POTSDAM - REWRITING HISTORY / A VISUAL NARRATIVE


And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.

(Bible, Isaiah 58:12)

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to travel again. The last journey was a few months ago in the city of BERLIN. The new destination was not far from Berlin, 50 km southwards in the heart of the Prussian Administration, the small city of POTSDAM. 

I am not sure about the motivation of this journey. Long ago and after many visits to Berlin, the wish to visit Potsdam and investigate the place with a camera increased even more. But what I have been looking to this place? Definitely in a certain way the cradle of Prussian culture, but also the scenery of some of the darkest moments of German history. What motivated me further is a very dark suspicion:  What is hiding behind the will to rebuild all those lost monuments more than 70 years after their initial historical destruction? How I should interpret this Nostalgia of the Past?  Are the dark ghost of German History still around? In any case, Potsdam is a very strong point of attraction. If it is the mystery of the origin (Ursprung), the fascination of a stage of history, or something still to be revealed I don't know.  To find out more was and still is the purpose of my photographic journey. 

“Germany was really bombed into democracy, and that makes the highly efficient German democracy a bit fragile,” said Stephan Trüby, a professor of architecture in Stuttgart.

I decided to go there and find out if there is an answer to those questions by means of an artistic investigation ... 

All images are shot with a NIKON FM2 camera and Nikkor f3.5 28mm PC lens on various Kodak Color Plus or 200 Gold  film. 

"THE DAY and THE NIGHT OF POTSDAM" - Shortly after Hitler became German Chancellor, the German military-industrial complex and the Nazi party choose the cradle of the Prussian military as the "perfect" background to demonstrate power and unity.

On March 21, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn into office at the Garrison Church (Garnisonkirche). The event was later called the Day of Potsdam. 

Twelve years later on April 14/15 1945, the events that started at that unholy day eventually resulted in the Night of Potsdam, when a British air raid destroyed most of Potsdam's inner city. The Garrison Church was not hit by the bombing but caught fire when a neighboring building, used as an ammunition depot blew up.

75 years after this dark night armed with two camera bodies I walked down the streets of Potsdam, with the strong intention to discover or invent my own narrative of the city. 

*Karl Friedrich Schinkel (13 March 1781 – 9 October 1841) was a Prussian architect, city planner, and painter who also designed furniture and stage sets. Schinkel was one of the most prominent architects of Germany and designed both neoclassical and neogothic buildings. His most famous buildings are found in and around Berlin and Potsdam (Wikipedia). 

Potsdam is the capital and largest city of the German state of Brandenburg. It directly borders the German capital, Berlin, and is part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel some 25 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of Berlin's city center

Berlin was the capital of Prussia and later of the German Empire, but the court remained in Potsdam, where many government officials settled. In 1914, Emperor Wilhelm II signed the Declaration of War in the Neues Palais (New Palace). The city lost its status as a "second capital" in 1918, when Wilhelm II abdicated and Germany became a Republic at the end of World War I.

At the start of the Third Reich in 1933 there was a ceremonial handshake between President Paul von Hindenburg and the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on 21 March 1933 in Potsdam's Garrison Church in what became known as the "Day of Potsdam". This symbolized a coalition of the military (Reichswehr) and Nazism. Potsdam was severely damaged by Allied bombing raids during World War II.

Potsdam was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser until 1918. Its planning embodied ideas of the Age of Enlightenment: through a careful balance of architecture and landscape, Potsdam was intended as "a picturesque, pastoral dream" that would remind its residents of their relationship with nature and reason.

The little French Church at the eastern edge of the Bassinplatz square is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome and captivates the viewer with its elliptical form. Two allegorical figures from the sculptor Friedrich Christian Glume stand at the column-adorned portal: Caritas (love, charity) and Spes (hope). The interior design of the church goes back to Schinkel. 

The Old Market Square (Alter Markt)
Reconstruction point 



The Old Town Hall is located on Old Market Square near the Church of Saint Nicholas. This administrative building was designed and erected by the famous architect Johann Boumann between the years 1753 and 1755. Many of the buildings in Potsdam incorporate the Italian style, and the Old Town Hall is not an exception. The gilded statue of Atlas stands sublime on the edge of the building's dome.




"Ceci n'est pas un chateau"



St. Nicholas Church (German: St. Nikolaikirche) in Potsdam. 

St. Nicholas Church (German: St. Nikolaikirche) in Potsdam is a Lutheran church under the Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia of the Evangelical Church in Germany on the Old Market Square (Alter Markt) in Potsdam. The central plan building in the Classicist style and dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built to plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the years 1830 to 1837. The tambour of the 77-meter-high church that towers above the roofs of the city was built later, from 1843 to 1850. Its construction was taken over by Ludwig Persius and, from 1845, Friedrich August Stüler.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the church was hit during the British air raid on Potsdam and subsequently badly damaged by Soviet artillery fire. After many years of rebuilding the church was re-consecrated in 1981 by the Evangelical Parish of St. Nicholas, Potsdam, and, today, is open to visitors. In addition to the normal church services, concert events are also held in the church. [Wikipedia]



Dutch Quarter 

The Dutch Quarter, also known as the Holland Quarter, is one of the most popular landmarks in Potsdam. There is no other place in Europe like Potsdam's Dutch Quarter, where about 150 red-brick, Dutch houses occupy four city blocks, which are arranged in two quarters. The houses were built between 1734 and 1742 by the famous Dutch architect Jan Bouman.





GARRISON CHURCH






The Garrison Church (German: Garnisonkirche) was a Protestant church in the historic center of Potsdam. Built by the order of King Frederick William I of Prussia according to plans by Philipp Gerlach from 1730 to 1735, it was considered as a major work of Prussian Baroque architecture. With a height of almost 90 meters (295 feet), it was Potsdam's tallest building and shaped its cityscape. In addition, the Garrison Church was part of the city's famous "Three Churches View" together with St. Nicholas Church and Holy Spirit Church. Damaged during the British bombing in World War II, the East German authorities demolished the church in 1968. After the German reunification, the Garrison Church is currently being rebuilt as a center for remembrance and reconciliation.


The Garrison Church was an important place in Germany's changeful history. Johann Sebastian Bach, Alexander I of Russia, Napoleon and others visited the building. In addition, it served as the burial site of Frederick William I and his son Frederick the Great. Potsdam's first freely elected council members met in the Garrison Church, Lutheran and Reformed Protestants founded the Prussian Union of Churches in it, and classical concerts took place there. In Nazi Germany, the building was used for propaganda purposes; at the same time, many 20 July plotters belonged to the Garrison Church parish. [Wikipedia]


Park/Schloss Sanssouci




Frederick II (German: Friedrich II.; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was a Prussian king and military leader who ruled the Kingdom of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, at 46 years the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king.[a] His most significant accomplishments during his reign included his reorganization of Prussian armies, his military successes in the Silesian wars and the Partitions of Poland, and his patronage of the arts and the Enlightenment. Frederick was the last Hohenzollern monarch titled King in Prussia and declared himself King of Prussia after annexing vital parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772. Prussia greatly increased its territories and became a leading military power in Europe under his rule. He became known as Frederick the Great (German: Friedrich der Große) and was nicknamed "Der Alte Fritz", ("The Old Fritz") by the Prussian people and eventually the rest of Germany. [Wikipedia]



Frederick had many famous buildings constructed in his capital Berlin, most of which still stand today, such as the Berlin State Opera, the Royal Library (today the State Library Berlin), St. Hedwig's Cathedral, and Prince Henry's Palace (now the site of Humboldt University). However, the king preferred spending his time in his summer residence at Potsdam, where he built the palace of Sanssouci, the most important work of Northern German rococo. Sanssouci (French for "carefree" or "without worry"), was a refuge for Frederick. "Frederician Rococo" developed under Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff.





Picture gallery at Sanssouci


As a great patron of the arts, Frederick was a collector of paintings and ancient sculptures; his favorite artist was Jean-Antoine Watteau. The picture gallery at Sanssouci "represents a unique synthesis of the arts in which architecture, painting, sculpture and the decorative arts enter into dialogue with each other, forming a compendium of the arts."[154] The gilded stucco decorations of the ceilings were created by Johann Michael Merck (1714–1784) and Carl Joseph Sartori (1709–1770). Both the wall paneling of the galleries and the diamond shapes of the floor consist of white and yellow marble. Paintings by different schools were displayed strictly separately: 17th-century Flemish and Dutch paintings filled the western wing and the gallery's central building, while Italian paintings from the High Renaissance and Baroque were exhibited in the eastern wing. Sculptures were arranged symmetrically or in rows in relation to the architecture.[wikipedia]






Comments