Beautiful city, shame about all those Nazis.
Yes, this color newsreel above shows Berlin in 1936 as it gets ready to welcome the world for the Olympic Games. It’s a PR film meant to show the upside of the Reich, as Germans looked forward to a “better future”, and indeed the city looks just as gorgeous and exciting as other bustling European metropolises. There’s new construction alongside the classical architecture. There’s couples dancing to the latest hit tunes—Malneck and Mercer’s “Goody Goody” (which Benny Goodman had just released in February). There’s young men frolicking in the Wannsee while ladies sunbathe.
But then there’s those Nazis, ruining everybody’s travel plans. The streets are “festively decorated with flags with the current pattern” (ie. the swastika); we see a group of Hitler youth on a parade for the Führer; and while the “changing of the guard” may put some in mind of Buckingham Palace, here they’ve got the full goose-stepping going on. And the film ends very oddly: a shot of the guards outside the Ministry of Aviation, home to morphine addict and concentration camp co-creator Hermann Göering.
Flash forward to July 1945, and what a difference surrender to the Allies makes: Berlin in ruins, large posters of Stalin, and the signs of the divisions that eventually end in the 1961 building of the Berlin Wall. The newsreel concludes with a dramatic aerial shot of the entire city, taking in the amount of destruction.
We’ve featured this 1945 film before, but this before-and-after comparison speaks to the devastation of war and the determination to rebuild.
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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.