Gute Reisen

The Photo Catalog of Munich

It’s good to be aware of yourself and your situation.

It’s the waning days of World War 2, and there’s a real awareness in the Nazi command that the war is lost. Munich hasn’t had that many of it’s precious historical artifacts and artworks removed. Despite the fact that Munich was sure to be bombed to bits, they didn’t want to cause a panic by removing statues and other artworks from public spaces. So instead the Nazi command gave an interesting order. Photograph the city. Meticulously document the art and architecture, because they knew it wasn’t going to be long, and they were right.

So a systematic cataloging of Munich began, and the very people that had made Munich such a target were now attempting to save it from the fate that they had wrought. Now a few years after the war, Munich, as many German cities were, was in a terrifically bad state, and the population had the chance to forge a new city. There was a vote: Restore Munich, keep it’s street lay out, stick with the historical character, or take this as an opportunity to restructure the city. Frankfurt chose to start over, but Munich, by a small margin chose to rebuild. It feels like it to this day, the streets are a crazy jumble that still befuddle me, but I’m glad. 

What’s most interesting to me is that the Munich subway system must have been mature enough that not razing the city and kind of picking up where it left off, worked and is still working. Now there’s plenty of weird rules and frustrating attitudes that come along with this. And indeed, no building in the center of Munich is allowed to be taller than the churches, and so Munich has a skyline of only a handful of distinctive churches, but it also keeps the city feeling small.

So the citizens choose to rebuild, but the city is in quite a state, what can they use as a guide? The catalog of photos the Nazis took. Back in 44 and 45, I wonder how far down the chain you had to go to find someone who wouldn’t admit that what they were doing was likely to be used in a post-Nazi world rather than one in which the Third Reich was rebuilding after turning the war around at the last minute.

I haven’t googled that deep on this one yet, but I really would like to see some of these photos, and maybe know a thing or two about the photographers. 

This is probably a hold over from the feeling I got the first time I watched Das Boot, but I still like the moments when “Nazis” suddenly appear like real people. In America we definitely have plenty of instances where we were the asshole, but never the enemy, the bad guys. Some of these Germans were, dare I say, just following orders.

There’s so much more to this city and county than World War 2, National Socialism, and the stereotypical german. But. It’s still a huge feature casting a long shadow in the the historical horizon of the country I chose to live in. I have to think about it, but I think I’ll never really be able to understand or to have a well informed enough opinion to do anything other than register my amazement of what happened right where I am living.

One last thing, as I was trying to find some of the catalogs of Munich photos I came across this.

It’s a midnight swearing in ceremony of SS troops, but where it’s taking place is one of my favorite places in Munich. The Odeonsplatz. I’ve made many video calls from here because it’s such a wonderful spot. That photo really sent chills down my spine.