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When sixtynine years ago the pain of the humanity under the Second World War had an end, in Germany, whose Nazi rulers had caused the catastrophe, the people spoke from the year 1945 as the “Zero Hour”. Thus, as if you could begin to furnish the bombed out flat in the house Europe now from scratch, totally new and totally amicably as a refuge of peace. Just no look back.
“Zero Hour” can be interpreted as another allegory, too: The most people were left with nothing, had to start again “at Zero”, to find terra firma again, to come to employment, to bethink new, to leave the horrors of the years of war bit by bit behind and to take heart for the future.
The starting position for that wasn’t different in the Soviet occupation zone as in the three West zones: Industry and infrastructure widely destroyed or at least heavy damaged, on the fields more left military equipment and graves of soldiers as crop; the cities in ruins, the furniture in it got lost, no electricity, no coal, no gas.
There it was said above all: to improvise, to spin straw into gold. The people were equipped well enough with material bequeathments of the lost war – now they were worth to pick up in order to produce badly needed objects of utilities for everyday life, in village smithies, metalworking shops and on somewhere unimpaired die pressings. Based loosely on the pertaining to the Old Testament prophetic word “Swords to Ploughshares” out of Wehrmacht steel helmets arose chamber pots, ladles for sewage and cooking pots, out of container barrels of gas masks arose now milk cans and other jars, out of cartouches of grenades also cans with carrying handle or scoops, out of gas mask filters colanders, plates for letter scales and much more.
In the American, English and French occupation zones this era of auxiliary and compensatory products was shorter than in the Soviet one. Due to Care-packets and the Marshall-plan the industry and agriculture in the West of Germany earlier got again back on its feet, the East on the contrary smarted under reparations, removals and poverty of natural resources. But the workers won something, what they later should have over their good and abundant provided sisters and brothers “beyond”, occasionally till today: a more widespread, more creative view on many things, according the motto: What practical could I make out of this as well? And how long would it work? And do I need instead of that really something new, if this works still good?
Looked at in that light these war and post-war contemporary credentials are real think-marks till today; way beyond their time of creation at the ominous “Zero Hour”.
Text and photos: G.Höhne, www.industrieform-ddr.de
Remarks of the editorial team:
Sequences of the series “Highlights of the GDR-design” written by Günter Höhne you find in our blog:
Our last event was about military objects, too, which were converted into objects of utility. The DDR-Restaurant Domklause shows in its new created vitrines a range out of the collection of Michael Eickmeiers. The collector was in our visitor center and talks about his objects.
(Translation: Valerie Holbein)