildings. Traditionalist ideas regarding the incorporation of regional building styles were blended into the theory but were lacking in practice. Modernist architects returned to Berlin and assumed positions of power but would soon find themselves embroiled in political conflict as Soviet ideas about culture were adopted by the state.

Another variant of modernism began appearing in different countries after World War II, midcentury modernism. In this regard, the style would seem a natural fit for the high modernist enthusiasm for advancement in science and technology during the late s, when it became a matter of contention in East Germany. The Soviets also had embraced modernism early in the twentieth century, although it was short-lived. Following the October Revolution, Soviet modernism drew global attention, and throughout the s both modernists and traditionalists competed for projects.

Life in Germany After World War 2, part 1

By the mids a competition for political support was under way. Over the next years the traditionalist approach was developed into an official doctrine of socialist realism. Modernism was written off as misguided approach.

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This impressive study is supported by a wide range of maps, diagrams, tables, photographs and sources culled by the author from over thirty archives. How to Help? Accessed July 23, Product Details. Sarah Gordon writes that a majority of Germans appeared to approve of nonviolent removal of Jews from civil service and professions and German life. Grin Verlag.

Socialist Realism. The Marxist-Leninist theory of art, socialist realism, was developed in the Soviet Union during the s, providing a comprehensive perspective on culture, politics, and urban form. Adjustments were made in the development of plans to rebuild Moscow, and the result provided the exemplar of this approach, which adapted traditionalist architecture and city planning to suit contemporary needs.

Many were disillusioned and returned, while a few, such as Kurt Liebknecht, remained and assimilated socialist realism. The trip took place in April and May of and initiated the forced indoctrination of design professionals into the Soviet approach.

Socialist realism presented a rather complex view of historic architecture and tradition to which it was deeply connected. The style held architecture to be both a functional object and an art form. As an art form, it was a reflection of society, which conversely could shape society, inspiring the individual with its beauty and educating through its function and imagery. The purpose of this edification was political, and in Marxist-Leninism the nation-state was the necessary vehicle for social progress for the capitalist and socialist eras. Thus progressive art appeals to national consciousness and is built on national traditions.