Film: 8367

Social History | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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Drama-documentary about housing conditions and poverty in post-war Germany. Introduction of modern techniques for building houses fast and cheap 1940's

Roofs of a city. Narrator: 'Our story takes place in Gelsenkirchen. But it could be anywhere.' Street with cyclist. An old, ugly house, slums. Interior. Flat of Hans Ruhrmann, metal-worker; wife, 2 daughters and a son. They have breakfast, son leaves in a hurry. When he shuts the door, something breaks from the ceiling and plaster falls to the floor. Father swears. The couple talk about the bad condition of the house, that they can't do anything against it and have to be glad to have a flat at all: they do not have much money. The kitchen is very dirty, without plaster and seems to be used as the bedroom as well.
Industrial plants, siren.
Father leaves the house (sadly and slow), melancholy music. He walks to work, passing through dirty and empty streets. Narrator: 'This is only one case out of millions (40% of the population of West Germany) whose housing conditions are insufficient.' Ruhrmann walks through streets, looking at scaffolds and building sites. He looks at shop windows, slows down, stops and turns. Building site for a house, with scaffolds and workers. Shop window of a jeweller. Ruhrmann. Entrance of a building contractor. Ruhrmann thinks, then enters. Conversation between Rurhmann and contractor. The contractor offers a house for 12000 Mark. Bank interior. Ruhrmann is told that he can have the money if he can get securities. He looks sad. Cooperative society, interior. It is impossible to help Ruhrmann because the building costs are too high. Ruhrmann walks through streets with destroyed, bomb damaged houses. Sign: 'To the Zoo.' Zoo. An elephant leaves his house. Ruhrmann passes by the monkey house. Monkeys. Ruhrmann. The bear house. Ruhrmann, looking sad. Bears. One stands up on his hind legs. Ruhrmann, starting to smile. Bears. Ruhrmann turns. A building site of a house. Walls are erected. Ruhrmann asks what is going on, the foreman tells him that this is a new way to build houses: Like building a card-house. It is an international development, fast and cheap, and in 5 weeks there will be built houses for 4 families. Workers start building walls on the ground: Filling a form with concrete while sparing out the windows. For isolation in summer and winter they use isolating plates or a special sort of concrete. When the walls (on the ground) are dry, they are erected with a crane, then moved to the place where they belong. The frames for the windows are removed, and the workers start building the next wall. The corners of the walls are fastened by building a form around them and filling it with concrete. Rurhmann is enthusiastic: It should be easy to rebuild the destroyed Germany. The foreman objects that the people don't trust this modern technique of building houses; but Ruhrmann says they will if they see the evidence.
Destroyed houses. Debris is collected by excavators - it can be used as material for new houses. Plant for processing debris. Conveyor belt with debris. The debris is getting cleaned, crushed, shoveled in big containers and there mixed with cement. So the material for the new houses is produced. - Another modern technique for building houses ('Schuettbetonverfahren'): to build shells of metal or wood and fill them with wet concrete. Workers erect the shells. A container filled with concrete is brought by a crane. The concrete is filled into the shells. - Building sites with workers who use the new technique. Narrator: 'In Stuttgart, this technique is used particularly often, and in Bochum, they use special lifts to fill the concrete into the shells.' Workers building shells. Narrator: 'They build three floors in one week.'
Ruhrmann and foreman. Ruhrmann worries that his brother-in-law, a bricklayer, may get unemployed now. The foreman assures that all the bricklayers need 20 more years only to repair the damaged brick buildings. Bricklayers repairing brick buildings. Narrator assures that in future there will still be built brick buildings and that the bricklayers won't get unemployed. Workers producing 'modern and better' bricks: Hollow bricks, breeze blocks.
Workers erecting prefabricated houses. Narrator: 'Prefabricated houses are too expensive to be built in grand style.'
Ruhrmann and foreman. Ruhrmann worries that he still has to pay for a house, and that he is only a poor worker. Foreman says that there are millions of poor men, and if they work together, they will manage. All they need is a cooperative society. Fronts of banks and building societies. Narrator: 'Talk to banks, building societies and authorities. We all want the same. We must work together.' Building site, workers: A self help society building a house on their own. Customers looking at models of houses.
Ruhrmann leaving his old house, but not sad anymore: He has new hope. He knows what he has to do to have an own house one day. Ruhrmann buys a newspaper. Headlines of good news for building new houses because of financial supports.
Shots of smoking and discussing people at conferences and new house fronts.

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