chapter  1
32 Pages

Ruins

Self-portraiture, capturing, forgetting
WithBenedict Anderson

As Berlin lay in ruins at the end of WWII, the immense task of clearing the rubble from the streets fell to the Trummerfrauen and the accompanying girls, boys and men. The carting and off-loading of millions of cubic metres of rubble undertaken by them is a story of their labour in both the reconstruction and the burying of their city. To understand how a large part of Berlin was buried, one must begin with the city’s destruction by the Allied bombing campaign during World War II. Walking through Berlin after the end of the war in Europe and surveying the scale of the damage, Winston Churchill pondered the onslaught unleashed on the city. Although this contestation of the numbers of Trummerfrauen may be read as an attempt to downgrade their actual value in Berlin’s early reconstruction, they can be explored in less critical terms as positive post-war propaganda images in a country on brink of moral and physical collapse.