With the British bombing raid in August 1944 on the old East Prussian capital Königsberg, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe at that time, its demise began. Heavy fighting for the “Fortress Königsberg” was followed by its capture on 9 April 1945 by the Red Army, followed by days of uncontrolled cruelty to the remaining German population (approx. 100,000 of 380,000 inhabitants). The revenge of the Soviet people unleashed itself with full force and toughness. Afterwards: Hunger and cholera. About 25 000 Germans survived. Königsberg became Soviet, but actually Russian. It was celebrated and expelled, destroyed and demolished, planned and rebuilt.
Today, after more than 50 years of being a restricted area and only 600 kilometres to Berlin, but 1200 kilometres to Moscow, many Kaliningraders are closer to the West than to Russia.
In the years 2005/2006, a double anniversary coincidentally or ironically came together: the old Hanseatic and royal city of Königsberg i.Pr. became 750 years old. At the same time it is 60 years ago (July 4, 1946) that the Soviet dictator Stalin renamed the city after his companion Michail Kalinin: Kaliningrad.
Today the Kaliningrad region, i.e. northern East Prussia, lies like an island in the middle of the new EU countries. After the first heated debates in the mid-1990s, renaming the city Kenigsberg (Russian for Königsberg) is currently not an issue. The proposal Kantgrad (Kantstadt) after the Königsberg philosopher Immanuel Kant was also under discussion (and in part still is). Silently and unbiased, however, the younger generation is conquering the city – and says Kenig City or simply Kenig.
The city of K. has many faces, but only one soul. The photographs show the awakening of this soul after agony, wounding, silence and slow recovery.
The old Königsberg – disfigured, neglected or lovingly restored, the new Kaliningrad – urbanistically misshapen, partly planned in a philanthropic way, now almost westerly and always more chic. In it a cordial and open population. (A.B.)
The photographs were shown for the first time at the Berlin Art Foundation Poll – the interest of visitors was great, as was the media response.
“and that you, Königsberg, are not mortal!” (East Prussian poetess Agnes Miegel)
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