The Reading Room

Review of ‘Germany After The War’

Josef Heinrich Darchinger’s photography in a new book…

wirtTaschen have published some wonderful books and the tradition continues in ‘Wirtschafts Wunder-Deutschland nach dem Krieg’ a marvellous recollection of the daily life of Germans post World War Two. Written by Klaus Honnef and Frank Darchinger (HG) it features photographs by the late Josef Heinrich Darchinger, a photojournalist for Spiegel and Die Zeit for over thirty years.

Little is heard of life for the Germans following the war, there is a tendency to shrug the proverbial shoulder and group all of its citizens under one Nazi banner but the reality is quite different and like so often in war it was the innocents who suffered the most. But this isn’t an attempt to garner pity, it shows a positive spirit in the men, women and children despite the housing shortages, the rationing and the very division of its land by the occupying forces.

The colour plates are quite stunning, Darchinger’s images show life in its most simple form and from that a real sense of community spirit (pre Stasi in the Eastern sector) which prevails throughout the book. The creation of dormitory towns in and around emerging industrial areas united the less fortunate and educated and Darchinger captures the social cohesion which resulted from it. What is glaringly obvious is the sense of family and the spirit of the neighbourhood. Families are photographed sat around a table, be it eating or listening to the radio, children play in large groups and women are shown as positive role models raising children and working in the offices and factories.

The German work ethic is well documented here, one gets the sense of their determination to emerge from the Nazi rubble rejuvenated and poised to show the world their manufacturing prowess whilst under the ever present eye of the governing super powers. It is a fascinating documentary of Cold War Germany and Darchinger’s evocative photography invites the outsider to reboot their opinion of the country and its people.

The text is in both German and English.

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