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1950s Berlin: Photographs of a destroyed city

Berlin, 1956. About ten years have passed since the end of the Second World War, and Germany was at the beginning of a reconstruction, first architectural and then political, which would have lasted decades. Berlin was the capital of the German Democratic Republic (DDR), a city divided into two blocs between the West and the East, which from August 13, 1961, will also be physically divided by the Berlin Wall. While in the West began what was called the “Wirtschaftswunder”, the German economic miracle at the base of the flourishing economy of today’s Germany, in the East the situation is dramatically different, a society in stasis that fails to rise from its ashes.
In those post-war years, tens of thousands of Allied soldiers were stationed in the country, and many of them took photographs that today represent an important document of the reality of that period. The images of the gallery were discovered in 2014 at a flea market, date from 1956-7 and were taken by a US Serviceman in Berlin.

Winter 1956 – an alienating desolation:

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The “hunger rake” memorial at Templehof Airport. The memorial commemorates the Berlin Airlift of 1948/9 when allied aircraft kept West Berlin supplied by air, to break a Soviet blockade Weniger. It was cut off for 322 days by a Soviet bloc:

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A Berlin street scene in the winter of 1956. The sign reads “Beginning of the Greater Berlin Democratic Sector”, which marks the border of the Soviet sector:

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Strausberger Platz in Berlin – winter 1956:

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Soviet buildings in brutal architecture stand out on deserted streets, an alienating vision of Strausberger Platz:

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Walking with the dog in one of the abandoned waste areas after World War II:

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Berlin – winter 1956. Many of these images were taken by moving vehicles, but while the sharpness and composition leave something to be desired, the spontaneous approach reveals unusual details, reproducing the atmosphere of the period in a really good way:

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Ten years after the end of the war, vast areas of a ruined Berlin:

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Berlin Wall was built only five years after these shots, but even without it Berlin was a torn city. Below a sign in English, Russian and French marks the border of the western sector:

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Ruins in Berlin:

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The blur of the camera makes this photo of the U-Bahn (the Metro) an impressionist picture:

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Below the Haus des Sports, on Stalinallee (now Karl-Marxallee) built for the “World Youth and Student Festival” of 1951, then demolished in 1971:

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One of the many wide boulevards of Berlin, with the testimonies of the war still clearly visible. The medium-distance structure is the Brandenburg Gate, before the construction of the wall:

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Taken from inside a car, this photograph shows the Kurfürstendamm – one of the busiest shopping streets in West Berlin in 1956 (and still today):

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Spring 1957:

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A view of Berlin in the spring of 1957 (presumably from the top of the Berliner Funkturm), looking east towards the Neue Kantraße. The body of water in the center of the image is the northern part of the Lietzensee:

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A photograph of one of the many new Interbau buildings, built as part of the 1957 international exhibition. The image was made by a cable car installed as part of the exhibition:

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Another shot from the cable car:

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“Interbau”, part of the 1957 International Building Exhibition:

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A snapshot from within the photographer’s convertible VW Beetle, an image of Berlin in the spring / summer of 1957:

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Only two girls color the picture of what looks like a monument to Bismarck in Hamburg:

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The Berliner Sparkasse (Savings Bank), the current headquarters of the Landesbank Berlin, Alexanderplatz:

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The “Abteibrücke” bridge, which leads to “Insel der Jugend” (island of youth) at Treptower Park. The factory in the background is the Kraftwerk Klingenberg:

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This shot shows the same bridge, but from further away, with some Berliners sitting at an outdoor bar:

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A photograph taken during the previous winter, at the Soviet War Memorial of Treptower Park in Berlin:

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A shop in Berlin – probably in the East (VEB stands for “Volkseigener Betrieb” or “activity of the people”):

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An evocative photograph of Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, a busy West Berlin shopping street:

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Source: dpreview.com

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