Roaring war and silent peace? Initial reflections on the soundscape in the Ruhr between area bombing and reconstruction

In this chapter, I explore how the Ruhr area of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) sounded around 1945, from the battle sounds of the Allied carpet bombing, through the atmospheres of vanished cities and the soundscape of bunker life, to the hot jazz bands that symbolised a new era of humanity, tolerance, freedom and democracy after the Nazi dictatorship. I thematise the traumas endured by people at that time, who woke up every night screaming, with the wartime experiences still hammering in their heads, and recall the sounds of reconstruction. In relating the dreadful sounds of the Allied squadrons, West German citizens emphasised the stunning evidence of crimes committed not by the Germans against others, but by others against Germany. e thesis presented here is that their auditory experiences of night-time bombing in the West nourished an identity as victims – here as victims of the Allied bombing campaign. is is a corresponding story, which derives its own persuasive power particularly from the remembered sounds of the reconstructed industries, which indicated: “We’re back!” It becomes clear that an orientation towards a xed polarisation between “loud war” and “quiet peace” does not work. In this chapter, I argue for simultaneous thinking about the non-simultaneous, for overlapping soundscapes and for case studies of examples, situations, details and fragments, aware of anthropological and technical, as well as spatial, references.


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