After the Dresden Bombing: Pathways of Memory, 1945 to the by Anne Fuchs (auth.)

By Anne Fuchs (auth.)

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The collective accusation that found expression in the re-education campaign went hand in hand with the photographic representation of the ‘typical German’ through portrait photography published in popular magazines such as Life or Picture Post. 29 Against the backdrop of the shocking discovery 32 After the Dresden Bombing of the concentration camps, the photographers aimed to capture the German mentality through a physiognomy that would express innate evil. In this way, portraits of Germans underlined the message that had already been communicated by the concentration camp photographs and by rubble photography: all these genres were visual illustrations of the total moral ruination of the German nation.

2 However, to establish this narrative much more was needed than the German propaganda apparatus could provide in 1945. The worldwide dissemination of this narrative depended hugely on a photographic iconography that entered the global imaginary soon after the end of the war. Arguably, the modern media, above all photography and film, both fictional and documentary, have done more to shape our mental image of the Second World War and of all subsequent wars than the written word. 3 War photography in particular has created a range of global icons that are immediately recognisable, precisely because they have been stripped of their concrete anchorage in specific circumstances.

But it is less likely that, without the help of a caption, they would be able to name Dresden as the city in Peter’s picture. From the perspective of the non-German recipient, the indexical value of the photograph has been erased in favour of a recognition effect that heightens the iconic value of the shot, while simultaneously hollowing out its referential quality. 42 After the Dresden Bombing Although the photograph remains a trace of a reality that, in the words of Roland Barthes, ‘has been’ there, as a globally recycled image it has lost the connection to its historical origins and locale.

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