Bonn, World City: Explaining the FRG’s Provisional Capital through Government-Commissioned Documentaries during the Adenauer Years

Jan Uelzmann


This essay examines two documentaries on Bonn produced by the Deutsche Wochenschau that the Federal government commissioned during the Adenauer period (1949–63), to make the argument that they portray Bonn as having all the necessary features to compete with any “permanent” capital of the Western world, in spite of its status as provisional capital. In organizing their narratives, both films embrace Bonn’s inherent contradiction between a provincial setting and the international capital duties in such a way as to use it to demarcate the capital’s provisionality, thereby deflecting wide-spread public criticism of Bonn as capital due to financial and political considerations. In their thematic alignment, the films thus reflect the complexity of the sociopolitical founding discourses attached to the installment of the FRG on one of the central fault lines of the Cold War, the repercussions of which can be traced all through Adenauer’s chancellorship. Bonn emerges from the films as the dynamic capital of a new Germany after 1945, which, led by Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as its central architect, took a confident and forward-looking role in world politics.

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