Berlin photo exhibition sheds light on lives of US soldiers in Germany


'Drink Coca-Cola!'

The recipe for Coca-Cola came to Europe in 1929. But it was only after the end of the war, in the early 1950s, that the brownish brew become a cult drink for young people, including German youth. For American GIs, coke was a part of everyday life. The caffeinated soft drink brightened up even the most tired of soldiers.



Much of the food the soldiers' families needed was imported from the US; American ice cream, toast and peanut butter couldn't be found in German stores. In the 1950s and '60s, such items could only be bought at the large US Army supply stores where they were tax free, and therefore cheaper. These inexpensive luxuries were also attractive to many Germans.



Sports played an important role in the lives of American soldiers and their families. Baseball, basketball and American football events were held in large venues and attracted big crowds. German guests were also welcome. American cheerleaders, shown here in 1959 in Bad Nauheim, were a big part of the show.


Army brats

Even regular military parades, in which the US Army presented their armed forces, were part of everyday life in the barracks. This was especially fun for the children of soldiers because popcorn and sweets were often provided. In this picture taken in 1954, two kids watch a parade at the Air Force base in Landstuhl.


Aircraft inspection

Only American technicians and experts were allowed to work at US military bases in West Germany. Everything was in the hands of the US Army. Fear of sabotage or military espionage was especially great during the Cold War, and these fears were reflected in the security policies. Here, a technician inspects the turbines of a military aircraft stationed in Bitburg.


Women in the army

Initially, there weren't many women in the US Army to be stationed in Germany. That changed during the postwar occupation and later, as the US military units became US bases in Europe. This photo from the 1980s shows an air traffic controller working at the Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt.


Inspecting the weapons

The daily lives of American soldiers were strictly organized in the 1960s. Seen here, GIs wearing full gear in Nuremberg arrive for weapons inspection. The supplies of the military unit were counted piece by piece, and tested for serviceability. The Nuremberg military community alone consisted of more than 15,000 soldiers and 11,700 family members.


Military exercises

Troops stationed in Berlin and the surrounding area regularly held military exercises. The photo above shows two soldiers during a training exercise in Grunewald in 1959. This image, along with around 200 others in the exhibition, were taken by military photographers on behalf of the US Army — as a way to cultivate its image. The works on display are part of the Provan Collection.

American troops have been stationed in Germany since World War II. The photo exhibition "Little America" at the Allied Museum in Berlin gives a rare glimpse into the lives of soldiers and their families.

As the victorious power, the US took control of the newly established occupied zones on German soil in the spring of 1945, together with France, the United Kingdom and Russia. US troops were also present in the American sector of Berlin.

All over Germany, US Army forces were housed in specially designed barracks and military bases. These settlements were affectionately known as Little America, and were a slice of home for the soldiers in postwar Germany.

West Germany's occupation ended in 1955, but the US Army kept its military bases. Photographs from the late 1940s to the 1980s are currently on show in an exhibition at Berlin's Allied Museum.

Read more:1968 through the lens of German photo journalist Robert Lebeck 

Daily life

The photographs have been selected from the private collection of the art historian and collector John Provan. He grew up in Little America, and spent his youth on the Sembach Air Base near Kaiserslautern, largely isolated from the German population.

"The settlement was located in a remote location, and as soldiers' children, as so-called 'brats,' we felt very united," he said in an interview with curator Olivia Fuhrich. "Little America was like in the States, everything came from there; you did not feel that you were anywhere else."

Provan felt it was "a calling" to secure these historical treasures. "For me, it's important to preserve the image that the GIs left here in Germany: the influence of American culture, language, democracy, fast food, pop music, sports and clothing, like jeans, for example."

The exhibition, featuring around 200 photographs taken by Army photographers, have been made available to the public for the first time.

The Allied Museum in Berlin is open to visitors every day except Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Admission is free.


Relaxing in the Zollverein coal mine complex

Large smokestacks and monolithic winding towers have long shaped the landscape of the Ruhr area. Some of the facilities have been preserved as industrial monuments. Joseph Stoffels shows how impressive the coal mines were in their heyday at the beginning of the 1950s in an exhibition at the Ruhr Museum Essen in the former Zollverein coal mine. It opens January 22.


A growing industry

Peacefully grazing cows are shown against the backdrop of a coal mine. Such images were favored by Stoffels' clients in the coal and steel industry and supported what was referred to as the "flourishing mining landscape" in the Ruhr area. Josef Stoffels was enthusiastic about the monumental industrial plants and ambitiously documented many of the region's mines.


Scholven mine in Gelsenkirchen

Between 1952 and 1954, Stoffels photographed primarily on color slide films and on negatives in all formats. He was sponsored by the photo film company Agfa, which in turn used the images to promote the color quality of its products. Parts of the Scholven mine shown here have been preserved as a monument today.


Coal mines could be beautiful

Josef Stoffels photographed industrial plants in very different ways. At one point he concerned himself with depicting parts of buildings in a simple manner. He later adopted a style of industrial romanticism and featured imposing clouds of smoke, such as those shown here at the Lorraine mine in Bochum. He happily allowed himself to be photographed with his car, a Borgward Isabella.


Stoffels at work

During the war, Stoffels suffered a severe leg injury and also lost an eye. As a result, he was never alone on a shoot. He was typically accompanied by his daughter Irmgard. Many photos of Stoffels on the job, such as this one, were likely taken by her.


A tower at Bochum-Wattenscheid

Since the industrial plants spanned several kilometers, areal photographs were the only way to capture the mine as a whole. Even individual larger components, such as this winding tower of a mine in Wattenscheid, were difficult to photograph due to the narrow structure of the facilities.


A life in color

A miner works in the pit of the Carl Funke mine in Essen Heisingen. For a color photo documentation project, Josef Stoffels photographed underground. Because this ambitious project was never finished due to lack of funding, many of his images of workers in the tunnels went undiscovered for years. The Ruhr Museum Essen brings them to light in a new exhibition.


Documenting the lives of miners

Those who came up from shafts "underground" after a shift were soot-smeared with poisonous coal dust. Coal dust and smoke from the chimneys not only bothered the miners, but also the residents in the Ruhr area. the "Krupp cough" was named after the steel company Krupp, which plagued both older miners and children.


Social responsibility in the mines

The impacts of heavy physical stress from mining were well-known to the heads of industrial plants. In order to preserve the work abilities of their employees, they built hospitals, sports clubs and provided childcare. In this picture, Josef Stoffels captured a scene in the kindergarten of the Mathias Stinnes mining area in Essen.


The shaft of the Prosper mine in Bottrop

The Prosper mine in Bottrop is one of the last two coal mines still in operation, but will close in 2018. Throughout the year, many events will focus on Germany's withdraw from coal. The exhibition "Josef Stoffels - Rock Coal - Photographs from the Ruhr Area" will be on display in Essen until September 9th.