Photo Gallery A Century-Long Project

After World War II, Germany lay in ruins. But not for long. Once money from the Allies began flowing, reconstruction proceeded apace. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, another construction boom took off. Now, the country is taking stock. And not everyone likes what they see.
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Berlin, like most cities in Germany, lay in ruins when World War II came to an end.

Foto: AP
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During World War II, carpet-bombing by Allied forces leveled up to 80 percent of the historic buildings in Germany's main cities in an unprecedented wave of destruction prompted by the no less unprecedented barbarity of the Nazis. Here, an aerial shot of Cologne taken in 1945.

Foto: C3398 Pixfeatures/ dpa/dpaweb
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In a seemingly endless catalogue of annihilation, Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Hamburg, Kiel, Lübeck, Münster, Munich, Frankfurt, Würzburg, Mainz, Nuremberg, Xanten, Worms, Brunswick, Hanover, Freiburg and Dresden were all devastated. This image shows a view of a decimated city of Mainz from its cathedral.

Foto: ddp
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Taken in 1943, this image shows a view of the destroyed city from Hanover's Marktkirche church. The entire country was buried under rubble -- more than 400 million cubic meters of it alone in what would become West Germany. Additional damaged buildings had to be demolished, and still others were destroyed to make way for reconstruction.

Foto: Historisches Museum Hannover/ dpa/dpaweb
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The initial work of reconstruction was done by the Trümmerfrauen, or rubble women. With so many men killed in the war, the Allies relied on women between the ages of 15 and 50 to do the hard work of clean-up.

Foto: DB dpa/ picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb
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With such vast destruction, there was a severe shortage of apartments and living space in Germany immediately after the war. Many Germans had to live in emergency camps like the one here in Nissenhütten (in 1946). Others holded up in their largely destroyed homes. This particular camp was the temporary home of German soldiers who had returned from the front.

Foto: dpa / picture-alliance/ dpa
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For many modernist city planners, the destruction in Germany was an opportunity to depart from the tight, chaotic inner cities of old in favor of wide boulevards and airy apartment blocks. In both East and West Germany, planners set about creating a radical break from the past. Pictured her is the monumental boulevard Karl Marx Allee (originally Stalinallee) in East Berlin. The demonstrators are marching on the occasion of Stalin's death in 1953.

Foto: AP
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Even during World War II, Nazi planners began envisioning a spacially divided city planning style that would make German cities less susceptible to bomb damage. Modernism also called for a departure from the medieval city centers which had dominated Germany for centuries. The results were not always pretty. Pictured here is Germany's first high-rise apartment complex, Hamburg's Grindelberg, built in 1957.

Foto: Kay Nietfeld/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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Across Germany, buildings went up in a hurry. By the 1960s, 570,000 residential units were being built each year in West Germany. In the 1970s, East Germany too was quickly constructing new apartment blocks, like this one in the city center of Dresden.

Foto: Matthias Hiekel/ picture alliance / dpa
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German cityscapes in the former west and the former east are today dominated by high-rise apartment complexes. Many residents pine for the tight-knit neighborhoods that existed prior to the war.


Bernd Wüstneck/ picture-alliance/ dpa

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City centers too succumbed to modernism. Shopping streets across western Germany are virtually indistinguishable from each other and function took precedence over form. This particular pedestrian zone is in Dortmund.

Foto: DDP
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Adolf Hitler's favorite architect Albert Speer was tasked with drawing up plans for rebuilding Germany once the war was over. Thousands of architects were involved, generating a modernist view of the new Germany. After the war, many of these same architects help reconstruct Germany, using the same modernist ideas.

Foto: Norman Smith/ Getty Images
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Hitler favored monumental buildings and bombastic boulevards. His vision never came to fruition, but postwar Germany did incorporate many of the modernist ideas promoted by the Nazis.

Foto: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images
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Many in Germany found the country's post-reconstruction cities difficult to love. Indeed, pressure has grown to get rid of some of the most horrendously ugly postwar buildings. One of the buildings to go is Frankfurt's municipal services building. Here, a worker throws furniture out of the building in preparation for its demolition, which began at the beginning of this year. Nine prewar-style buildings will go up in its place.

Foto: Marius Becker/ picture alliance / dpa
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Some German cities have gone to great lengths to rebuild exactly as they were before the war, Dresden first among them. The rebuilding of the Dresden Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, was completed in 2005. Several other architectural monuments in the city have likewise been rebuilt.

Foto: Ralf Hirschberger/ dpa
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After the war, a debate broke out in Germany over whether to rebuild exact copies of old buildings or to radically depart from pre-war Germany. Many felt that exact reproductions were tantamount to acting as if the war had never happen. Others felt that radical modernism ignored centuries of pre-war German history. Some projects, like the Neues Museum in Berlin, pictured here after a 1943 bombing raid, managed to find the balance between those two views.

Foto: ddp
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Here, the Neues Museum on the day of its reopening in 2009. The museum combines elements of the original building with modern accents. It preserves the ravages of war and pollution, providing an impressive fusion of the old and the new and simultaneously celebrating both ruins and contemporary construction.

Foto: ddp
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Many see Berlin as having been successful in incorporating the old with the new. Still, the German capital has not been free of controversy. The city elected to tear down the former East German capital building and seat of the communist government, the Palace of the Republic, to make way for the reconstruction of the original city palace.

Foto: ddp
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Badly damaged in the war, the original palace was razed in 1950. For now, it is unclear whether the palace will ever be built due to funding problems, and not everyone is a fan of the project. Due to savings measures passed in response to the economic crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has decided to postpone reconstruction of the palace during its current term in office, which many see as a death blow to the ambitious project.

Foto: dpa
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German reconstruction has led to some odd political battles, like the one pictured here in the Westend quarter of Hamburg. Once an upscale area home to the wealthy in the 19th century, it escaped the war relatively unscathed, but was slated for demolition in the 1970s to make way for high-rises. Left-wing squatters, including former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, defended the capitalists of the past against the capitalists of the present.

Foto: Roland_Witschel/ picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb
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Despite the wave of nostalgia that is currently gripping Germany, it is unlikely that many cityscapes -- like the Frankfurt skyline -- will change much. Still, many of the ugliest modernist structures will be redone and others will be demolished. But the debate continues. "Why should we grant the wishes of retirees who only want to see their past once more?" asks the Dresden architect Peter Kulka.

Foto: Frank_May/ picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb
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