Wiederaufbau Elsass



Film about the reconstruction of destroyed houses in Alsace and Baden by the Germans


Kodak logo / Sign: 'The chief of civil administration in Alsace / department of building'; Pan over house in Freiburg; Man looks out of barred door; Pan over Palais possibly in Strasbourg <not identified>; Architecture office in Freiburg (inside): architect with model and with plans, architects at the desk; Strasbourg city center with cathedral; Driving picture from car; parked cars in the courtyard of a castle; Title: Mulhouse (Alsace) / Arcades of a house, city center with town hall; Title: Eschenzweiler (district of Mulhouse) / single-family houses; Title: Niedermichelbach (Mulhouse district) / Old farms u. New building; Men at lunch; Work on construction site, pan over farm with animals; Sign <new construction management reconstruction Kolmar>; Pan over model and newly built farms; Downtown Colmar; Place name 'Weier im Thal'; War destruction and new construction projects, barracks on the outskirts; Pan across river; Sign 'Neubaueitung Weissenburg'; Streets and rows of houses in Wissembourg Architect in office; Farms and new construction projects; Place name 'Lauterburg / Landkreis Weissenburg'; Village center with war destruction, new construction projects; Courtyard with cars; Man with film reels and dispenser; Photographs of new construction projects; Place name 'Auenheim'; Pan across farms and new construction projects; Horse is shod; Sign 'NSDAP / Ortsgruppe Willstätt'; Pan across farms and new construction projects; Driving picture from car; Place name sign 'Marlen'; Driving picture from car; Pan across the farm, men and family in the parlor, women on the steps of the farm; Town sign 'Goldscheuer'; Driving picture from car; Pan across farm, boys with satchels on the street; Sign 'Gasthaus zur Wanzenauer Mühle'; New building projects, farm, men on the street and in front of a church; Driving record; Town sign 'Rust'; Town center with historical buildings; Men argue in front of a bridge; Hereditary Prince's Inn; Street with farms, horse-drawn carriages; Sign 'Weisweil'; Sign 'Rathaus Weisweil / Landkreis Emmendingen'; Town center with historical buildings; Schild 'Zur Kr.Gef. Accommodation Burkheim '; Town center with historical buildings; Driving record; Space with new construction projects; Processing of tree trunks Slave labor>, sawmill inside and outside; Sign 'reconstruction Neuenburg Rheinweiler'; Inspection of new construction projects, barracks, construction site. //


Reference / film number :  LFS 9321
Date :  1942
Coloration :  Schwarzweiß
Sound :  Stummfilm
Timecode :  00:08:25
Running time :  00:00:00
Film-maker :  Balke, Curt
Reel format :  16 mm
Genre :  Amateurfilm
Thematics :  Second World War : German occupation - Annexation of Alsace, Cross-border tourism, Industry
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

The silent 16mm black and white film made in 1942 by the Freiburg architect Curt Balke documents the reconstruction of villages on both sides of the Rhine that were destroyed during WW II. The civil administration's building department was responsible for this reconstruction. Some sequences have an official character, others seem to document more private excursions.

Civil administration in Alsace - Construction department

The seat of this very important resort was the Palais Kinglin in Strasbourg, which is now used as a hotel. In 1942 the building was extended towards Place Broglie, which was the only structural measure that was implemented in Strasbourg during the German occupation. The Alsatian metropolis, which had already been largely evacuated in September 1939, was occupied by German troops on June 19, 1940. A German administrative apparatus was established. With the 'Aktion Alsace', the Alsatians were to become German 'Volksgenossen' in a very short time. During the four years of occupation, the French language was banned in both private and public areas. All names and street names were Germanized, all children between 10 and 18 years of age had to join the Hitler Youth. In 1942 conscription was introduced for all Alsatians, many of whom died on the Eastern Front. Hitler's plan was to convert Alsace and Lorraine into German territories within a decade without speaking of annexation. The notorious Robert Wagner, who was jointly responsible for the mass deportation of Jews, became Reich governor and head of the civil administration in Alsace; he was sentenced to death by a French military tribunal in 1946 and executed. During a visit on June 28, 1940, Adolf Hitler made sketches for the structural redesign of the city. They formed the basis of an architectural competition to redesign Strasbourg. In 1942 the plans and models of the eight Baden architects selected, whom Curt Balke and his colleagues studied in the film, were received.

Reconstruction of Alsace

In June 1940 the German Wehrmacht occupied the whole of Alsace within a week and took Colmar (June 17), Mulhouse (June 18) and Strasbourg (June 19). The battle zones presented a devastating picture of destruction: "In Baden 600 buildings were completely destroyed and 3,000 damaged, on the Alsatian side, however, 5,700 buildings - mostly through artillery impact - were completely destroyed and 24,000 damaged." The evacuated civilian population along the Rhine should be able to return to their homeland as quickly as possible (see film "Deutsche Heimkehrer"). The NS-regime made 400 million Reichsmarks available for rapid reconstruction. Curt Balke documents this process in Mülhausen, Eschenzweiler and Niedermichelbach with his 16mm camera and records the inspection of the construction progress by his colleagues on film. Again and again he shows farms. In order to rebuild Kolmar, Balke films an architectural model and buildings of the city. Twelve kilometers from Kolmar is the medieval village of Weier im Tal (Wihr-au-Val), the center of which was almost completely destroyed by the Wehrmacht on June 18, 1940. You can see a lot of ruins and rubble, but also rebuilt houses and construction sites. Today the "Platz des 18. Juni 1940" commemorates this sad day. This is followed by shots from the little destroyed Weissenburg (Wissembourg) in northern Alsace. In contrast, the lower town in Lauterburg (Lauterbourg) was almost completely destroyed. In the film you can see Balke looking at the footage and photos of houses. The next place could be Auenheim in Alsace. Here Balke films various buildings and a new half-timbered building and scenes of rural life such as the work of a farrier.

Reconstruction in Baden

After five minutes the enamel sign “NSDAP local group Willstätt” comes into the picture, followed by shots of the reconstruction. Balke films the main street in Willstätt from the moving car. Balke and his colleagues visit Marlen and Goldscheuer in the district of Kehl and Rust on the German side of the Rhine, where he takes up meetings with farmers, numerous half-timbered houses, school children, work on construction sites, his colleagues at work and life in the country again. A sign shows the way “To the prisoner of war accommodation Weisweil work command 13036 main camp VB 150 meters”. Prisoners of war were registered in main camps and distributed to work units, e.g. for reconstruction. The next stop is Weisweil (Emmendingen district) and Burkheim am Kaiserstuhl, where there was also a prisoner of war camp. Then Balke films scenes in Breisach am Rhein. Men work wood in a sawmill.

The Freiburg architect Alfred Wolf led the reconstruction in Neuchâtel, a very destroyed community in Baden. Balke is filming his colleagues there again during the inspection. It houses numerous newly built or repaired houses and courtyards. The barracks could serve as temporary accommodation for the villagers returning from the evacuation. The film ends with footage of Balke in conversation with a woman, the delegation visiting another construction site and a special building above the Rhine.

André Pörner

Identified persons

Curt Balke

Places and monuments

Escherzweiler; Niedermichelbach; Kolmar; Weissenburg; Lauterburg; Rust; Colmar; Wihr au Val; Mühlhausen; Mulhouse; Weissburg; Wissenbourg; Lauterbourg; Auenheim; Willstädt; Goldscheuer; Weissweil; Burkheim; Neuenburg; Strasbourg Palais Kinglin; Breisach am Rhein; Neuchatel


VOIGT, Wolfgang, Deutsche Architekten im Elsass 1940-1944. Planen und Bauen im annektierten Grenzland. Ernst Wasmuth Verlag: Berlin, Tübingen 2012.

Amtskette Universität Strasbourg: https://ns-ministerien-bw.de/2016/11/wie-ein-badischer-ministerialbeamter-die-amtskette-des-rektors-der-universitaet-strassburg-heim-ins-reich-holte-ein-beitrag-zum-75-jahrestag-der-eroeffnung-der-reichsuniversitaet-strassburg/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Besetzung Frankreichs: https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/der-zweite-weltkrieg/kriegsverlauf/besatzungsregime-in-frankreich.html (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Breisach: https://reisezieledeutschland.de/breisach-am-rhein/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Germanisierung Strasbourgs: https://ns-ministerien-bw.de/2017/04/franzoesische-schminke-weicht-altem-deutschem-kulturgut-die-germanisierung-strassburgs-am-beispiel-der-umbenennung-von-strassen-und-plaetzen/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); NS-Ministerien: https://ns-ministerien-bw.de/ns-ministerien/baden/chronik-1933-1945/tabellarische-chronik-1933-1945-fuer-baden/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Robert Wagner: https://ns-ministerien-bw.de/2014/12/robert-wagner-gauleiter-reichsstatthalter-in-baden-und-chef-der-zivilverwaltung-im-elsass/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Stammlager: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stammlager; http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gliederungen/Kriegsgefangenenlager/Stammlager.htm (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Straßburg: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straßburg#Im_Deutschen_Reich (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Wihr au Val: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wihr-au-Val, https://www.wihr-au-val.fr/18-juin-1940/ (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Wissembourg: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wissembourg (konsultiert 30.11.2020); Willstätt: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willstätt (konsultiert 30.11.2020)

Zivilverwaltung Elsass: https://www.deutsche-digitale-bibliothek.de/item/LYRNNDM5MN57T2U53VISDRIOKXY2J4UT (konsultiert 30.11.2020).

  1. This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.