Risen from Ruins
The Cultural Politics of Rebuilding East Berlin
Paul Stangl



Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

—Karl Marx, 1852

Little more than one month after the founding of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the new building minister, Lothar Bolz, declared the rebuilding of Berlin after the Second World War “a lever to activate the entire population of Germany and . . . to raise the social consciousness of the entire population.”1 Bolz, a student of Soviet socialist-realist theory, viewed architecture above all as an art in service of the practical and emotional needs of humans. In the ruins of Berlin, with its severe housing shortage and devastated architectural heritage, Bolz saw opportunity. The city would not be reconstructed. Instead, a “new building up” (Neuaufbau) would win the support of the people and help guide their transformation into socialists. Optimism would displace despair. With revolutionary fervor, a “New Berlin” would emerge in a “New Germany,” “risen from ruins,” as the GDR’s national anthem proclaimed.

This book examines city building in East Berlin from the end of World War II on May 8, 1945, until the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961—a period of great interest in reshaping the city to express new political ideals. After centuries of growth, Berlin’s destruction during the war confronted political and cultural leaders with myriad decisions about what to demolish, what to restore, what to reconstruct, and what to build. Throughout the postwar era, German Communists would exert the greatest influence in this regard, due to their immediate influence in the administration of Berlin and the fact that after the division the historic core of the city lay in East Berlin. The center of Berlin might have been completely restored, or it might have been totally razed in favor of a sanitized modern city. Something between these extremes occurred, however, as decision-makers operated within the constraints of existing cultural, political, and economic frameworks. Their approach to city building was shaped by their worldviews and political ideologies, beliefs about the relationship between urban form and society, political strategizing at municipal, national, and international levels, and assessments concerning the deployment of limited resources. These motives were further complicated by the great political, ideological, and theoretical instability and change during this era. The imprint of the decisions made throughout these years are evident all over Berlin today. These same issues had similar effects on hundreds of cities across central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

Between 1870 and 1945, a mere seventy-five years, Berlin had been the capital of three strikingly different states: the constitutional monarchy of the German Empire, the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic, and the dictatorship of the Third Reich. Although many Germans genuinely embraced Nazism, it had only been the official ideology for twelve years when the Nazi state ended catastrophically and the victorious Allies initiated denazification efforts. This immense historical rupture provided fertile ground for innovative ideological developments, which the victorious powers sought to shape according to their interests. The urban landscape would play a vital role in this process. Most of Berlin’s historic core was less than 150 years old, but its buildings, streets, and squares had been inscribed with a complex mosaic of identities to be enlisted in the ideological battle.

Examining the process by which Berlin’s urban landscape became embroiled in cultural politics raises a series of questions. How was meaning borne in the urban landscape? Were there fundamental differences in the communicative nature of different landscape elements—that is, historic architecture, vernacular building, monuments, and public space—or did they all bear meaning in the same fundamental ways? Did the technical and political elite feel free to impress structures and places with an unlimited range of meanings, or did they perceive a field of opportunity and constraint? Ideology and theory provided a comprehensive framework for interpreting the landscape, but were these taken as steadfast guides for decision-making or were other factors influential? The answers to these questions center on how key actors understood the relationship between society, cultural memory, and urban form. At times, key actors and groups—the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD), German Communists, and the German cultural elite—viewed these relationships differently and thus took varied approaches to the cityscape. They often relied on ideology and theory for guidance, but other factors were influential, including pragmatic issues, concern for political consequences, and the idiosyncratic tastes of powerful individuals. Furthermore, complex place-based meaning could cloud the clarity of a beautiful theory.

This book contributes to a sizable literature on the relationship between cultural memory, politics, and the urban landscape, often focusing on monument and memorial construction, commemorative practices, and political spectacles.2 Related scholarship has examined similar issues regarding street names, architecture, public spaces, historic preservation, and city planning.3 Because of extensive debates over meaning in its urban landscape, Berlin has been a hotbed for these studies. Yet English-language publications on Berlin have given limited attention to the early GDR, with the exception of Maoz Azaryahu’s work on street names.4 German-language monographs have provided insight into politics, identity, and the urban landscape during the entire Communist era, often focusing on a building or a site, a street ensemble, or theoretical issues.5

This book shares commonalities with these works but differs from them in significant ways. First, it examines Communist politicization of all facets of the urban landscape, including memorials, toponyms, historic monumental and vernacular architecture, as well as new city plans and architectural designs. This broader perspective brings into focus the distinct approaches to the built environment taken by the major groups involved and identifies changes over time. Second, this book is grounded not only in architectural and planning theory but also in geography, with space, place, and representation as central concepts. This provides a standard for examining the interpretation of such diverse components of the city, revealing similarities and differences in how these features were seen to bear meaning and uncovering factors that complicate theoretical directives. Finally, the book demonstrates how debate was shaped by inherited ideologies and traditions, which Marx may have seen as nightmare but which also provided the conceptual building blocks for a new city and society.

The Urban Landscape

There are many approaches to studying memory and the urban landscape. One of the key distinguishing factors of this book is its analysis of the spatialization of memory. For instance, Rudy Koshar examines how human agents engage “highly resonant parts of a memory landscape” and “themes and symbols that are the raw material of the framing devices and meanings themselves.”6 This book spatializes the approach through an additional layer of analysis to examine how themes and symbols are expressed through landscape elements, and why this impacts their use in cultural politics.

Meaning is posited to reside in a triad of representation, spatial/formal characteristics, and place-based associations. Representation includes text, symbols, and icons that are inscribed in physical media—that is, sculpture, bas-relief, banners, flags, and so on with recognizable themes and symbols.7 The messages may vary greatly in their degree of clarity, ambiguity, or polyvalence—an aspect strategically seized upon at times by Soviets and German Communists. Spatial and formal characteristics are considered in the broadest sense. Spatial characteristics such as the degree of enclosure, the nature of the ground plane and bounding surfaces (materials, pattern of articulation, nature of adjoining space and transitions), presence and nature of objects within the space (trees, benches, monuments, small structures), and nonvisual sensory qualities (smells, sounds, and tactile aspects) all define a space. Spatial relations between physical aspects such as size, proportion, distance, direction, and pattern can be a constitutive element of expression, equivalent to syntax in language. Humans may perceive and attribute value to different aspects of form and space at a given site. Two of these aspects were often important to cultural and political leaders in East Berlin. First, the spatial capacity of buildings and plazas to hold persons or objects, a strictly utilitarian value, was often very important to cultural and political leaders during this era. Second, architectural style is defined by the formal and spatial properties of buildings. At times style is attributed substantial symbolic value, including being taken as an expression of national identity.8

Finally, place-based meaning may be imposed through representation but acquires depth from social activities, from mundane routines to spontaneous, dramatic events, and ritualistic ceremonies. Reportage of meanings and events contributes to this process. According to Edward Relph, place is distinguished from space, in that places are “constructed in our memories and affections through repeated encounters and complex associations. Place experiences are necessarily time-deepened and memory-qualified.”9 The resulting link between cultural memory and a particular site is complex, ambiguous, and changing. Over time, the connection may grow stronger or weaker, be forgotten and recovered. Multiple themes may be associated with the same site. Even when an enduring, dominant association is evident—for example, the Berlin Palace and “Prussian monarchy”—this may be valued in widely divergent ways by different groups or by the same group in different eras. Yet place-based meaning can be very resilient, as even over time the physical effacement of a site may fail to wipe out the public’s identification with the site (i.e., pilgrimages may continue even after a memorial is demolished).

Vernacular spaces acquire place-based meaning from the patterns of everyday life of their inhabitants. This occurs at various scales and for various types of space: cafe, street corner, park, or neighborhood. Meanings shared by individuals provide building blocks for local identities, which on occasion become quite prominent. Berlin’s working-class district Wedding became known as “Rote Wedding” (Red Wedding) during the 1920s because of the large number of socialists residing there. The entire medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber became a romanticized national icon during the late nineteenth century.10 In contrast, monumental spaces are built to aggrandize and memorialize; they possess place-based meaning from the outset. They express cultural memory in a durable form that can be directly experienced by current and future generations. Hence, intentionally and unintentionally, the urban landscape acts as a repository of collective memory, playing an important role in cultural reproduction.11 The process is dynamic as a society seeks to sustain or reshape cultural memory, vernacular sites become memorialized and monumental sites are effaced.

For these reasons the urban landscape would become embroiled in politics in the postwar era. While there was contestation among political parties during the early postwar years, the division of the Magistrat von Berlin (Berlin Magistrat), and more so the founding of the GDR, allowed Communists to fully engage the cityscape for their ends. Political socialization of the masses was carried out by the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED, the Socialist Unity Party) using all means available, for in accordance with Marxist-Leninism the state and Party must control all information to ideologically develop the population.12 The urban landscape, like traditional means of mass communication, was crucial because of its ability to convey cultural and political content. It was an arena of contestation over cultural identity, in which group identities could be added, removed, or transformed. It was an effective instrument, because the most symbolic places were recognized by all Berliners, and often, all Germans. The construction, reconstruction, renaming, and reinterpreting of buildings, monuments, streets, and squares, as well as their use in public ceremonies, became media of state expression. Press reports on each of these activities would convey propagandistic messages throughout the territory.

Pathways of Memory

There is another layer to the story. Cultural memory does not reside in a contained past, a bank vault of themes and symbols awaiting withdrawal. The past permeates the present in living traditions, ideologies, and unarticulated worldviews. This is true even for broken or discredited traditions such as Nazi ideology, endured as a negative force, a no-go zone for public discussion. When East German political and cultural leaders deployed themes and symbols from cultural memory into urban space, they were guided by enduring structures of thought and practice. Both wittingly and unwittingly, they interpreted the urban landscape through a series of explanatory frameworks inherited from the past—and none of these dominated. Their attempt to create a new city and a novel society did not neatly mimic the Soviet model, and it did not emerge in a creative flash. Rather, they selectively applied existing discourses based on their personal knowledge, beliefs and preferences, assessments of contemporary political and material conditions, and a view to long-term development. Novelty would arrive in how they combined these elements, and how some frameworks were adapted over time.

In 1945 political and cultural leaders had varying degrees of awareness of and investment in different discourses. Members of key groups often displayed great similarity at a given time but operated in a climate of intense political pressure and capriciousness that conditioned how they applied what they believed and prompted changes in approach; ideologies and theories were adopted and abandoned due to political shifts. The main groups involved include the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD, which after 1949 was known as the Soviet Control Commission, SCC), German Communist politicians, and German cultural elites. Within these groups, key individuals could play prominent roles, including Walter Ulbricht (general secretary of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands [KPD], later SED), Wilhelm Pieck (the first president of the GDR), and Otto Grotewohl (the first prime minister of the GDR) as well as key architects and planners, and, on occasion, representatives of the Soviet military. After World War II the urban landscape was of immediate interest to these leaders for both its cultural and political symbolism and the importance of decimated neighborhoods to everyday life. Memorials and monumental architecture expressed identities and inculcated cultural memory and political values in the populace. Plans and efforts to restore or build anew the vernacular city were seen as proof of political efficacy and an expression of the values of the regime. Thus actions on the urban landscape were attributed the potential to increase support for politicians and political parties in the short term and to assist with political indoctrination in the long run.

The occupying powers and new German administrators were well aware of the sharp contrast between the recently established political system and the existing political culture, which had been formed by experiences of twelve years of a Nazi state, preceded by fifteen years of highly unstable democracy, preceded by decades of a constitutional monarchy that heavily favored the latter.13 Although totalitarian theory suggests that the East German state was held together by Soviet military might and that the beliefs of East Germans were irrelevant, recent research has begun to explore variations in compliance, acquiescence, dissent, and opposition—variations that cannot be explained entirely by force as a means of supporting statehood.14

Moreover, the society-state dichotomy that underlies this approach breaks down in the GDR, where approximately one in five citizens participated in one of the “manifold organizations and institutions of the state” on a voluntary basis. Mary Fulbrook would not go so far as to accept the GDR’s self-designation of “democratic centralism” but suggests that it functioned as a “participatory dictatorship.” This did not require the inner conviction of the bulk of the population but outward compliance with the state order was essential. In this regard, the transformation of the urban landscape expunged cultural memory opposed to state ideals and imposed a vision expressive of the new order—part of a comprehensive overhaul establishing a public realm in which citizens would occupy their proper places. A tiny cadre of dedicated Communists facilitated these changes and a number of left-wing antifascists welcomed them as expressive of their worldview. Many citizens viewed these as an imposition yet came to accept them as “rules of the game,” adherence to which led to personal rewards. Public discussion and the popular press informed them of the official view on matters so that they could position themselves accordingly. Conformity, regardless of conviction, turns the gears of state. Yet a number of East Germans were indoctrinated into a socialist worldview, as later recollections testify. In light of recent wartime destruction and suffering, restoring the city and building a better future had great appeal.15

Hence the problem of political socialization was especially acute at this time. East German leaders were heavily invested in the idea that efforts to reshape the city were an essential component of their cultural political strategy. Nonetheless, East German planning and city building did not emerge as a unified vision derived from Marxist-Leninist ideology, contrary to Western perceptions of a monolithic socialist state. Rather, planning and building traditions emerged in fits and starts based on competing notions of how to build upon prewar German and international cultural developments and a changing political and economic landscape. These shaped how particular themes and symbols and ways of shaping cities were regarded.

Existing discourses are crucial to cultural politics as they provide bases for interpreting the world and acting upon it. These pathways of memory are neither static nor protean, but transform within limits, rise and fall in social prominence, and at times support and conflict with each other. As such, they provide crucial background for the material covered throughout this book. They are discussed individually, but they cannot always be neatly separated as they are currents in a stream of cultural development. The following provides an overview of the evolution of the pathways that were most significant for cultural developments in postwar Berlin. These include preservationism, Heimatschutz (“homeland-protection,” a movement centered on local and regional conservation), science, German exceptionalism, humanism, Marxism, Marxist-Leninism, modernism, and socialist realism.

Preservationism.   The preservationist movement in Germany has been traced back to the late eighteenth century, although it came to national prominence in the early nineteenth century in response to the widespread destruction of monuments by Napoleon’s troops.16 In the late nineteenth century the harmful impacts of rapid industrialization significantly strengthened the movement, which posited that historic structures and townscapes were vital to the spiritual and cultural health of the nation.17 Thus preservation became entwined with the conservation of entire cultural landscapes, including agricultural and “natural” areas, and the built environment in the Heimatschutz movement.18

Heimatschutz.   This traditionalist movement took a virulently nationalistic turn in the Nazi era, with prominent Heimatschutz leader Paul Schulze-Naumberg “becoming the most vocal spokesman for the Nazis in architecture,” which would not be forgotten after the war.19 However, many traditionalists and preservationists were not involved in Nazi politics and advocated for preservation and restoration of traditional urban form. The nationalist element of postwar preservationist discourse would be relatively muted and often avoided using the term Heimatschutz, but basic beliefs about culture and historic urban form remained intact.20 Preservationists would remain highly active after World War II, but they possessed very limited political power.

Science.   The scientific tradition (or traditions) and ideas about its relation to technological progress are important to this study for several reasons.21 Science both contributed to the birth of ideologies and theories and became a component of these same ideologies and theories. Nineteenth-century scientific developments and industrialization endowed considerable importance to scientific and technological endeavors, inspired numerous scientisms, and gave birth to two “scientifically based socio-religious cults”: Saint Simonianism and socialism.22 Marx and Engels espoused a formal ideology of “scientific socialism,” and Lenin endowed Soviet socialist thought with Western ideas about scientific management and technological development as crucial for economic development. During the early 1950s, Communist theories of culture emphasized the impact of artistic expression on the public, attributing science and technology a supporting role. However, by the mid-1950s a surge in enthusiasm for the power of technology inspired Soviet and German Communists to retheorize the significance of science for economic and social progress. This fervor was a crucial factor driving a paradigm shift in East German architecture and urban design, and it infused cultural expression with a veneration of technological power: a cultural high modernity similar to that in America but not the same.23 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev perhaps encapsulated the spirit of the times when he menaced Western diplomats by suggesting he would keep his teeth sharp using “science and technology.”24

German Exceptionalism.   Theories of German exceptionalism (positing fundamental differences from the rest of the West) have appeared in various forms over the ages. Some have positively assessed Germany’s alleged distinctiveness, such as the claims about the authenticity of German culture versus the superficiality of French civilization following the Napoleonic Wars. Yet negative assessments have appeared more frequently and can be traced back as far as the Roman writer Tacitus. They surface in the writings of Marx and Engels regarding the role of the Prussian Junkers, and Engels went so far as to warn that “the Reich is brought into deadly danger by its Prussian foundation.”25 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, writers from several nations, especially Marxists, developed variations on these ideas, asserting shortcomings of the Prussian elite and a disjuncture between German economic and political conditions. After the Second World War, authors in the East and West argued that Nazism arose due to failures in Germany’s cultural and/or political development process. Some traced this deviation as far back as Luther, but they held that the key divergence from “proper” modernization came with the failure of the bourgeois revolution in 1848.26 This view was codified in Communist historiography in Der Irrweg einer Nation, written by Alexander Abusch while exiled in Mexico and reprinted in Germany in 1947.27 The book portrayed direct lineage from Prussian King Friedrich II to Prussian statesman Bismarck to Hitler, casting a pall over Prussian-German heritage, and seems to have been a widely held view among German Communists.28

Humanism.   The centuries-old humanist tradition has been multifaceted and ever changing. Continuity is nonetheless found in humanists’ enduring focus on human experience and human rights, the liberation of creative power through education and individual freedom, and the great value of ideas and critical reason. Nineteenth-century humanists witnessed the transformative effects of industrialization with some ambivalence, but many believed the new wealth would ultimately improve the welfare of all humans, which along with nationalist and democratic challenges to the old order would contribute to social progress.29 Humanism is primarily of interest in this book for its relation to Marxist thought. Marx was deeply engaged with the impact of these same technological changes. He entered a humanist phase in the early 1940s, positing that the achievement of true democracy with unrestricted voting would enable emancipation, and the elimination of all conditions that degrade humankind to attain a form of socialism based on a liberated human community. He championed individual difference and freedom to develop one’s full talents, in opposition to the Communism of Proudhon and Fourier with its decided leveling effects confounding individuality.30

Humanism was abandoned by Marx in favor of “scientific socialism,” but it was reembraced by Soviet theorists in Marxist-Leninism. Here, humanism was defined in accordance with stages of world historical progress, resulting in separate definitions of classical humanism, bourgeois humanism, and finally socialist humanism. “Bourgeois humanism” was viewed as a flawed but progressive cultural movement that transitioned into “socialist humanism,” which created the conditions necessary for true human liberation.31 In the Potsdam Agreement of 1945, the Allies agreed that the German people must be denazified, demilitarized, and democratized, and, fittingly, Communist cultural policy in the early postwar years aimed at restoring the German, humanist cultural tradition to assist in these efforts. It had immediate political currency as shared German culture and would serve as a long-term, educational strategy to bring the population closer to socialism.32

In public speeches and press reports Communists in postwar Berlin employed a framework for interpreting the national situation that pitted humanism and democracy against past Nazism. As the Soviets were the first to occupy the city, they established a German-run local government for the whole city, including an administrative branch, the Berlin Magistrat, and an executive branch, the Senat (hereafter, the City Council). This government would assume normal municipal functions and guide the reconstruction effort, although the occupying powers would retain significant influence. The Soviets attempted to portray this government as democratic but placed Communists in key positions to control important decision-making. To appear independent of the Soviets and comply with denazification, Berlin’s government stressed its self-definition as an “antifascist, democratic front” of all political parties opposed to the fascist past—in other words, all permitted parties.33 This strategic separation of Nazism from the German people was devised by Communists who had spent the Nazi era as exiles in Moscow. Following the Battle of Berlin, on May 4, 1945, Wilhelm Pieck addressed the city through Radio Moscow, declaring: “Berlin is free from the Nazi mob that will and must be completely annihilated. However, our German people will live on. It is valid now to undertake a fundamental cleaning. Their shameful past must be concluded. This has to do with a new birth of our people, with a new beginning in their entire thinking and acting. New people, a new Germany must come about, in order to live in peace and friendship with other peoples and to guarantee the German People against a repetition of the aggression from the German side.”34

Electoral politics soon became reality, and the most popular parties to emerge included the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and their historic working-class rival, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In April 1946 the KPD forced a merger with the SPD in the Soviet sector and, to win over its members, emphasized the “nineteenth-century humanist roots of the socialist movement” rather than twentieth-century Leninism.35 In sum, German Communists viewed the humanist tradition as an essential component in the reeducation of the German people and deployed it as propaganda for short-term political gain.

Marxism.   Marx emerged from his humanist phase when he determined that given the communal nature of humankind, liberation was possible only through class struggle and the end of class exploitation. He embraced socialism but abandoned its advocates’ arguments based on justice for an allegedly scientific understanding of the laws of history. In this determinist view the individual’s only free choice was whether to follow the forces of history or to work against them in vain—a view incompatible with humanism. The result (nineteenth-century German Marxism, or “scientific socialism”) is the version of Marxism evident in the Communist Manifesto and most familiar throughout the world. Many German Communists returning to Berlin after the war adhered to this ideology and were unfamiliar with cultural theory developed under Lenin and Stalin. Grounded in materialism, German Marxist teleology foresaw a trajectory of world historical progress based on economic development and class conflict generating revolutions that would culminate in a Communist world order. Progress toward Communism would unfold through the eradication of inequality—that is, through the elimination of private property, state control of credit and means of production, and so on.36 When Marx proclaimed, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” individual freedom was curtailed in favor of an egalitarian society. Yet Marx would continue to struggle to reconcile egalitarianism with individual freedom throughout his life.37

Scientific socialism offered a clear perspective on housing reform and raised questions about the very structure of the living arrangements it was intended to serve. Liberal and conservative housing reform efforts, from the 1840s on, held up the single-family home as the ideal form of housing for the health and morality of the family, which was the building block of the nation.38 This traditional Germanic form of housing was set in opposition to multifamily housing, a product of Latin culture that could “lead us all to the barracks of socialism.”39 The Communist Manifesto asserted that bourgeois and conservative reform efforts were a means of securing their continued existence (preventing revolution). It lumped “improvers of the condition of the working class” with “organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and corner reformers of every imaginable kind.”40 Engels later elaborated on Marx’s ideas in a series of articles. The bourgeois fringe active in housing reform could only “superficially palliate [the housing shortage’s] most terrifying consequences,” while the government, as “the organized collective power of the possessing classes,” was only interested in preserving the existing order.41

The Communist Manifesto even called into question the idea of the family, and later socialist theorists posited alternatives. August Bebel condemned marriage and the family as oppressive institutions, suggesting that in the Communist future equal rights and equal opportunities for women would allow sexual freedom and public provision of child care and household labor.42 This would require communal facilities for many household tasks, thus a rethinking of housing design. Yet even socialist politicians ignored these ideas, which were apparently too radical to enjoy broad support.

When the housing crisis became acute in the 1870s, Social Democrats denounced the situation as evidence of market failure and resolved that the only solution was the creation of a socialist state in which all land is held as communal property. They condemned the market for leaving the working classes crammed into unsanitary apartments, a form of “killing by neglect.” Failure to pay rent regularly led to evictions of entire families, who were left homeless. They contrasted this situation with the large sums of money spent on monumental architecture to aggrandize the wealthy (bourgeois apartments) and the state (a new city hall).43 Despite increased supply, housing conditions remained dismal for the working class. By the 1890s Social Democratic politicians had entered the Reichstag, and in consideration for the well-being of their constituency, many began to rethink Engels’s position. They brought forth a series of failed housing bills that were vehemently opposed by propertied interests.44

Marxist-Leninism.   Marxist-Leninism resulted from Lenin’s efforts to build upon Marxism to address essential contemporary issues, including “imperialism and proletarian revolutions . . . the disintegration of colonialism and the victory of national liberation movements . . . the transition of humanity from capitalism to socialism and the construction of Communist society.”45 Lenin’s theories of economy and state were crucial in shaping Soviet government and, with some alteration under Stalin, would become the bases for governmental structure and decision-making in the GDR. His view of the nation-state as the contemporary vehicle of social progress conflicted with the Allied Control Commission’s (ACC) insistence that German nationalism was taboo immediately after World War II. For the first few years German Communist cultural policies downplayed nationalism and centered on the German humanist tradition, appearing to follow the commission’s directive.46

Yet, as East-West tension grew during the late 1940s, this policy changed. In city elections of October 1946, the SED obtained just 20 percent of the vote, compared with 49 percent for the SPD, which now controlled the City Council. The Soviets initiated a campaign of terror directed at Berliners supporting the Western allies, with thousands disappearing from the streets of East and West Berlin.47 Tension escalated further in June 1947 with the announcement of the Marshall Plan and the Soviet veto of anti-Communist Ernst Reuter’s (of the SPD) election as mayor of Berlin. The SED gradually began employing subtle methods of developing class consciousness and increasingly overt presentations of elements of socialist ideology. By 1948 the SED had abandoned the “antifascist front,” in favor of depicting itself as the leader of the “battle for German unity” fighting against the efforts of the Western allies to split the nation.

East-West tensions exploded in June 1948 with the introduction of a new Western currency and the Soviet response, the infamous blockade. The Western Allies responded with the famous airlift to keep West Berlin from collapsing and coming under Soviet control. In September, Communist demonstrators disrupted meetings of the local government, which relocated to West Berlin, and a duplicate government was established by Communists in East Berlin. In May 1949 the Soviets called off the blockade, but division was imminent. On May 24 the West German state was founded, and on October 7 the East German state was founded. Wilhelm Pieck became the first president of the GDR and Otto Grotewohl the first prime minister, but Walter Ulbricht, as first secretary of the SED, held ultimate political authority. The mayor of Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, initially exerted a great deal of influence over city building issues, but his role was soon constricted by the state leadership. Propagandistic activity was stepped up considerably and focused on “winning” the young generation.48 The new state described its system as “democratic centralism” and emphasized its “democratic” nature in the press, downplaying its “socialist” identity. Stalin restrained the German leadership in this regard as he attempted to negotiate with the West for a united, neutral, unarmed Germany.

Nonetheless, Marxist-Leninism was now the foundation for all cultural policy, while “humanism” and “democracy” endured as key tropes in public discussion.49 The Politburo determined that “extraordinary weaknesses” were present in cultural work, because large numbers of intellectuals and a portion of the SED still didn’t recognize its importance.50 Soviet Marxist-Leninism had returned to humanist Marxism to establish a role for culture in shaping society, rather than viewing it a superstructure blossoming from a material base as typical of German Communists.51 The details of this view had been developed in socialist-realist theory in the 1930s, which had tremendous consequences for city building in Berlin. The SED was finally permitted to openly declare the “construction of socialism” in July 1952 after the Western allies rejected the Stalin Note, which proposed a united, neutral Germany. Stalin died in March 1953, and Khrushchev gradually consolidated power and initiated a de-Stalinization process that included a more open cultural atmosphere. Economic reforms sought to improve the standard of living, and in 1958 the SED’s Fifth Party Congress (held under the motto “Socialism wins!”) set the goal of overcoming West Germany in per capita consumption of major consumer goods.

Modernism.   The modernist cultural movement developed as a reaction against tradition and its alleged culmination in the tragedy of World War I. During the Weimar era, leading German architects played a key role in the development of modernism. In particular, the Bauhaus school with Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and others attained worldwide renown.52 In 1933 the Congrés Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM, International Congresses of Modern Architecture) formulated the primary theory of modernist architecture and planning, the Athens Charter.53 This charter is a classic product of the technocratic approach to planning marked by a “faith in progress through science and rationality tied to the constructive use of power in the form of the plan” and a belief in a “unitary public interest that experts of goodwill can identify and maximize.”54 Technical specialists engaging in rational planning could improve the quality of human life by mediating between communal and individual interests to harmonize the form of the urban environment with the lifeways of its residents. Although some landmarks would be deemed worthy of preservation, there were no qualms about clearing most structures to make way for the new. Architecture was to be designed in a contemporary style and not imitate the past or attempt to conform to a historic district. These last tenets set modernists in direct conflict with traditionalists.

During the housing crisis that followed the First World War, modernism became the dominant style for new social housing projects. With Berlin firmly under SPD rule, government policy spurred the construction of more than 140,000 new dwelling units by trade unions, cooperatives, benevolent associations, and local government. The largest of these in Berlin, the Benevolent Housing, Building, and Savings Association (Gemeinnützige Heimstätten-, Spar- und Bau-Aktiengesllschaft, GEHAG), was founded by unions and building cooperatives upon the initiative of Martin Wagner, Berlin Housing director. GEHAG was the first union organization established with funding from the Reich and constructed ten thousand units from 1924 to 1933. Wagner and other adherents of the “Neues Bauen,” (international modernism) dictated the form the expanding city, the “New Berlin.” As a remedy for old Berlin’s “rental barracks,” the city housing program would “restore the lost link between people, their house and nature, and give residents the opportunity to be at least partially self-sufficient.”55 Lack of fresh air and light were not the only ways that rental barracks had separated residents from nature: “Children who grew up here did not know a sandbox, sports facilities or indoor swimming-pools. A survey of Berlin grade-school children revealed that in 1905, of 100 children, 70 could not picture a sunrise, 49 were not familiar with a frog, and 87 did not know what a birch tree looks like.”56

The solution lay not in incremental changes to the city but in defying traditional urban form with new, large-scale, residential projects on the urban periphery. Wagner called for standardized building components and rationalized construction process to increase affordability. Based on scientific analysis of spatial needs, modular, ornament-free row houses and walk-up apartments overlooked ample green space and were detached from the street where possible. Each housing unit was provided considerable light, air, and views of greenery. GEHAG’s Hufeisensielung, still today a symbol of modernist apartment building, established a prototype for other projects to follow. Leading architects such as Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Hans Scharoun, and others designed modernist housing settlements that received international acclaim.57

The National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP) initially rejected modernism for its ties to avant-garde revolutionary thought and because Berlin’s large housing estates were products of left-wing state intervention in the failed Weimar Republic. NSDAP housing policy adopted the cottage as the ideal home for the family unit, now part of antiurban, “blood and soil” ideology. In Berlin suburban Kameradschaftsiedlung exemplified this approach with one-third detached houses and two-thirds rental units in small buildings.58 Yet, given the practical advantages of modernism, the 1940 “Führer’s Decree for the Preparation of German Housing Construction after the War” initiated a paradigm shift toward a mass-produced “social housing” program that “came very close to propounding the same theories advanced by the vilified Bauhaus.”59 Multistory townhomes on curving streets open to light, air, and greenery would provide a healthy environment for breeding a stronger German race. Traditionalist ideas regarding the incorporation of regional building styles were blended into the theory but were lacking in practice.60

By the end of World War II, several decades of practice meant that this dominant strain of modernism, now known as the “international style” was an established tradition. Modernist architects returned to Berlin and assumed positions of power but would soon find themselves embroiled in political conflict as Soviet ideas about culture were adopted by the state. Another variant of modernism began appearing in different countries after World War II, midcentury modernism. This style departed from 1920s international modernism’s rigid rules of composition in favor of organic forms, often futuristic in appearance. In this regard, the style would seem a natural fit for the high modernist enthusiasm for advancement in science and technology during the late 1950s, when it became a matter of contention in East Germany.

The Soviets also had embraced modernism early in the twentieth century, although it was short-lived. Following the October Revolution, Soviet modernism drew global attention, and throughout the 1920s both modernists and traditionalists competed for projects. By the mid-1920s a competition for political support was under way. In the early 1930s traditionalists attained full control over theory and practice with Stalin’s support. Over the next years the traditionalist approach was developed into an official doctrine of socialist realism. Modernism was written off as misguided approach.61

Socialist Realism.   The Marxist-Leninist theory of art, socialist realism, was developed in the Soviet Union during the 1930s, providing a comprehensive perspective on culture, politics, and urban form. Adjustments were made in the development of plans to rebuild Moscow, and the result provided the exemplar of this approach, which adapted traditionalist architecture and city planning to suit contemporary needs.62 Modernist German architects who emigrated to the Soviet Union for work during the 1930s were confronted with this new orthodoxy and had to adapt if they wanted to find employment. Many were disillusioned and returned, while a few, such as Kurt Liebknecht, remained and assimilated socialist realism.63 After the war most German architects remained dedicated modernists, which was also true of those who had been exiled in the Soviet Union. Thus, in December 1949, the minister of building, Lothar Bolz, a longtime Moscow exile, convinced the prime minister of the GDR, Otto Grotewohl, to send leading architects on a “Trip to Moscow” to learn from the “most progressive” examples of city building. The trip took place in April and May of 1950 and initiated the forced indoctrination of design professionals into the Soviet approach.64

Socialist realism presented a rather complex view of historic architecture and tradition to which it was deeply connected. The style held architecture to be both a functional object and an art form. As an art form, it was a reflection of society, which conversely could shape society, inspiring the individual with its beauty and educating through its function and imagery. The purpose of this edification was political, and in Marxist-Leninism the nation-state was the necessary vehicle for social progress for the capitalist and socialist eras. Thus progressive art appeals to national consciousness and is built on national traditions. As all nations contained both progressive and reactionary traditions, architectural styles could be progressive (i.e., classicism) or regressive (i.e., late-nineteenth-century eclecticism). Progressive architecture could be sponsored by the Prussian monarchy, as its design and production by premiere German architects and laborers made it national cultural heritage. Historic buildings considered progressive were to be preserved as “living witnesses to these traditions from which everyone learns” and would be given a content appropriate to the new society. Architecture was viewed dialectically as a unity of form and content. Content, in turn, was held to be a unity of theme, which is similar to function or pragmatic purpose, and idea, an expression of societal values or ideals. Existing buildings were to maintain a continuity of theme, adapted to express the societal ideas of the German Democratic Republic.65

Socialist realism, like traditionalism, emphasized the continuity of inherited building practices and the preservation of monumental architecture, but only given adaptive reuse of a “progressive” nature (e.g., restoring a former Arsenal as a museum presenting German history from a Marxist-Leninist perspective). In contrast, vernacular buildings in working-class neighborhoods were seen as products and symbols of capitalist oppression, a view compatible with modernist creative destruction and in conflict with Heimatschutz. Although vernacular structures were largely devalued as architecture, the historically evolved structure of the city was considered crucial to its further development. In this regard, socialist realism paralleled Western developments opposing modernism, as elaborated by Saverio Muratori and his followers, who outlined issues in urban morphology that theorists and designers continue to struggle with in the contemporary world.66 The dominance of this approach was short-lived as Khrushchev ordered a shift to industrialized construction in 1954 that was soon carried into the GDR. Socialist realism remained official theory, but debate raged over the nature of the new construction aimed at creating a “socialist architecture.” Tradition and “German architecture” faded from discussion.

In 1945 most German Communists knew little about these Soviet theoretical developments in art and architecture. With no ideological basis to approach the built environment, they retained a traditional Marxist view, which held urban design to be superstructure and buildings to be direct expressions of their patrons, who indelibly imbued them with their own sociopolitical ideals. Thus they viewed many of Berlin’s most significant memorials and monumental buildings as symbols of monarchy, militarism, and the Prussian state. This, along with their negative view of German exceptionalism, in which Prussia’s “aberrant” modernization led the German nation to reactionary politics and militarism, resulted in disdain for these structures. In word and deed, they were dedicated iconoclasts. Though never theorized, the resulting Communist iconoclasm was evident in numerous statements and actions regarding urban heritage in the late 1940s.67

These various discourses were crucial in shaping political and cultural elites’ interpretation of Berlin’s urban landscape and hence decisions made regarding its future. Yet their influence was not always straightforward. To apply them always involved an act of interpretation. At times, individuals appeared to negotiate between conflicting ideas inherent to a well-detailed ideology or theory. Sometimes individuals deviated from an established or official approach for personal reasons. Complexities in place-based meaning—essentially issues that emerge when relating cultural memory attributed to a site with contemporary concerns—also precluded straightforward application of seemingly clear ideological direction in certain cases. Changes in political and economic context further shifted the status of discourses—some fell out of favor, others became official doctrine. They provided essential frameworks for interpreting the world, but none was absolute.

The Beginning: Ruins and Rubble

Romantic contemplation of ruins has a long history in Europe. Eighteenth-century German noblemen were especially enthusiastic in decorating their estates with artificial ruins.68 Hitler believed monumental architecture should be built to endure thousands of years as beautiful ruins to reawaken the nation after a period of weakness.69 Following the unprecedented devastation of World War II, neither of these ideas resonated for Europeans, who saw their homes and cities destroyed. During the war 6,427 acres of Berlin were destroyed by bombing raids. Approximately 40 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed, along with 10 percent of its underground infrastructure. However, the damage was distributed unevenly. Many outlying districts were untouched, whereas destruction was almost complete at the center of Berlin, where the bombing and ground fighting had been the most intense. The Soviet sector was hit especially hard. In the Mitte district 67 percent of all apartment buildings were destroyed, in Friedrichshain more than 50 percent, and in Prenzlauer Berg over 20 percent.70

The prognosis for Berlin’s recovery was grim, as many writers noted at the time.71 One correspondent reported:

Wrecked and burnt-up streetcars and vehicles of every sort lay all around on the streets. Pieces of the streetcar’s power lines were hanging down, a quarter of the subway system was flooded, and all of the city’s gas and electric lamps (approximately 100,000) were destroyed. Of the 225 bridges in the city, 140 were destroyed, blocking the city’s waterways. . . .

Hordes of refugees passed through our city from north to south, from east to west, and vice versa; lugging their few rescued possessions along, tired and numb to their surroundings, an image of misery, not knowing if they will find their home or their relatives again.72

Most Berliners now faced lives of toil and hardship to survive. Personal memories of the city and experience living with ruins and rubble while rebuilding provided a relatively fixed set of core meanings that allowed little room for Romantic introspection. At war’s end many resided in crammed air-raid shelters, shacks, and “caves” in the rubble. Those able to occupy apartments lived with broken and damaged furniture, ubiquitous debris and dirt, and often, exposure to weather and the view of outsiders. The stench of dead bodies rotting under rubble provided a counterpoint to prewar memories of family life in their apartments and bustling neighborhood streets. Faced with desolation, some Berliners employed gallows humor proclaiming: “Berlin ist die Stadt der Warenhäuser; hier war’n Haus und da war’n Haus” (Berlin is the city of warehouses, here was a building and there was a building).73 In light of these experiences, it is apparent that the reconstruction would have great meaning to Berliners, and Communist leaders were well aware of its political potential.

Though radical planning proposals suggested that Berlin should be abandoned and a new city constructed for residents, these overlooked the tremendous value of streets, intact buildings, and their foundations below rubble as well as the immense amount of undamaged infrastructure below ground. The only economical option was to rebuild the city in place, which was fraught with practical difficulties. There was insufficient labor and means of transport to remove all rubble from the city limits. To spread it evenly across the surface of the city center would raise it 5 meters (about 16 feet), burying functional streets and infrastructure. The remaining possibility was to salvage as much usable material as possible from the rubble (especially desirable given the extreme scarcity of many building supplies), to reconstruct damaged buildings and infrastructure, and, where necessary, to remove excess rubble to parks and outlying disposal sites.74

On May 25, 1945, the Magistrat approved a resolution allotting RM 6 million (reichsmarks) credit to the Department of Building and Housing for demolition and rubble removal. Berlin residents would provide the necessary labor to demolish ruins and remove rubble for daily wages and as volunteers.75 By years’ end, men employed in demolition had taken down more than a thousand ruins.76 Women made up a sizable portion of the tens of thousands workers who removed rubble, inspiring the iconic image of the Trümmerfrauen (rubble women).77 From 1945 through 1946 an estimated 4.7 million to 6.5 million voluntary workdays were completed, and 23,000 to 33,000 paid workers were engaged in rubble clearance.78 At this early stage, much of the work was performed by hand due to a lack of machinery and an emphasis on the recovery of building materials. By the end of 1945 millions of bricks and stones had been scraped of mortar by hand and neatly stacked for future construction.79 After removing impurities and valuable buildings materials, much rubble was machined into cement powder and aggregate for concrete, bricks, and much needed roof tiles.80 One article boasted that a machine on Potsdamer Platz could crush 20 cubic meters of rubble per day to be sieved and made into roof tiles on site.81

Despite recycling efforts, immense amounts of debris remained that had to be disposed of throughout the city in diverse ways.82 Ruins adjacent to passable waterways allowed for easy transport by barge to outlying lakes that became dump sites.83 A range of creative uses were developed for disposing of rubble near its site, particularly in more dense central districts. In Tiergarten a courtyard interior was filled 1.5 meters high (almost 5 feet) with rubble, covered with soil and planted.84 In Mitte a canal was filled-in and greened.85 In Pankow rubble was used to pave dirt roads.86 In Templehof, 10,000 cubic meters of rubble were used to raise damaged park paths, thereby sparing greenery while improving walkways.87 An admittedly incomplete map of rubble disposal sites has recently been compiled, indicating only a degree to which rubble was dispersed throughout the city.88

The immense physical task of clearing vernacular ruins and rubble was a focal point of public discussion, and at times East Berlin politicians and the press would highlight the cultural and political content of this endeavor. In 1946, Prime Minister Grotewohl (of the SED) led a nonpartisan meeting to initiate planning for the reconstruction of Berlin, setting an encouraging, apolitical tone that would dominate press reports on rubble removal and the recovery of building materials.89 Progress reports with upbeat headlines provided a sense that the ruinous old Berlin was receding into the past but offered little to indicate the nature of the new life that was emerging.90 Nonetheless, the Communist press subtly incorporated some political content. Corresponding with the Party line developed during the war, the German people were separated from Nazism, and culpability for the ruinous cityscape was attributed to Hitler and the Nazi Party. Mayor Arthur Werner declared, “Hitler made Berlin into a city of ruination; we will make Berlin into a city of work and progress.”91

The following day, the Berliner Zeitung (hereafter BZ) reported on the meeting, directly linking this policy with reconstruction enthusiasm and the German humanist tradition: “Above the speaker’s podium in letters visible from far off, the slogan ‘Antifascist unity—the pledge of rebirth of the German people!’ . . . A festive assembly in the middle of the ruin. In a hall that is almost entirely restored. This is not a coincidental surface appearance—it works as a symbol. Involuntarily, Schiller’s words penetrate the memory, ‘And new life blooms out of the ruins.’92 Occasional reminders linking ruins, the war, and Nazi rule would have powerful effects as they tied into Berliners’ everyday life experiences among ruins.93 Blaming Nazi leaders rather than the people would avoid stirring up potential resentment that could detract from the cohesiveness of the “antifascist, democratic front.”94 This apparently was driven by political opportunism rather than conviction, as German Communist leaders openly attributed blame to the entire German people in Neues Deutschland, the organ of the Communist Party, the KPD.

While ruin reportage focused on practical steps to a better future, and secondarily on the national past, the present political situation generally remained implicit. In the spirit of the “antifascist, democratic front,” comparisons of progress in rubble removal was largely among German cities, and differences between the sectors of Berlin were initially ignored.95 An article providing a rare link between past, present, and future declared that the NSDAP-ruined city was being restored in the new German “democracy” through cooperation among antifascist parties, “especially the SED”—a victory for the working people. The superiority of Soviet administration is implied, but there was still no direct comparison with the western sectors. After Communist defeat in the Berlin elections of December 1946, East-West tension increased. Soviet sector press no longer shied away from direct comparisons between East and West, albeit they were still neutrally worded in comparison with later, Cold War commentary: “In the Soviet Sector, rubble has disappeared from streets, reusable stones piled up, doors and window openings sealed, and in the British Sector one stumbles, as before, through rubble-filled streets. It looks like it was under attack yesterday.”96

In 1948, Berthold Brecht wrote the “Building Song of the Free German Youth,” which proclaimed, “away with the old, on to the new State” before closing with its refrain, “away with the rubble.” When the GDR was founded in October 1949, Berliner Zeitung, in the language of Heimatschutz, noted that “Hitler-barbarians have left the once proud capital of our fatherland in a rubble heap” and praised “the men and women of our home city [Heimatstadt]” for their hard work to restore the city after the war.97 The sounds of hammers, saws, and shovels were lauded as the “appropriate music for the birth of the true democratic republic that corresponds to the will of the entire nation.” In fact, the East German state encapsulated the moment in the opening line of the national anthem: “Risen from ruins, and facing the future, let us serve you for the good, Germany, united fatherland.”98 As May 8, 1950, approached, German surrender became “Liberation Day,” in which the Soviet Army as “friend and helper” provided for Berliners’ basic needs, enabling them to “literally dig their home city [Heimatstadt] out of the debris with their hands.”99 In Ulbricht’s speech at the opening of the Deutsche Bauakademie (DBA, the German Building Academy) in December 1951, he declared that the “old Germany” of fascism, militarism, and war had left Berlin in ruins, but these were being removed through the construction of “Berlin, capital of Germany,” a “new Germany” of peace, democracy, and progress—an oft repeated narrative in the GDR’s early years.100

How Berliners would rise up to rebuild their city of ruins would be heavily shaped by decisions made by cultural and political leaders from Germany and the occupying powers in light of cultural, political, and economic factors. Berliners too would have their influence, often small, but on occasion great. The remaining chapters of this book examine these dynamics as they played out in Berlin between the end of the battle of Berlin in May 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in November 1961.


The first two chapters of the book have a thematic focus, whereas the latter four are place-based, centering on significant streets or squares. Chapter 1, “Landscapes of Commemoration,” examines the purge of symbolic elements of Berlin’s urban landscape incompatible with the views of the new regime; also explored is the rapid development of spaces of commemoration honoring the Soviet military and German Communism. Chapter 2, “City Plans,” examines the development of plans for Berlin and the shift from a modernist to a socialist-realist paradigm and finally to an eclectic mix. Politicians and planners seized upon the extreme semantic flexibility of modernist city plans, associating them with a wide range of political and cultural claims but these possibilities were notably constricted with socialist realism, because it was closely associated with the Soviet Union and socialism.

The remainder of the book focuses on representative architecture and urban design in key locations across the city. Chapter 3, “Unter den Linden,” illustrates the role of worldview and ideology in the redevelopment and use of an ensemble of representative architecture, monuments, and public spaces on the iconic street. Though guided by larger frameworks of understanding, at times place-based meanings greatly complicated decision-making. Chapter 4, “From Royal Palace to Marx-Engels Square,” uncovers a conflict between socialist-realism and German Communist worldview regarding cultural memory and the urban landscape. Ultimately, Ulbricht’s personal ideas resulted in the neglect and demolition of the Berlin Palace in favor of a new square for state-orchestrated parades. Chapter 5, “Wilhelmstrasse,” examines the former center of German government, where the same factors examined on Unter den Linden assume significance in strikingly different combinations. Chapter 6, “Stalinallee,” depicts the attempt of architects and politicians to solve the century-old housing question in the face of dire economic conditions, while creating a new ceremonial axis extending east from the city center.

Throughout the period of study, Communist leaders continued to believe in the vital importance of the cityscape for the social and political lives of its citizenry. Through political and economic changes and the adoption of new theories of city building, this did not waver. As the largest city in Germany, the historic capital city, and the cultural center of twentieth-century German cultural life, Berlin and its reconstruction would inevitably speak volumes of its rulers. How the cultural and political elite engaged the urban landscape emerged from changing dynamics involving formal ideologies and informal discourses, personal views, political maneuvering, cultural memory, accrued place-based meaning, and spatial idiosyncrasies.

Some general trends in how different groups approached meaning in the urban landscape can be observed. From May 1945 through the summer of 1947, German Communists emphasized the rejection of the fascist past and the creation of a “new Berlin.” While all political parties agreed on purging symbols of Nazism and Prussian militarism, debate emerged over the extent of iconoclasm and the selection of replacement street names. The Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) planned memorials to inscribe their own narratives of their past in Berlin. An immense effort to remove rubble and restore heavily damaged vernacular buildings was initiated. The Eastern press generally depicted ruins as an inheritance from Hitler and exonerated Berliners. Planners rejected everything about this past, envisioning a new Berlin transformed according to modernist principles.

Politicians of all parties welcomed the proposals, viewing nineteenth-century workers’ housing as unfit for contemporary living. Though planning was largely seen as a technical matter, it was attributed a range of political contents that changed as time passed. Monumental architecture in the historic core was largely left to decay, as German Communists occupying key government positions viewed these buildings as symbols of the hated Prussian monarchy and military. Planners, preservationists, and non-Communist politicians recognized their artistic and historic value, appealing in vain for emergency repairs. The SMAD was only interested in the spatial capacity of buildings for exhibitions, educational plays, and office space. This allowed for repairs to some larger structures, including a few Nazi buildings after iconographic purges.

The summer of 1947 through October 7, 1949, was marked by increasing political turmoil. A series of tension-raising events reached a boiling point in 1947, when Berlin’s City Council nominated staunch anti-Communist Ernst Reuter in June, and a Soviet veto in the Allied Control Council (ACC) in August blocked his appointment.101 The SED began to portray itself as the party of national unity and increasingly appealed to nationalism. This new political climate resulted in major changes in the interpretation of the urban landscape, some legal jostling, and a few building projects. The SMAD was able to realize its primary war memorial in Treptow. German Communists’ efforts to build a memorial and promote extensive iconoclasm remained embroiled in political wrangling.

Efforts to restore residential fabric continued, and the Eastern press began comparing progress in the Soviet and Western sectors of Berlin to assert the greater efficiency of the Eastern administration. In 1949 the SED stepped up planning efforts and, to win popular support, depicted these as populist and humanistic rather than socialistic, occasionally employing the language of Heimatschutz. German Communists continued to display disdain for monumental buildings that they saw as expressions of Prussian-German monarchism or militarism. The SMAD remained largely disinterested in Berlin’s architectural heritage, although they ordered the destruction of Hitler’s Chancellery, which had already been cannibalized. When the Social Democratic Party attained control of the municipal government, the SMAD commandeered several buildings for their own use and even renovated one historic structure as a House of Soviet Culture for the edification of Berliners.

The founding of the East German state on October 7, 1949, marks the most severe rupture in political and cultural practice during the period of study. The state-founding meant Marxist-Leninism would guide all educational and cultural activity, and leading architects and planners were soon forced to accept socialist-realist theory. The German national past was now divided into progressive and reactionary traditions, and national identity was central to all cultural work. The GDR provided a political-economic base for an extensive building program, one of the major focuses of state activity. The new government swept away street names associated with the Prussian monarchy and military and constructed a Socialists’ Memorial designed by President Pieck. This memorial and the war memorial in Treptow became sites for major ceremonies on key state holidays—one commemorating deceased Communists, the other celebrating “liberation” by the Soviet Union. Efforts to construct new memorials in the city center to honor fallen socialist leaders were held up by disputes over their design.

Given the bifurcation of the world order, Germany, and Berlin itself, the East German press no longer attributed the ruinous cityscape to Hitler, but to English and American bombs. The GDR’s remedy, the National Building Program, concentrated on Stalinallee, bringing the cult of Stalin into Berlin’s cityscape. This state-orchestrated effort—depicted as populist, democratic, and humanistic—was intended to win support in both East and West Berlin as well as throughout Germany by demonstrating the capability of the GDR to provide exceptional housing for the average citizen. The architecture was heralded for its roots in national and local tradition, which were apparent at several scales, although Soviet socialist-realist and some modernist influences were evident in others.

In accordance with the dictates of socialist realism, plans were developed for a representative city center, including a large central square for state parades and rallies. Ulbricht, obsessed with maximizing the size of these demonstrations of obeisance to state, assured that it drove the planning process to the detriment of other aspects of socialist-realist theory. This included unnecessary disregard for historic preservation as the Berlin Palace was demolished to create an extensive square. Despite extensive protest from cultural and political leaders, Ulbricht’s iconoclastic impulse held sway. In contrast, historic buildings on Unter den Linden were restored, with a little prodding from Soviet advisers. On Wilhelmstrasse many historic structures were left to decay and were eventually demolished, suggesting the endurance of iconoclastic tendencies and perhaps a modernist devaluation of the past on sites other than the showcase, Unter den Linden.

The final period considered in this book began on November 30, 1954, at the All-Union Conference of Builders, Architects, and Workers in Moscow. In the face of continued housing shortages, Khrushchev proclaimed that building costs must be decreased and productivity increased by removing ornament and rationalizing construction. Ulbricht brought the message to East Germany in April 1955 at the First Building Conference of the GDR. Though socialist realism remained official theory, this allowed the return of many principles of modernist design. Housing was seen as a consumer good and the press focused on the quantity of units produced, rather than qualitative or place-based attributes of design that had dominated in the early 1950s. Although Stalinallee would showcase industrialized building, most housing would be constructed in large estates on the urban fringe to maximize economic benefits. Despite this drive toward the new, a secondary component of the National Building Program financed residents and cooperatives to rehabilitate damaged vernacular structures and complete minor infill projects with traditional methods. This program had been continued since the 1953 Uprising due to its effectiveness and popularity. Regardless of building technique, the press emphasized the quantity of apartments produced, although it gave top-billing to articles on industrialized construction as a demonstration of technological power.

In response to the West Berlin Internationale Bauaustellung (IBA), the German Democratic Republic hosted its own competition for the socialist redesign of the GDR capital. The winning designs tended to follow socialist realism in providing an enclosed central square adjoined by a government high-rise, and some included classical architectural elements. However, many designs included modernist architecture similar to that of the 1920s, while others included more expressive forms comparable to Western midcentury modernism. The latter were frowned upon by political leaders and the jury, who recognized that these designs could not be built with standardized components. Historic preservation continued on Unter den Linden, but significant architecture was demolished on Wilhelmstrasse and adjoining the new central square. Vernacular structures fared poorly as well with the demolition of the Fischerkietz, including the nationally renowned Sperlingsgasse, to create open space along the Spree River.

This periodization of the cultural politics of city building demonstrates that diverse features of the urban landscape were impacted by changes in political conditions and the status of key discourses. Conversely, some inconsistency was evident within each period for several reasons, most notably the power of key individuals to exert their personal views and complications stemming from place-based meaning. The remaining chapters of the book examine the bases for continuity and change, consistency and inconsistency, and conflict and cooperation in the reconstruction of East Berlin.


Epigraph: Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in Die Revolution 1, trans. Saul Padower,, accessed November 10, 2016.

1. Lothar Bolz, File note, November 18, 1949, Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganizationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (hereafter SAPMO-BA), H1/44476. Unless otherwise noted, in this book all translations from the original German into English are by the author.

2. Davie Atkinson and Denis Cosgrove, “Urban Rhetoric and Embodied Identities: City, Nation, and Empire at the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Rome, 1870–1945,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88, no. 1 (1998): 28–49; Kenneth Foote, Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997); Rudy Koshar, From Monuments to Traces: Artifacts of German Memory, 1870–1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); James Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993); and Robert Taylor, The Word in Stone: The Role of Architecture in National Socialist Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974). For an overview of literature on public memory and commemoration and the material environment, see Kenneth Foote and Maoz Azaryahu, “Toward a Geography of Memory: Geographical Dimensions of Public Memory and Commemoration,” Journal of Political and Military Sociology 35, no. 1 (2007): 125–145.

3. Regarding street names, see Maoz Azaryahu, “Street Names and Political Identity: The Case of East Berlin,” Journal of Contemporary History 21, no. 4 (1986): 581–604; Maoz Azaryahu, “The Power of Commemorative Street Names,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14, no. 3 (1996): 311–330; and Duncan Light, Ion Nicolae, and Bogdan Suditu, “Toponymy and the Communist City: Street names in Bucharest, 1948–1965,” Geojournal 56, no. 1 (2002): 135–144. Regarding architecture, see David Harvey, “Monument and Myth: The Building of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69, no. 3 (1979): 362–381; Barbara Lane, Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918–1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968); Taylor, Word in Stone; and Lawrence Vale, Architecture, Power, and National Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

On public spaces, see Linda Hershkovitz, “Tiananmen Square and the Politics of Place,” Political Geography 12, no. 5 (1993): 395–420. Regarding historic preservation, see Rudy Koshar, Germany’s Transient Pasts: Preservation and National Memory in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); and Joshua Hagen, “Historic Preservation in Nazi Germany: Place, Memory, and Nationalism,” Journal of Historical Geography 35, no. 4 (2009): 690–715. On city planning, see Stephan Helmer, Hitler’s Berlin: The Speer Plans for Reshaping the Central City (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985); and Wolfgang Sonne, “Specific Intentions—General Realities: On the Relation between Urban Forms and Political Aspirations in Berlin during the Twentieth Century,” Planning Perspectives 19, no. 3 (2004): 283–310.

4. Maoz Azaryahu, “The Purge of Bismarck and Saladin: The Renaming of Streets in East Berlin and Haifa, a Comparative Study in Culture-Planning,” Poetics Today 13, no. 2 (1992): 351–367; Maoz Azaryahu, “German Reunification and the Politics of Street M Names: The Case of East Berlin,” Political Geography 16, no. 6 (1997): 479–493; Maoz Azaryahu, “The Politics of Commemorative Street Renaming: Berlin 1945–1948,” Journal of Historical Geography 37, no. 4 (2011): 483–492; Jeffrey Diefendorf, In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities after World War II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Jennifer Jordan, Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin and Beyond (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006); Ladd, Ghosts of Berlin; Emily Pugh, Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); and Karen Till, The New Berlin: Memory, Politics, and Place (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Till also has examined commemoration and architecture; see Karen Till, “Staging the Past: Landscape Designs, Cultural Identity, and Erinnerungspolitik at Berlin’s Neue Wache,” Ecumene 6, no. 3 (1999): 251–283; and Florian Urban, Neo-Historical East Berlin: Architecture and Urban Design in the German Democratic Republic 1970–1990 (London: Ashgate, 2009).

5. On a building or a site, see Michael Cullen and Uwe Kieling, Das Brandenburger Tor: Ein deustches Symbol (Berlin: Berlin Edition, 1999); Regina Müller, Das Berliner Zeughaus: Die Baugeschichte (Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum, 1994); Renate Petras, Das Schloss in Berlin: Von der Revolution 1918 bis zur Vernichtung 1950 (Berlin: Verlag für Bauwesen, 1999); and Christopher Stölzl, ed., Die Neue Wache Unter den Linden: Ein Deutsches Denkmal in Wandel der Geschichte (Munich: Koehler & Amelang, 1993). Regarding a street ensemble, see Laurenz Demps, Berlin-Wilhelmstrasse: Eine Topographie preussisch-deutscher Macht (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 1996); and Herbert Nicolaus and Alexander Obeth, Die Stalinallee: Geschichte einer deutschen Strasse (Berlin: Verlag für Bauwesen, 1997).

On theoretical issues, see Werner Durth, “Von der Auflösung der Städte zur Architektur des Wiederaufbaus,” in Städtebau und Staatsbau im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Gabrielle Dolff-Bonekämper and Hiltrud Kier (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1996); Jorn Düwel, Baukunst voran!: Architektur und Städtebau in der SBZ/DDR (Berlin: Schelzky & Jeep, 1995); Bruno Flierl, Gebaute DDR: Über Stadtplaner, Architekten, und die Macht (Berlin: Verlag für Bauwesen, 1998); Simone Hain, Archeologie und Aneignung: Ideen, Pläne, und Stadtfigurationen: Aufsätze zur Ostberliner Stadtentwicklung nach 1945 (Berlin: Leibniz-Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung, 1996); Thomas Topfstedt, “Die nachgeholte Moderne: Architektur und Städtebau in der DDR während der 50er und 60er Jahre,” in Städtebau und Staatsbau, ed. Dolff-Bonekämper and Kier, 39–54; and Werner Durth, Jorn Düwel, and Nicholas Gutschow, Ostkreuz: Personen, Pläne, Perspektiven, vol. 1, Städte, Themen, Dokumente, vol. 2, Architektur und Städtebau der DDR (Frankfurt: Campus, 1998).

6. Koshar, From Monuments to Traces, 10.

7. See Dennis Cosgrove and Stephan Daniels, eds., The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design, and Use of Past Environments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); and James Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

8. This broad, holistic view of space is derived from Edward Relph, “Geographical Experiences and Being-in-the-World: The Phenomenological Origins of Geography,” in Dwelling, Place, and Environment: Towards a Phenomenology of Person and World, ed. David Seamon and Robert Mugerauer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 15–31. Regarding human perception of space, see Christian Norberg-Schulz, Intentions in Architecture (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1968). For a detailed examination of formal and spatial relations, see Francis Ching, Architecture: Form, Space, and Order (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014).

9. Relph, “Geographical Experiences,” 26.

10. Alois Riegl set out the distinction between intentional and unintentional monuments, the latter being vernacular sites deemed worthy of preservation for their evocation of cultural memory due to historic value or age value. See Alois Riegl, “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin” (1903), trans. Kurt W. Forster and Diane Ghirardo, Oppositions 25 (Fall 1982): 21–51. In fact, there is considerable ambiguity between the “vernacular” and the “monumental” and their relationship is quite complex; see Paul Stangl, “The Vernacular and the Monumental: Memory and Landscape in Post-War Berlin,” Geojournal 73, no. 3 (2008): 245–253. Regarding Rothenburg, see Joshua Hagen, “The Most German of Towns: Creating an Ideal Nazi Community in Rothenburg ob der Tauber,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94, no. 1 (2004): 207–227.

11. Foote, Shadowed Ground, 33.

12. John Starrels and Anita Mallinckrodt, Politics in the German Democratic Republic (New York: Praeger, 1975), 298–299.

13. Ibid, 40.

14. Mary Fulbrook, The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), viii–xii.

15. Katherine Pence and Paul Betts, eds., Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Culture and Politics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007); Mary Fulbrook, Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR 1949–1989 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Fulbrook, The People’s State; and Mary Fulbrook, Dissonant Lives: Generations and Violence through the German Dictatorships (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). A variety of factors impacted those who were won over for socialism during the Aufbau period, including, “a major drive to win over the hearts and minds of youth to build a ‘better future’ precisely in the sense intended by the communist regime.” Fulbrook, Dissonant Lives, 334.

16. Koshar, Germany’s Transient Pasts, 29.

17. Ibid., 24–25.

18. Thomas Lekan, “The Nature of Home: Landscape Preservation and Local Identities,” in Localism, Landscape, and the Ambiguities of Place, ed. David Blackbourn and James Retallack (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007).

19. Diefendorf, In the Wake of War, 51.

20. Lekan, “Nature of Home”; and Diefendorf, In the Wake of War, 67–74.

21. For an overview of the history of science, including the issue of whether there exists one or several sciences, see Thomas Kuhn, The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

22. Richard Olsen, Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008).

23. Regarding variations in modernity, see Peter Taylor, Modernities: A Geohistorical Interpretation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

24. Kitty Newman, Macmillan, Khrushchev, and the Berlin Crisis, 1958–1960 (London: Routledge, 2007), 69.

25. Friedrich Engels quoted as epigraph in Ernst Engelberg, Bismarck: Das Reich in der Mitte Europas (Berlin: Siedler, 1993).

26. George Steinmetz, “German Exceptionalism and the Origins of Nazism: The Career of a Concept,” in Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, ed. Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 251–284. Given the Marxist origins of the idea of a “normal” bourgeois revolution, it is unsurprising that many of those who has espoused these views over the past half-century were Communists.

27. Alexander Abusch, Der Irrweg einer Nation: Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis deutscher Geschichte (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1947).

28. Similar narratives would be developed and debated in considerable detail from the 1960s through the 1980s by Western historians as the Sonderweg thesis. In recent decades some of the key concepts applied in the theory have been discredited, but the theory has been adapted and continues to attract interest. Many Germans, representatives of neighboring countries, and historians continue to examine Prussian state history for links to Nazism. See Gavriel Rosenfeld, “A Mastered Past? Prussia in Postwar German Memory,” German History 22, no. 4 (2004): 505–535; and William Hagen, “Descent of the Sonderweg: Hans Rosenberg’s History of Old Regime Prussia,” Central European History 24, no. 1 (2001): 24–50.

29. Alan Bullock, The Humanist Tradition in the West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985).

30. Lloyd Easton and Kurt Guddat, introduction in Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1967), 1–34.

31. Harald Bühl, Dieter Heinze, Hans Koch, and Fred Staufenbiel, Kulturpolitisches Wörterbuch (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1970), 212–221; and Gertrud Schütz, Waltraud Böhme, Marlene Dehlsen, Hartmut Eisel, Andrée Fischer, Gerhard König, Margot Lange, Renate Polit, and Hans Reinhold, Kleines Politisches Wörterbuch, 3rd edition (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1978), 355–356.

32. Manfred Jäger, Kultur und Politik in der DDR, 1945–1990 (Cologne: Edition Deutschland Archiv, 1995), 1–12. Furthermore, a number of the German Communist cultural elite were enthusiasts of this tradition, even if it had stemmed from the bourgeois.

33. Andreas Hillgruber, Deutsche Geschichte 1945–1986: Die “deutsche Frage” in der Weltpolitik, 8th ed. (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1983).

34. Wilhelm Pieck, “Reden und Aufsätze: Auswahl aus den Jahren 1908–1950,” in Berlin 1952, vol. 1 of Gerhard Kiederling, ed., Berlin 1945–1986: Geschichte der Hauptstadt der DDR (Berlin: Dietz, 1987), 48.

35. Christoph Klessmann, Die doppelte Staatsgründung: Deutsche Geschichte, 1945–1955 (Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1991), 139; and Eric Weitz, Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 343.

36. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1906).

37. Jan Kandiyali, “Freedom and Necessity in Marx’s Account of Communism,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22, no. 1 (2014): 104–123.

38. Friedrich Geist and Klaus Kürvers, Das Berliner Mietshaus 1862–1945 (Munich: Prestl, 1984), vol. 2, 437–463.

39. Wilhelm Riehl, “Die Familie,” vol. 3 of Naturgeschichte des Volkes als Grundlage einer deutschen Social-Politik (Stuttgart and Augsburg), 1855, cited in Nicholas Bullock and James Read, The Movement for Housing Reform in Germany and France, 1840–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 76.

40. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 56.

41. Friedrich Engels, Zur Wohnungsfrage, trans. Clemens Dutt as The Housing Question, London, n.d.), 46, quoted in Bullock and Read, Movement for Housing Reform, 50. Beginning in the late 1860s, many bourgeois reformers and economists independently came to view the property issue as central to the housing crisis, as financing through public mortgage banks enabled large-scale speculation that amounted to monopoly control over land supply. Bullock and Read, Movement for Housing Reform, Chapter 7.

42. August Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus (Zurich: Verlag der Volksbuchhandlung, 1879).

43. Geist and Kürvers, Berliner Mietshaus, vol. 2, 102–121.

44. Bullock and Read, Movement for Housing Reform, Chapter 12.

45. Schütz et al., Kleines Politisches Wörterbuch, 551. The distinction between socialist and communist political parties emerged during World War I with the latter favoring the violent seizure of power. Regarding the distinction between socialism and communism as types of human society, more variability appears. The Marxist-Leninist view is used throughout most of this book, as it is essential to clearly delineate the perspective of the East German state and relate it to broader discourses. Stalinism, as a doctrine, was never acknowledged during this period of study; however, the Western definition of a “cult of Stalin” is unavoidable, as is the use of “de-Stalinization,” which followed his death.

46. Jäger, Kultur und Politik, 6–28.

47. Alexandra Richie, Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin (New York: Carrol & Graf Publishers, 1998), 646.

48. Starrels and Malinckrodt, Politics in the German Democratic Republic, 40.

49. Maoz Azaryahu, Von Wilhelmplatz zu Thälmanplatz: Politische Symbole im öffentlichen Leben der DDR, trans. Kersten Amrani and Alma Mandelbaum (Gerlingen: Bleicher, 1991), 135, original edition (Tel Aviv: University of Tel Aviv, 1988); and Jan Behrends, Dennis Kuck, and Patrice Poutrus, “Thesenpapier: Historische Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in den Neuen Bundesländern,” in Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR: Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland, Berlin, ed. Jan Behrends and Thomas Lindenberger (Berlin: Metropol, 2003).

50. Politbüro des Zentralkomitees der Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (herafter, Politburo), resolution from July 11, 1050, Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganizationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (hereafter SAPMO-BA), DY30-50.

51. Katerina Clark, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931–1941 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 131–132.

52. Magdalena Droste, Bauhaus 1919–1933 (Cologne: Taschen, 2002).

53. Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, The Athens Charter, trans. Anthony Eardley (reprint, New York: Grossman Publishers, 1973; Paris: La Librarie Pion, 1943).

54. Norman Fainstein and Susan Fainstein, “City Planning and Political Values,” Urban Affairs Quarterly 6 (1971): 341–362.

55. Jörg Haspel and Annemarie Jaeggi, Housing Estates in the Berlin Modern Style (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2007), 16.

56. Herbert Nicolaus and Alexander Obeth, Die Stalinallee: Geschichte einer deutschen Strasse (Berlin: Verlag für Bauwesen, 1997), 25.

57. Haspel and Jaeggi, Berlin Modern Style; and Wolfgang Schäche, 75 Jahre GEHAG 1924–1999 (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1999), 20–30.

58. Barbara Miller-Lane, Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918–1945 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968); and Schäche, 75 Jahre GEHAG, 99–104.

59. Diefendorf, In the Wake of War, 118.

60. Ibid., 113–125.

61. Anders Åman points out that the materials, technology, and labor skills for modern architecture were in short supply in the Soviet Union. Also, architecture was viewed as a political contribution to building socialism, and classicism was more popular with the general public and more capable of expressing political sentiment. See Anders Åman, Architecture and Ideology in Eastern Europe during the Stalin Era: An Aspect of Cold War History (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press), 50–55.

62. Karl Schlögl, Terror und Traum: Moskau 1937, 3rd edition (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2016): 60–85.

63. Jörn Düwel, Baukunst voran!: Architektur und Stadtplanung im ersten Nachkriegsjah-rzehnt in der SBZ/DDR (Berlin: Schelzky & Jeep, 1995), 24–25.

64. Simone Hain, Reise nach Moskau (Berlin: Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplannung, 1995).

65. Paul Stangl, “Restoring Berlin’s Unter den Linden: Ideology, World View, Place, and Space,” Journal of Historical Geography 31, no. 2 (2006): 352–376.

66. Gianfranco Caniggia and Gian Maffei, Interpreting Basic Building: Architectural Composition and Building Typology, trans. Susan Jane Fraser, rev. Karl Kropf and Brenda Sheer (Florence: Alinea, 2001).

67. Evidence of German Communist iconoclasm is presented throughout this book. For an overview of the term iconoclasm, its history, nuances, and diverse means by which it can be carried out, see Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (London: Reaktion, 1997).

68. Paul Zucker, “An Aesthetic Hybrid,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20, no. 2 (1961): 119–130.

69. Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Collier, 1970).

70. Angela Arnold, Bruch Stücke: Trümmerbahn und Trümmerfrauen (Berlin: Omnis, 1999), 18; Diefendorf, In the Wake of War, 3–17; Geist and Kürvers, Berliner Mietshaus, vol. 3, 46–180; and Richie, Faust’s Metropolis, 587–603.

71. Matthias Menzel, “Die ehemalige Innenstadt,” May 26, 1945, diary entry quoted in Geist and Kürvers, Berliner Mietshaus, vol. 3, 173; Joachim Näther, “Berlin 66: Die Wandlung einer Stadt, 1966,” SAPMO-BA, DH2 (K4) II/07-2/20; and Joseph Orlopp, Zusammenbruch und Aufbau Berlins: 1945/46 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1947).

72. Orlopp, Zusammenbruch und Aufbau Berlins, 12.

73. Jörg Friedrich, Brandstätten: Der Anblick des Bombenkrieges (Berlin: Propyläen, 2003), 189.

74. “Aus Trümmern wird Beton,” Tägliche Rundschau (hereafter TR), May 4, 1946; and Diefendorf, In the Wake of War, 30–36.

75. Berlin Magistrat, Resolution, May 25, 1945, Landesarchiv Berlin (hereafter LAB) 100, 758.

76. “Brillen Unerwünscht,” Berliner Zeitung (hereafter BZ), December 5, 1945.

77. Berlin Magistrat, Resolution, May 25, 1945, LAB 100, 758.

78. Arnold, Bruch Stücke, 48.

79. Over time, more machinery became available, and the nature of the effort was transformed.

80. “Schutt wird Strassenpflaster,” TR, February 19, 1946.

81. “Berliner die beim Aufbau sind,” Der Kurrier, September 28, 1946.

82. Since the beginning of the rubble-removal process, the Magistrat saw itself compelled to dispose of as much rubble as possible inside the city and as near as possible to the site of damage. See Reinhold Linger, “Die Unterbringung unverwertbaren Trummerschuttes in Berlin als Problem der Stadtplanung,” Planen und Bauen 4, no. 5 (1950): 158–162.

83. “Auch Schutt kann nützlich sein,” TR, April 13, 1946; and “Hau-ruck: Die Westhafen Melodie,” Telegraf, August 9, 1946.

84. “Wohin mit der Schutt,” Nacht Express, September 10, 1947.

85. “Schuttbeseitgung Schafft Gemüseland,” Nacht Express, September 26, 1946.

86. “Schutt wird Strassenpflaster,” TR, February 19, 1946.

87. “Tempelhof verbessert Anlagen,” Neue Zeit, March 12, 1947.

88. Arnold, Bruch Stücke, 22.

89. Otto Grotewohl, Minutes from meeting on May 17, 1946, quoted in Simone Hain, Archeologie und Aneignung: Ideen, Pläne, und Stadtfigurationen: Aufsätze zur Ostberliner Stadtentwicklung nach 1945 (Berlin: Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplannung, 1996), 62.

90. For a poem that is emblematic example of this tone, see “Komm und hilf mit!,” Deutsche Volkszeitung, November 29, 1945. Also see “Nazismus schlug den Kontinent in Trümmer: Friede und Demokratie sind Grundlagen seiner Wiedergeburt,” BZ, May 28, 1945.

91. As quoted in “Der Oberbürgermeister spricht,” BZ, May 21, 1945.

92. “Neues Leben Blüht aus den Ruinen,” BZ, May 21, 1945.

93. See “Premiere der Trümmerbeseitigung,” Nacht Express, June 30, 1946; “Humboldhain wird zum Humboldtberg,” Neues Deutschland (hereafter ND), May 5, 1946; and caption to photo of caved-in subway tunnel, TR, May 9, 1946.

94. Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997). For a rare example of the popular press linking the actions of the German people to the destruction of their cities, see the reprint of a speech by Mayor Werner: “Der Wiederaufbau Berlins,” TR, May 3, 1946. This section has not discussed Nazi flak towers, as they belong to the military tradition rather than the vernacular. Too immense to remove, they were demolished, covered with rubble, and landscaped. The well-known tower in Volkspark Friedrichshain was left partially protruding as the amount of rubble available nearby was overestimated. One planner, in a rare connection to the Romantic tradition, suggested this might remind Berliners of “past evil times.” See Berlin Magistrat, Hauptamt für Hochbau, file note, February 3, 1947, LAB-110-1174; and Linger, “Die Unterbringung,” 158–162.

95. The 1946 exhibition Berlin baut auf, reporting on rubble removal and construction progress, was limited to the eight Soviet-controlled districts with no mention of the Western sectors. See “Berlin Plant,” BZ, August 14, 1946.

96. “Ein Kleiner Unterschied,” Vörwarts, February 11, 1947. Also see “Zehn-Minute-Verkehr auf der Trümmerbahn,” TR, November 28, 1947.

97. “Deutsche Demokratische Republik Gegründet,” BZ, October 8, 1949.

98. Harry Schurdel, “Die Hoheitssymbole der Deutshen Demokratischen Republik,” in Parteiauftrag: Ein neues Deutschland: Bilder, Rituale, und Symbole der frühen DDR, ed. Dieter Vorsteher, catalog for the exhibition in the German Historical Museum from December 13, 1996, to March 11, 1997, p. 57.

99. “Als Berlin aus Trümmern aufstand,” BZ, May 7, 1950.

100. Walter Ulbricht. Das nationale Aufbauwerk und die Aufgaben der deutschen Architektur. Speech delivered at the inaugural ceremony for the opening of the Deutsche Bauakademie on 12 August 1951. (Berlin: Amt für Information der Regierung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1951).

101. The tension-raising events included the SED’s poor electoral showing in October 1946, the failure of the Moscow Conference (March 10–April 24, 1947) and simultaneous development of the Truman Doctrine, and especially the Marshall Plan (announced on June 5, 1947).