City in transit : ruins, railways, and the search for order in postwar Berlin (1945-1948) / Clara Magdalena Oberle
Includes bibliographical references (p. 203-241)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This study examines German and Allied approaches to establishing order in Berlin during the so-called Stunde Null, here taken as the period between 1945 and 1948. Berlin's shattered railway stations, the rubbled cityscape, the housing crisis, and subsequent discussions concerning the use of space are the point of entry for larger questions of German and European history. They include the Cold War, postwar occupations, population transfers, social engineering and urban planning, the emergence of the welfare state, and the genesis of memory narratives.Based on research in German, Russian, British, French, and American archives, this thesis emphasizes the physical setting. Train stations lay still in May 1945, the city's topography was altered, and a third of Berlin's housing was destroyed. Yet even historians of everyday life have not examined responses to the debris scenario. The sources indicate a powerful dialectic of the rubbled space: Mid-level Allied officials, Berliners, housing and railway administrators, police, displaced persons and refugees all yearned for order which was visibly absent. To many, planning and the interventionist state promised to be the answer. This study also argues that because Berlin was only partially destroyed, redistribution, not reconstruction, was central to the debate. Allied-German discussions about residence and travel permits furthermore reveal occupiers as having operated without blueprints, with policies often emerging beyond the control of military and political elites.Turning to the outcome of housing policies, this study offers a new account of German victimhood narratives. These were not suppressed---as has often been claimed---but were prominent in the immediate postwar period. They came in part as response to Allied legal texts and practices which had made war-related suffering a category meriting aid. Thus encouraged, thousands of Berliners as early as 1946 officially narrated their story as a tale of victimhood to increase their material wellbeing. Painting themselves as victims rather than perpetrators of war and genocide, they also blurred the line between war and postwar. Eventually, they characterized themselves not just as victims of war, but also as victims of Fascism or National Socialism. This within mere months of the collapse of the Third Reich and remarkably, with Allied approval and even encouragement to do so.
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