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

By Anne Fuchs (auth.)

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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. Icons of Germany’s depravity Images of Germany’s moral and physical ruination came into quick circulation after the end of the war.

The caesura of 1945 and the destruction of Dresden are significant points of departure for the exploration of an impact narrative that has engendered local, national and global reverberations through a circuit of intermedial exchange. In order to study the trajectories and mutations of this narrative I have selected a range of poignant examples that elucidate the intramedial and intermedial dynamics at play. Of course there are countless other examples. Undoubtedly subjective, my selection aims to trace the persistence of memory through a cultural symbolism that has been annotated, elaborated, revised and refuted through diverse media and genres.

Most international viewers, who recognise the two pictures as outstanding icons in the visual narrative of the Second World War, may just be able to identify Berlin as the locus of the Khaldei’s picture. But it is less likely that, without the help of a caption, they would be able to name Dresden as the city in Peter’s picture. From the perspective of the non-German recipient, the indexical value of the photograph has been erased in favour of a recognition effect that heightens the iconic value of the shot, while simultaneously hollowing out its referential quality.

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