After the Dresden Bombing: Pathways of Memory, 1945 to the by Anne Fuchs (auth.)

By Anne Fuchs (auth.)

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Here the destruction of the built environment triggered an intense moral search concerning the origins of Germany’s ruination and rival ideas for the reconstruction of the country. The inflection of architectural deliberations with moral considerations is particularly pronounced in the debate about Germany as a Kulturnation, as exemplified in contributions by Thomas Mann and the historian Friedrich Meinecke. In West Germany the controversy over how much of the past should be preserved was primarily conducted in architectural journals.

Peter’s photo book offers an interesting point of comparison and contrast with a cycle of drawings by the artist Wilhelm Rudolph (born in Chemnitz in 1889), who worked in Dresden from the end of the First World War until his death in 1982. Influenced by Expressionism and later by Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), Rudolph is primarily known for his woodcuts that often depict animals as expressionistic symbols of creaturely existence. However, in the current context it is his cycle of 150 drawings produced in the months after the bombing that is of particular interest.

The irreconcilable positions of victims, of liberators and of accused Germans may have effected long-term reverberations that were not really understood by the various actors at the time. Accordingly, this chapter argues that the prevailing interpretation of German rubble photography as a revisionist genre misses its central affective function for postwar Germans. The visual narrative unfolding in German rubble photography is more complex and nuanced than the binary between Allied concentration-camp photography and German rubble photography would suggest.

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