Monday, October 26, 2009

Archeology of the 20th century

One of the tragedies of war is that towns and cities suffer as well as people. This book takes a wistful historic tour along the Baltic Sea coast with pictures of places that were German until 1945, but which were destroyed in the hostilites at the end of WWII and then reallocated by Stalin to Poland, Lithuania, and of course, Russia. The Germans were expelled and the above nationalities took their place. Beginning with Swinemünde (now Świnoujście) furthest west, the book continues through Pommerania and Prussia as far as Memel (now Klaipeda). The two main cities now in Poland are Stettin (Szczecin) and Danzig (Gdansk) while the city of Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad and made part of Russia. In Danzig the Poles put some effort into restoring the historic centre, but in the rest of these places only a few key buildings were restored, the rest replaced with drab communist architecture (not that post-war architecture in the west was much better). Today the countryside between them looks depopulated and neglected. The Germans' Drang nach Osten up until 100 years ago was reversed after WWI and, of course, massively after WWII. Even in the former East Germany the postwar movement of population to the west that was halted by the Berlin Wall resumed after the wall came down.

Thus this book provides a look at what these lovely towns and cities once looked like, and would no doubt still look like, if it had not been for the totalitarian madness that saw them ruined.

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