Wiegand's Wunderkammer #4, 'WIR IN BERLIN'
(We in our Berlin)
In 1965 one of the finest books about East Berlin was published by 'Verlag der Nation'. This followed 'Verliebt in Berlin' by Edith Rimkus and Horst Beseler published in 1958, considered to be the first notable book of this type.
This type of publication was considered by the Magistrat von Gross Berlin as urgent, for reasons I'm sure are obvious. After a brief preface by the Lord Mayor, the image sequence begins.
The photos were taken by a unknown photographer Edelgard Rehboldt (1928-1983).
The sometimes ironic, short captions were written by journalist Eugen Prehm. Whoever designed the book, does not get a mention in the credits.
Towards the end of the book, more detail is revealed about the pictures. You could read translations in Russian, English, French and Spanish, but only if you purchased the thick, separately priced translation brochure. This (very rare) supplement also contains an additional text about the self consciousness of the city.
The book was so successful, that a second modified edition appeared one year later.
Two luxuriously in red leather or white parchment bound versions were given to deserving comrades and activists or to official guests – typical for the GDR. On all covers the Berlin bear was embossed.
The imagery is modern and dynamic. But this is not the norm, many books about West German cities are not so 'spirited'. There's no narrative as in the Rimkus and Beselers book, but we do get decisive moments and anecdotal images.
In the first picture Walter Ulbricht demonstrates a model of the newly designed Alexanderplatz.
This was the obligatory propaganda, then follows the freestyle. The layout combines contrasting images designed to encourage you to take a walk through the city. It starts at the Brandenburger Tor including border posts, then continues in the classical context to the Ehrenwache Unter der Linden and other historic sights.
The photos deal with trade, commerce, industry, culture, transport, recreation, sports, new buildings, to be broken up again and again by scenes with a lot of 'Milljoh'
The loose mixture avoids the standard type of city books, that might contain tight thematic blocks. And at the end as in the beginning a model shows the nascent radio tower: forwards!
The translation supplement explains again how the book was meant, 'We in Berlin are proud of what we have achieved, and are sure that our achievements will continue tomorrow as we continue greater along our way' (p.19) Of course this is all pure propaganda, but the east German capital was never again represented in such a vivid way.
Edelgard Rehboldt (photos), Eugen Prehm (texts), Wir in Berlin, (East-) Berlin: Verlag der Nation, 1965 (1st.ed) and 1966 (2nd.ed, 16-25,000), cloth with dustjacket, special feature: separate booklet with translations, luxury editions in red leather or white parchment. I am yet to see a slipcase. The reproductions were taken from the 2ndedition