Video by Jacek Taszakowski

Battle of Berlin '45

Filmed documentation of re-enactments

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, some European nations felt the need to reinvent their identities. This always starts with a process of rewriting history. Nation-states have initiated a politics of history that shapes past events in a new way, often through education programs or the erecting of museums and monuments. Through such a politics based on the past, the narrative of the future is constructed.

One such example can be found in Poland, in the phenomenon of "people’s theater", groups who perform/re-enact historical events—usually battles. Real enthusiasts—dressed in costume, with vintage weapons and other military paraphernalia—participate in these events. Such re-enactments have become very popular and are supported by local authorities.


Even if these spectacles pretend to present history in an objective way, they nevertheless incite very emotional reactions from the public. Try to imagine that you are standing next to soldiers shooting at each other, watching executions and bloody battles—but you are safe. And after the spectacle, you might have the chance to make a souvenir snapshot with a soldier in an SS uniform.


The 7th Berlin Biennale has invited a few such amateur groups to stage a re-enactment of the Battle of Berlin 1945. This spectacular battle depicts the defeat of the capital of the Third Reich in April and May 1945 and Berlin’s final surrender. It takes place in public spaces in Berlin and Warsaw, and is re-staged by members of re-enactment groups from Poland representing the Red Army, Polish 1st Army, and German forces. The same scenario is performed in both cities and addressed to the broad public. Before the re-enactments take place, a trailer announcing the events can be seen in Deutschlandhaus; after the battles take place documentation of them is presented there. The re-enactments raise questions about the mechanisms of constructing the narrations of national identity of the two neighboring countries.


by Artur Żmijewski and Igor Stokfiszewski



“Battle of Berlin ’45″ is a collaboration in solidarity with the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. More >



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10th Berlin Biennale