This summer, thanks to a research grant from the Fordham College Dean’s Office, Ricky Bordelon (FCRH ’15), a double-major in History and Political Science was able to travel to Berlin to do research for his History senior thesis. Ricky wrote to us with some details of his fascinating project and the archives and sites that he visited in Berlin.
My thesis will examine the political and cultural implications of the postwar reconstruction of two boulevards in Cold War Berlin: Unter den Linden and the Kurfürstendamm (or Ku’damm as the locals call it). It will seek to analyze how architecture and urban planning was used by both East and West to promote ideology and to win over the “hearts and minds” of the German people in the greater context of the Cold War.
Most of my research was done at the Landesarchiv Berlin, which houses the official documents of the state of Berlin. My favorite find from the collection was a series of memoranda from urban planning meetings held by the leaders of the SED (East German ruling socialist party) that discussed how they would redevelop Unter den Linden to promote their socialist ideology. I also was able to look through their photography archives and found a number of incredible photos of Cold War Berlin, including some of Kennedy’s famous visit in 1963.
I also visited the Staatsbibliothek Berlin which contained many scholarly works in German not available in the United States including many interesting first-hand accounts of the reconstruction of the boulevards.
More than research, however, it was incredible to walk down these famous streets (and even stay on the Ku’damm for a week!) that contain so much history and to visit the places that I will soon write extensively about (I even got to see a German-language production of Cabaret). For a week, I was able to be “ein Berliner,” as President Kennedy famously put it.