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By Kai-Uwe Nielsen
Berlin - Rebirth of a capital city

Berlin - the capital of Germany is like many mega-cities of the world in a permanent change. With its special situation during the cold war as a political, ideological and territorial divided city it was on one side of the Berlin Wall the capital of the DDR and at the same time part of the Soviet hemisphere, and on the other side like an island of Western Germany fenced by a wall and barbed wire and protected by the western allied victors. More like an outpost of the western capitalism than a bulwark against the communism appeared this widely destroyed and scarred former capital. It became the symbol for the splitted post-war Germany. This extreme situation made the way of living for their inhabitants very difficult and uncomfortable. Bombed-out houses, ruins of formerly great public works, abruptly ending roads and the omnipresent Berlin Wall produced on the other hand a very attractive sphere for creative people and artists and in a way more important, offered affordable housing. The latent threat of the soviet nuclear weapons and the possibly uprising Doomsday lead sometimes to feelings of paranoia and hedonism in Berlin West, especially under the newcomers. This unique situation created a real fotogenic atmosphere on both sides of the safety curtain and lasted from 1948 up to the year 1989 the year of the fall of the „Berlin Wall“ in november 1989. René Burri (*9.4.1933), native swiss photographer and member of the agency MAGNUM, has among many others observed the special situation in Berlin East and West (Die Deutschen. Photographien 1957–1997. With Poems of Hans Magnus Enzensberger. 3rd Ed. Schirmer/Mosel, München 1999). His picture of the Berlin Wall with a disabled veteran is one of the most touching documentary photographs.
With the reunification of the devided Germany the decision was made to restore the old state of Berlin as the Capital of Germany. Great efforts were made to reinstall the lost pomp and circumstance. The Reichstag veiled by Christo was reborn in the sequence as the unified German parliament. And beside the centers of power the global players of economics occupied the prime locations in Mid-Berlin. The formerly „Eastern Berlin“, with its beautiful classicistical and neoclassical architecture from the age of Prussia’s glory was set back to its pre-war state. In contrast the relicts of the socialist architecture, the stone become symbol of the domination and the failure of the socialism, like the „palace of the republic“ were step by step erased and demolished.

In late summer 2001 these great projects were in progress. The spirit of the rebirth of Berlin could be detected everywhere. All over the city of Berlin there were construction sites with thousands of construction workers and the „baggage train“ of the „petit metiers“: Especially all types of takeaway’s for the famous curry sausage, broilers and Bratwurst found their way to the hungry workers. The indigenous „Berliner“ accepted that somehow exploding urban development with his normal laid-back character in his very unexcited manner. For a photographer it is inspiring to see how these projects are rising and how the limitless optimism of the builders and investors is bearing fruit - and for the documentary photography it is an obligation to preserve these losts stone become history.
This process is still underway and it is fascinating to observe the constant change. More….

Rebirth of a capital city
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