What is it about?

Modern architecture alienated East and West Germans alike from their cities' historic cores by the 1960s and 1970s. The so-called "Polish school of monument preservation" scorned in the early Cold War suddenly appeared to offer an attractive solution to ugly German reconstruction. This was especially ironic, because it meant that Germans were at times envious of reconstruction outcomes in Polish cities like Wroclaw and Gdansk which, before 1945, had been German.

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Why is it important?

My findings break down ideological differences between East and West Germany to illustrate a common concern with apparent aesthetic failures in Cold War modernist reconstruction. They also highlight cross-fertilization of architectural insights across Cold War borders from East to West, undermining the idea that the East had to learn from the West. Finally, they offer something of a contextual backdrop to explain the current fad for historical replicas across Germany, from the Stadtschloss in Berlin to the palace "shopping mall" in Braunschweig.


This article builds on twenty years of research on diverse book and article projects. The archival holdings alone would not have been possible to evaluate without my distinctive research experience on questions of forced migration and memory after World War II, urban reconstruction across Cold War borders, and deep reading on urban case studies. It is, thus, the fruit of seemingly random files or comments drawn out from diverse archives over a great deal of time.

Andrew Demshuk
American University

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This page is a summary of: A Polish Approach for German Cities? Cement Old Towns and the Search for Rootedness in Postwar Leipzig and Frankfurt/Main, European History Quarterly, January 2020, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0265691419886277.
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