cover image Berlin 1945,World War II: Photos of the Aftermath

Berlin 1945,World War II: Photos of the Aftermath

Michael Brettin and Peter Kroh, trans. from the German by Cindy Opitz. Berlinica (IPS, dist.), $25.95 (220p) ISBN 978-1-935902-02-7

Somber and sobering, the images in this black-and-white collection show the extraordinary damage Berlin suffered during WWII. Taken primarily by Soviet photographers after the city fell to the Red Army in May 1945, the photos depict bombed-out buildings, “shelled rubble, rotting corpses, and lost children.” Pulled from archives by Brettin, managing editor of the Sunday issue of the Berliner Kurier, and photo editor Kroh, they reveal a “city in ruins.” The book also shows how ordinary citizens coped afterward. In brief explanatory essays with titles like “The End of Berlin,” “Bread and Potatoes” and “Rolling Again,” the authors offer useful historical insight and context. They remind readers, for example, of the heavy casualties. Photos of German POWs at a badly damaged Berlin train station, of wounded soldiers camped along the city’s main thoroughfare, of white bed sheets hung in surrender from the windows of damaged apartments—these illustrate the magnitude of the loss. Brettin and Kroh also cover the resilience of ordinary Germans, such as the Trümmerfrauen (Rubble Women) who dedicated themselves to clearing away debris, in great detail. Their inclusion in the book lends a sense of hope to what was an otherwise thoroughly hopeless situation. 177 b&w illus. (Sept.)