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Gesang im Feuerofen: Köln : Überreste einer alten deutschen Stadt [German] [Hardcover]

Hermann Claasen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Schwann (1979)
  • Language: German
  • ISBN-10: 3590320060
  • ISBN-13: 978-3590320062
  • Product Dimensions: 29.2 x 23.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Who does not see Köln does not see Germany 8 Mar 2013
(Review of 1947 edition)

The above phrase - cited in latin - is repeated in the introduction (Josef Rick) like a kind of mantra for Claasen's Gesang im Feuerofen (1947).

Köln was effectively no longer a city and while this work ultimately claims to be a work of hope, for me it also functions as the polar opposite to the escapism evident in Herbert List's later Licht von Hellas's (1953)*. What is at the core of this crater-landscape is the bewildering question: what happened? ('was ist geschehen?). Laboured throughout the extensive introduction and Claasen's photographs is that this is the new face of Germany: a reality without pretense or embellishment. There is no desire or attempt to cloud the reality. Rather, Claasen's images are to aggravate the nation's open wound ('Dies Buch ist illusionlos [und] legt es den Finger in die Wunde unserer gefahrvollsten Verletzbarheit') and is to also be more than just a document.

I did, however, wonder whether or not the introduction and (to a lesser extent) the images ran the risk of being overly intellectual and whether this work was ultimately aimed at the German people as a whole or instead at the learned (who had tolerated and excused Hitler's Reich). My concern also is whether the millions of hungry Germans in roofless houses ever had time for these images or even wanted to have to connect visually with what they were fully living. Despite claims to the contrary this book seems to have been more for those whose hands were still smooth and for those looking in from the outside. Nonetheless, Claasen's work does passionately cry out for recognition as 'a call [...] in a year of hunger and despair' ('Dies Buch its ein Anruf [...] in einem Jahr des Hungers und der Verzweiflung').
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