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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Faces of Work

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

Stiftung

The donation contains six locations:

BW-photo: Joseph Klimanel in his slightly dirty work jacket in front of a poster marking the 66th anniversary of the October Revolution: with his beard and cap, he resembles Lenin, who is gazing down from the photo behind him.

Joseph Klimanel, VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg (EKL), 1983

BW-photo: A brigade of railway workers walks along the tracks, inspecting them. It is led by a woman who is writing something in her notebook. Several freight trains are parked in the background.

German Reichsbahn depot Rummelsburg, 1970

BW-photo: A colleague receives carnations and a certificate from her brigade, marking her service anniversary. Everyone has gathered for the celebration in the company hall, still wearing their working clothes.

Brigade celebration, VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg (EKL), 1979

BW-photo: A man in the background sits on a chair next to a waist-high metal cabinet, browsing through a newspaper.

Reading the newspaper during a break in work, VEB Kabelwerk Köpenick (KWK), 1986

BW-photo: Pohler sits at a desk wearing a suit and puffing on a cigar. Next to him is the Party Secretary, dressed in a striped shirt and tie, in front of a portrait of Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the GDR.

Georg Pohler (seated), Director General of VEB Kabelwerk Oberspree (KWO), with the factory's Party Secretary, 1977

BW-photo: A woman balancing a bouquet of flowers on her arm stands in front of a passage between two buildings. Above her a banner emblazoned with "VEB Elektromechanik Kaulsdorf. Our Berlin calendar: 1 million coffee and tea makers by 21/XII/1984!"

Worker receives an award, VEB Elektromechanik Kaulsdorf, 1984

Faces of Work

Photographs of East Berlin industrial plants by Günter Krawutschke, 1971-1986

Große Galerie, New Building, 4th floor

6 March 2019 to 8 March 2020

Smoking chimneys, people wearing aprons and blue collars – Berlin before the fall of the wall is an important centre of industry.

BW-photo: An older worker in a dirty work apron uses a brief break to comb her hair, laughing.

VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg (EKL), 1979

This applies in particular to the eastern part of the divided city. In both a political and industrial sense, East Berlin is the beating heart of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). A large number of Volkseigener Betriebe (or VEB, meaning Publicly Owned Enterprises) are spread across the city, including more than a dozen large companies with several thousand employees.

Portraits of East German workers

Günter Krawutschke knows this world like few others. He has worked as a reporter and photographer for a Berlin publishing house since 1965. The industrial plants in the eastern part of the city are a focal point of his work.

This frequently takes him to factories like Kabelwerk Oberspree (KWO), Metallhütten- und Halbzeugwerke (BMHW) or VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg (EKL).

He is less interested in production processes or the company statistics and is actually fascinated by the people working there. In addition to official press appointments, he takes the time to study this world and capture it with his camera.

BW-photo: Hard labour at BMHW: The company bends, presses, rolls and draws metal. The exhaustion of the two workers in the vast factory building is plain to see. One of them is rubbing dust from his eyes.

VEB Berliner Metallhütten- und Halbzeugwerke (BMHW), 1983

50 selected images provide unvarnished and sometimes intimate insight into this long-gone world: They document emotional moments and strong characters against the austere backdrop of arduous working life – photos that were usually excluded from public exhibitions during the GDR era.

30 years since the Peaceful Revolution and the Fall of the Wall

In this role, Krawutschke unwittingly becomes the chronicler of a reality that only a few years later ceases to exist. Following the political upheaval of 1989– 90, there is radical economic change in East Germany. Today, the factory buildings in which he photographed workers and youth brigades are often Asian markets or gentrified lofts.

30 years since the Peaceful Revolution and the Fall of the Wall: This anniversary is a fitting occasion to use these photographs to commemorate the actual reality of work in the late GDR – beyond any propaganda.

The photographer

Günter Krawutschke was born 1940 in Staßfurt, Saxony-Anhalt. After secondary school and military service, he worked as an assistant cameraman at GDR television (DFF) in East Berlin. He was as a reporter and photographer for a Berlin publishing house between 1965 and 1992. Since then he has been a freelance photographer and designer.

BW-photo: View of the huge plant – with smoking stacks, cooling towers and conveyor belts. Heaps of coal beneath a blanket of snow are in the foreground.

Gas coking plant Berlin-Lichtenberg, 1981

While still working, he completed an apprenticeship as a photographer and then a Diplom degree at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig. He was a member of the Association of Fine Artists in the GDR.

Besides industrial portraits, he focused in particular on architecture in the centre of Berlin – for instance by documenting the Spandauer Vorstadt, reconstruction of the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Straße in Berlin from 1988 to 1995, or the development of Friedrichstraße since 1990.

Header photo:

Playing cards at VEB Transformatorenwerk "Karl Liebknecht" Oberschöneweide (TRO), 1979

© Image rights: SDTB, Historical Archive / all photographs: Günter Krawutschke