Spotlight Berlin

May 1945 in your historical thinking – part 1

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Berlin in July 1945: We take on an observer’s perspective and see a range of footage from destroyed Berlin. It shows the people living there and their attempts to re-introduce everyday life into a city in which nothing is ordinary anymore. Soldiers dominate the scenery, so-called Trümmerfrauen (“rubble women”) are cleaning the debris of destroyed buildings off the street.

Photo: Mil.ru / CC BY

The unconditional surrender ended WW2 in Germany. The country was split into four occupation zones and was henceforth ruled over and controlled by the allies – the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France. The capital Berlin was similarly partitioned into occupation zones. In some places the allied troops were received and cheered on as “liberators”. In other places the fear of the occupiers was predominant.

Everything was lacking: food, clothes, heating material. The cities were destroyed, people all over were busy removing the damages of the war. Since many soldiers had fallen or remained in captivity, it was also women who assumed these tasks. For decades to come the so-called Trümmerfrauen (“rubble women”) would remain a symbol for this first phase of cleanup and reconstruction works, even though there weren’t that many of them.

Photo: Janczikowsky / CC BY-SA