Friday, May 8, 2020

Berlin 1945. World War II: Photos of the Aftermath

May 8, 1945: The Red Army marches into Berlin; World War II is over in Europe. They bring photographers with them, Among them were Mark Redkin and Jewgenij Chaldej.The latter took the iconic photographs of the Red Flag flying over the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. But the photographers also captured images of shelled rubble, rotting corpses, and lost children, heart-wrenching photographs, most never seen before, of Berlin after World War II. They reveal a city in ruins and were taken when half of its five million inhabitants had left or been killed and hundreds of thousands of refugees from the East were stranded among its bombed-out buildings.

The Soviets ruled Berlin for two months before being joined in July 1945 by American, British, and French troops. At that point, the corpses had been buried, the fires quenched, and the Red Cross had set up soup kitchens. The pictures ended up in the archives of Berliner Zeitung, licensed by the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD)  just two weeks after the capitulation of Berlin, followed by the tabloid BZ am Abend. The SMAD also had its own army paper, Tägliche Rundschau. The papers printed these photos taken by Soviet soldiers, along with photos taken by Germans, most notably Otto Donath. Born in Berlin in 1898, Donath died there in 1971, after a long career as a gifted photographer.

The image archives were located on the second floor, where the photos—many rumpled, stained, scratched, and printed on pulpy, low-quality paper—were stored in drawers on long rows of metal shelving. Eventually, they were forgotten. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down. One day in the 1990s, Peter Kroh, then photo editor of the BZ am Abend— meanwhile renamed Berliner Kurier—had a look in those drawers. Kroh sifted through thousands of photos, many of them not properly categorized or credited. Nevertheless, Kroh knew that he had found a treasure trove and soon decided to publish them in a book. This turned into the English-language book Berlin 1945, The author of the text is Dr. Michael Brettin, managing editor of the Sunday issue of Berliner Kurier. It is part of the history of World War II that has never been shared before in America.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Why We Celebrate International Women's Day

Many of you celebrate the women in your lives (or the women you admire) during International Women's Day on March 8.

But did you know that the origins of this global day of observance can be at least partially traced back to German women?

The earliest Women's Day was held in New York City in 1909 in concurrence with an 11-week strike for women's rights, but it wasn't until 1910 that other countries got involved. In August of that year, an International Socialist Women's Conference was organized in Copenhagen, Denmark.

During this meeting, German Socialists Luise Zietz, Clara Zetkin and Käte Duncker advocated for the establishment of an annual Women's Day. They had been inspired by the American observance during the prior year. "When the men are silent, it is our duty to raise our voices on behalf of our ideals," Zetkin said.

One year later, on March 19, 1911, the world's first International Women's Day was marked, with participating countries including Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland (the United States held its observance on a different day). Women in Europe took to the streets with posters and signs, advocating for their right to vote and hold office, among other topics.

Although several women played a role in the establishment of International Women's Day, Zetkin is perhaps the most well-known. Zetkin was active in the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany and later the Communist Party of Germany, which she represented during the Weimar Republic from 1920 to 1933.

Although the roots of International Women's Day were tied to socialism, the day of observance has evolved over time. This changed when the United Nations began celebrating the day in the year 1975 (the "International Women's Year"). Two years later, the UN General Assembly invited all of its member states to declare March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights.

At the German Embassy in Washington, we have many wonderful women in leadership positions - including our very own German Ambassador, Emily Haber!

To celebrate Women's History Month, a group of us will be running a 5K on the National Mall this weekend, alongside our EU colleagues and American friends. Called the "Her Story 5K", this run recognizes the accomplishments of women across the world. Take a look at the articles in this week's edition of TWIG to read more about some of the women who have changed the world we live in today.

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

This is Rosa Luxemburg, also an early icon of the Women's Movement. The picture is from the book: Kurt Tucholsky: The Short Fat Berliner Who Tried to Stop A Catastrophe With A Typewriter, by Harold L. Poor, about the Weimar Republic.


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