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.Berlin 1945/6.Berlin 1945/6.Berlin 1945/6.Berlin 1945/6.

Among the Ruins: Royal Engineer with a Camera

An exhibition just opened in Berlin shows previously unpublished photos from 1945/46 by a British soldier who volunteered to assist with the postwar reconstruction.

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Woman clearing stones and rubble from a German tank; probably in the Tiergarten, British sector, 1945/46

Woman clearing stones and rubble from a German tank; probably in the Tiergarten, British sector, 1945/46

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Cecil Newman’s photos of Berlin, 1945/46

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Cecil F.S. Newman, 1946 Portrait by  Paul Nietsche.

Cecil F.S. Newman, 1946
Portrait by Paul Nietsche.

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The portrait of Cecil Newman greets us near the start of the exhibition in Märkisches Museum. Everything about it suggests the honour due to this remarkable man who fought against the Nazis in the Second World War and then volunteered for relief work to help rebuild the destroyed city of Berlin. An impressive man, over six feet tall, wearing the beret with the insignia of the Royal Engineers, comfortable in his Army jacket and in his skin, his eyes focused on a future task, meditating as he smokes his pipe. Instead of going back to his beloved homeland in Northern Ireland, he chose the ruins of the German capital and the chaos of the four-power government of victors.

Historic discovery

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Aftermath of bombings and ground battles: Newman documented ruined buildings all over Berlin, particularly in the devastated city centre.

Aftermath of bombings and ground battles: Newman documented ruined buildings all over Berlin, particularly in the devastated city centre.

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Newman worked in the Allied administration in 1945/6 under architect and planner Hans Scharoun, who helped shaped the image of postwar West Berlin. “My father loved Berlin,” Newman’s daughter Pat recalled at the opening of the exhibition of his photographs at Märkisches Museum on 16 July 2015. “When we discovered his photo reels from that time, I decided to bring them back home to Berlin.” She donated the reels to the museum in 2011 and worked closely with curators and historians to prepare the exhibition. It is the city museum’s contribution to this year’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Newman himself made several albums of photos (on display in glass cases in the exhibition) during his stay in Berlin. But there simply wasn’t time to develop the hundreds of pictures he took whenever he went out with his Leica camera. The negatives, some damaged by long storage and age, were digitised and carefully processed to remove scratches and markings before printing for the exhibition.

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Newman developed many of his own negatives.

Newman developed many of his own negatives.

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Reconstruction

Newman only worked in Berlin for a year before the British Army ended the relief project. It was a crucial year for Berliners trying to rebuild their homes and lives after the war and coming to terms with the aftermath of Nazi terror and the occupation by the Allied powers. The exhibition shows Hans Scharoun’s personal testimonial of gratitude to Newman for his invaluable contribution, written in beautiful calligraphic script in German with English translation. Newman’s corps, the Royal Engineers, joined in many construction projects, mostly in the British occupied sector.

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Rebuilt Herkules Bridge in Charlottenburg - one of the Royal Engineer reconstruction projects.

Rebuilt Herkules Bridge in Charlottenburg – one of the Royal Engineer reconstruction projects.

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Remnants of battles could still be seen on the streets. Here, a wrecked tank in the Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park.

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"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

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Bringing it all back home

Shortly before the exhibition opened, the Museum commissioned Berlin photographer Jochen Wermann to photograph selected locations in Berlin shown in Newman’s pictures as they appear today. Visitors at the opening were amazed and intrigued by the results, shown on display screens.

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Newman's photo shows a group of 'rubble women' clearing war debris in Seydelstrasse in Berlin-Mitte.

Newman’s photo shows a group of ‘rubble women’ clearing war debris in Seydelstrasse in Berlin-Mitte.

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The stark contrast: today’s view of the same street in the Spittelmarkt quarter in Berlin’s city centre, looking past modern construction works toward the new Foreign Ministry building:

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Seydelstrasse then and now. Photo from 2015: Jochen Wermann.

Seydelstrasse then and now. Photo from 2015: Jochen Wermann.

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Below is the story of the exhibition as told on the Märkisches Museum website.

Berlin 1945/46 | Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin

Start: 17.07.2015 | End: 25.10.2015

Berlin 1945/46

Photographs by Cecil F. S. Newman

When Cecil F. S. Newman (1914­1984) came to the ruined city of Berlin in July 1945 with the British Army Engineers, he was a member of the occupying forces – but he left as a friend. In his work with the Royal Engineers, he took part in the restoration of the infrastructure and as a member of the International Committee for Civil Engineering and Housing under Planning Commissioner Hans Scharoun, Newman helped to develop the first plan for a new Berlin.

His pictures bring to life the terrible consequences of Germany’s war. Now, seventy years after the war’s end, there are scarcely any visible traces of these consequences for later generations to see. However, his stylistically haunting colour portraits in particular also reveal the courage of the younger generation who began rebuilding the city.

Destruction and new beginnings

The images by the Lisburn (Northern Ireland) native Cecil Newman bear witness to the nightmarish world of ruins that made up Berlin in 1945. They show the destruction from multiple bomb attacks and the results of the last futile defensive battles in the city’s once magnificent streets and squares. Whether it be the historical Mitte district with the tower of St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) rising from the ruins or the largely deserted residential areas, train lines and industrial plants throughout the city, his photos take the modern viewer back to Berlin shortly after “Zero Hour” and the year and a half that followed. They also show that the end also brought a new beginning.

Cecil Newman did not limit his photography to sites of destruction. He was also interested in the people who dared to make a new beginning amid the heaps of rubble, and he captured them for posterity in empathetic snapshots. These photos in particular make it clear that Berlin in 1945/46 was not only an arena of destruction but also of a budding, hopeful new future.

“I wanted to bring them home”

150 reprints from the 1,400 Berlin photographs that Cecil F. S. Newman left behind are now being presented to the public as part of our special exhibition. It also comprises written documents and original photo albums that Newman put together in Berlin in 1945 and 1946 and which have been preserved until this day. Upon donating the extensive collection of negatives to the Stadtmuseum Berlin, Newman’s daughter said: “I wanted to bring them home”.

With the exhibition “Berlin 1945/46”, the Stadtmuseum Berlin is making a contribution to remembering the end of the Second World War in the German capital 70 years ago. The special exhibition, which will be on view from 17 July to 25 October 2015 in the Märkisches Museum, is accompanied by tours and other events. The exhibition catalogue (published by Nicolai Verlag), richly illustrated with 100 monochrome and colour images, will be available as of 16 July 2015 for 16.95 euros.

Märkisches Museum

OPENING TIMES

10am – 6pm, Tuesday – Sunday

ADMISSION

Adults: €5.00 / Concessions: €3.00
Free admission under 18
Free admission the first Wednesday of each month

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© Karen Margolis 2015

Posted 17 July 2015

Thanks to Isabel Cole, Thomas Schliesser, Martin Schymanski and Jochen Werner. 

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remembrance-Sunday.Sinti&Roma.remembrance-Sunday.Sinti&Roma

Remembrance in times present

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Plaque at the Berlin-Marzahn memorial site for victims of the Nazi internment camp for gypsies

Plaque at the Berlin-Marzahn memorial site for victims of the Nazi internment camp for Gypsies

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At the site of the Nazi Internment Camp in Berlin-Marzahn

On Sunday 14 June members of Berlin’s Sinti and Roma communities held their annual commemoration at the site of the camp where the Nazis interned Gypsies from 1936 until the end of the war. The Gypsy families were forced to move to these fields on the outskirts of Berlin and lived in wretched conditions there. Many of them, including babies born there, died of disease or starvation and were buried in the adjacent cemetery. Many of the camp internees were forced to do slave labour in nearby factories; others were deported to almost certain death in concentration camps. Soviet Army soldiers liberated the few remaining people in the camp in 1945.

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photo©KarenMargolis 2015

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The memorial site, a series of plaques with photos and texts in German with English translation, was set up in December 2011 at Otto-Rosenberg-Platz in Berlin-Marzahn. The square is named after Otto Rosenberg, who spent part of his childhood in the camp before being deported to Auschwitz. He survived the extermination camp and the death march at the end of the war, and later became a famous leader of the Sinti and Roma survivors, campaigning to make the world aware of the Nazi genocide against his people.  His memoir, A Gypsy in Auschwitz, is an invaluable testimony of their suffering. His daughter, Petra Rosenberg, chairwoman of the Berlin-Brandenburg regional association of the Sinti and Roma, played a major role in creating the memorial. She organises the remembrance ceremony at the memorial site and cemetery every year.

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@KarenMargolis 2015

Otto Rosenberg: Interned in the Marzahn camp as a boy, and later a great leader of the Sinti and Roma in Germany.

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Petra Rosenberg  at the memorial stone  for the victims of the Marzahn Gypsy camp, 14 June 2015

Petra Rosenberg at the memorial stone for the victims of the Marzahn internment camp, 14 June 2015

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Remembrance of the past was mingled with concern in the present. The speakers at the 14 June memorial ceremony emphasised the growing racism and aggression against Roma population in many Eastern European countries, particularly Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. And the failure of governments throughout Europe to confront and combat discrimination against Roma and other migrants. As one speaker pointed out, the Roma are an isolated minority in many countries.

On the current immigration debate in Europe and the plight of stranded refugees, another speaker commented, “Europe’s Roma population doesn’t have to cross dangerous seas, but it has to face an ocean of prejudice.”

Learning from the past means caring for immigrants and refugees today.

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The memorial stone erected during the period of East German socialist government refers to the liberation of the camp "by the glorious Soviet Army"  and concludes, "honour the victims".

The memorial stone erected during the period of East German socialist government refers to the liberation of the Gypsy camp “by the glorious Soviet Army” and concludes, “Honour the victims”.

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Honour the victims

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photo©Karen Margolis 2015

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Note:

The Nazi persecution of  Sinti and Roma is the subject of an excellent recent blog series, GYPSY ROMA TRAVELLER HISTORY MONTH by Rainer Schulze, professor of History at Essex University in England.

See: http://hmd.org.uk/news/gypsy-roma-traveller-history-month-introduction

and the following pages.

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Text & photos © Karen Margolis 2015

Thanks to Karen Axelrad

Posted 14 June 2015

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…now&forever:never:now&forever:never: now&…

Once & not forever

First the good news:

photo © KarenMargolis2015

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The iPhone camera turns anybody into a photo artist and the neighbourhood into a summer wonderland.

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Now the sad side of a sunny memory (but don’t take poetry too literally):

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Once

there was intimacy

swathed in deep colour

shimmering between us

a tropical feather

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starved of pity

betrayed by envy

the rainbow turned grey

leaving you enclosed

in your rubber armour

and iceberg pride

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outside I’m straining

to get warm again

recalling an orangerie

where tenderness met frailty

as a peacock spread his tail

© Karen Margolis 2009/2015

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Words & pictures © Karen Margolis 2015

Posted 11 June 2015

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