Trummerfrauen

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade December 2001

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"Trûmmerfrauen" The photograph of the German Reichstag called "Trûmmerfrauen" (women of ruins) and taken in 1946, is the work of Werner Bischof, who was born in Zurich and died in 1954 on a photography tour in the Andes. I have chosen this particular picture because it reflects a piece of my home culture and has a huge meaning in German everyday live.

The photograph shows the Germany Reichstag one year after the World War II was over. It clearly emphasizes that Germany was devastated after six years of war. It is a black and white print, which was normal for this time, nevertheless, in my imagination, everything that I think about concerning this time is in black and white. There are only three persons in the picture, trying to clear u the bombsites. They are in the foreground of the Reichstag. One of them is a little boy, who apparently joined his mother on her way.

It is probably a warmer day, since their coats are hanging over the handle of one of their handcarts. Isn't it odd to think about war and then think about the sun shining at the same time? The overall impression of the site is very calm if one can say that about a city where living conditions were troubled and uneasy for so long. Considering the picture was taken in Berlin, one of the biggest cities in Germany, I would have expected more people on the streets. In the background, right around the Reichstag itself are more people, but they are too far away to say exactly what they are doing. Werner Bischof probably just took the photograph without asking anybody, since it seems very randomly presented. It is just the situation he wanted to record for later generations.

The women have two handcarts with them. One made of cotton, one entirely made of wood and also two big cotton bags. They are collecting wood that is lying by the sites of the streets. Around them are already piles with bigger wood pieces that they are now loading on to their carts.

Berlin is rising in the background of the picture, or maybe I should better say: what is left of it. The Reichstag takes the center of the photography. It is burnt out and destroyed by bombs from the war. So is everything else around this area. If the buildings are not entirely destroyed, they are at least missing their windows. It is very hard to find a house tat maintained it's former condition.

On February 27, 1933 the Reichstag caught fire. A Dutch communist was accused of having set the fire, found guilty and was executed about one year later. Since the building was severely damaged after the war, the dome was so unstable that it had to be blown up in 1954. At the beginning of the 1960's the reconstructions began and a flat roof now replaced the dome. On October 3, 1990 the exact same site the women were standing at 44 years earlier, was crowded with people celebrating the German reunion. Today, the Reichstag has a new dome, made of glass that tourists can visit and climb up to. Berlin is renamed capital of Germany and the political center of the country. Therefore, it has such a vast meaning for my country and me. It is truly incredible to see a picture like this one, after having seen the Reichstag how it looks today. When I found the photograph, I thought that it would definitely be easier for me to write about something that I am directly connected with and that I can relate to. In addition to the general meaning of Berlin and the Reichstag the whole city got an additional meaning for me. My sister lives there and I wouldn't' want my sister to live in the Berlin that is shown on the picture.

However, the title of the photography "Trûmmerfrauen" reveals that it is not the Reichstag that is the main item in this picture but the women, who are working around the buildings. I don't think their work is so much about cleaning up the bombsite but more about surviving. The years during the war were difficult and marked by poverty. This work helped them and their families to survive. It is amazing, what the picture reveals. The Reichstag in the background, an immense and tremendous building that radiates power and eminence, but destroyed, and the foreground the people that suffered from the reason why the building was destroyed in the first place. The women didn't even fight in the war, but they were fighting for their families to survive and even though the war was over by the time the picture was taken, they still have to go on fighting.

In my opinion, Werner Bischof wanted to take this picture to remind everyone in Germany and around the world, what can happen to a country if they let one single man take over all the power and don't stop him in his actions. He took thie picture while being on a photography tour to record war-torn Europe.

I am very happy that I didn't have to grow up in the Germany that is presented on this picture. Never would I want to experience a time like this and looking at the picture is sorrowful and makes me feel upset.