After the Dresden Bombing: Pathways of Memory, 1945 to the by Anne Fuchs (auth.)

By Anne Fuchs (auth.)

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The visual matrix that came into view at the end of the war was obviously dominated by the Allied photographer’s viewpoint behind the camera and the implied victor’s perspective. During the war all sides had used photography to legitimise their own war effort, but by the end it was the Allied war photographers who could claim the authoritative field of vision and set the moral map for the global memory of the war in the postwar period. Tracing Germany’s total ruination from a range of interlocking perspectives that authorised the victor’s moral superiority over a morally depraved loser, this map was shaped by a set of welldefined thematic concerns and tropes that have exercised tremendous influence on the postwar imaginary.

Khaldei dramatised the staged moment of victory further by superimposing a negative with smoke on the flag image. This suggested that battles were still being fought in the streets below. The victorious pose in Khaldei’s image with the iconic flag and 24 After the Dresden Bombing a downward view on a ruined cityscape is of particular importance for the visual counter-narrative that was later put forward by German rubble photographers. As we will see, German photographers responded to the victor’s iconography by way of an alternative narrative that fostered a melancholy reading of history.

G. Sebald in his famous essay on the air war and postwar German literature:44 the iconicity of such photos that have been in circulation since the late 1940s points to the presence of a lasting trauma narrative in postwar Germany. Peter’s photograph of the destroyed city with bonitas in the foreground belongs to a handful of photographic icons that have shaped the postwar imaginary globally. Its iconography exudes such a powerful appeal because the melancholic reflectiveness of bonitas transcends the historical context in which the shot was taken.

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