Magazine article History Today

It Started with a Kiss: David Culbert Visits an Exhibition at the Allied (Alliierten) Museum in the Former Headquarters of the US Occupation Forces in Berlin

Magazine article History Today

It Started with a Kiss: David Culbert Visits an Exhibition at the Allied (Alliierten) Museum in the Former Headquarters of the US Occupation Forces in Berlin

Article excerpt

THE ALLIED MUSEUM, is located on Clayallee, named after the US military governor of Germany from 1947-49, Lucius D. Clay, across from what was the official entrance to the Headquarters for American Occupation Forces in Berlin. The museum, which opened in 1998, has been developed with the co-operation of the US, British, French and German governments, and tells the story of the Western forces and Berlin from 1945 to 1990. It incorporates the Outpost Theater, built for American soldiers in the early 1950s, as well as a restored Hastings TG503, the largest British plane to be used in the Berlin Airlift.

The latest exhibition, 'It Started with a Kiss. GermanAllied Love Affairs after 1945', is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which occupation policy for Germany was shaped by thousands of individual relationships, ones that did indeed begin with a kiss. It looks at how the large number of fraternizations between the former enemies was dealt with, both in the Allied countries and in Germany.

Allied occupation policy presumed that post-war Germany would he filled with ardent Nazis, so the official policy called for non-fraternization, to keep occupation soldiers from possible harm. However, in spite of this, love affairs between Allied troops and German Frauleins were common.

The juxtaposition of individual stories, official and feature films, posters, artefacts and photographs lent by all the participatory countries makes the exhibition of exceptional interest. One example is a snapshot showing American soldiers posing before a billboard warning of non-fraternization. A second snapshot has the 'no' in the billboard carefully obscured by one of the GI's.

An official film made for Allied occupation forces, Your Job in Germany, (1945) not only underscored non-fraternization, but recognized the intellectual limitations of the average American soldier: 'Non-fraternization means not making friends.' Visitors to the exhibition have the opportunity to view Your Job in Germany in its entirety, if they wish.

The blend of private memory and public policy is reflected in an exhibition design that invites visitors to learn the stories of many couples, American, British, and--and more rarely--French, who fell in love, endured endless bureaucratic hassles, and finally got permission to marry (thousands of German women took advantage of the removal of the ban on marriage at the end of 1946 to emigrate as 'war brides' to Britain, France or the US. Brief oral history transcripts, in three languages, tell these individual stories, accompanied by contemporary photographs and documents. The individual stories do not all have happy endings. Most of those featured are relatively unknown, though an exception might be made for Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the US-born reporter for The New York Times whose German-born father in 1947 returned to Germany (from the US where he had emigrated in 1929) as an occupation officer for the US government. Sixty years later, Christopher remains unforgiving of his father tot abandoning his mother, Laetitia, in favour of a German girl Rosemarie Mueller: 'So Rosemarie would be my new mother. It was then that I understood that sometimes grown-ups wanted to meet you and were nice to you and offered to go out on a cold, cold winter day to buy you stamps for your collection not just because you were you and they liked you for being you. Sometimes grown-ups were nice to you because they had something else in mind. …

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