[Historical Fiction Prompt] 1945 | A Dance Club in Berlin

View the original film footage from 1945. 

The explanation on the British PATHÉ website says: “Various shots of couples dancing in a nightclub. Some of the men behind uniform – seems to be all nationalities (!) – the women are in civilian cloths. Waitress walks by with trays of drinks. Female Russian soldier pushes past the couples on the dance floor. – Could be the end of the fraternisation ban.”

Let’s assume that it is, and that couples who have met and like each other, are *finally* allowed to meet officially for an evening out together.

Narrate how a couple – a British soldier and a young German woman – who have just met, date for the first time.

Narrate how the evening begins. How the couple are still shy, until the man finally asks the lady if she wants to dance?

→ Describe the scene from his perspective and later, from hers.

As an inner monologue, narrate the fears, the private thoughts of both the British soldier and the German woman. Some ideas to get you started …

 

Include a flashback. 

How did SHE dress up for the occasion? Did she have a dress of her own, or did she borrow one from a neighbour or friend?

How did HE prepare in his soldier’s barracks, before he came to the nightclub? Does he feel comfortable wearing his uniform? Describe his feelings towards the German inhabitants, and himself as part of the occupying forces.

 

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* For her, watch a video on how to prepare a 1940s hairdo here and here

Then describe how the woman brushes her hair, in order to prepare for the occasion.

 

* For him, describe how his uniform looks. To get an impression, peruse this book (find a free preview here). Choose a British soldier’s rank, and the matching uniform. Describe it in your scene.

 

 

When watching the original film footage again, pay attention to SMALL DETAILS.

Details that were extremely special during the 1945 days.

* Cigarettes – They almost served as a “secret currency” during those post-war days. 

* Liquor – The waitresses brings trays and trays with glasses full of drinks.

* Narrate how the German girl feels while listening to jazz music – which had been STRICTLY forbidden during the Nazi era in Germany. Young people who listened to or played Jazz were transported to jail, labour camp or even a concentration camp(!) and now all of a sudden, it’s okay to listen to this lively, upbeat jazz music again.

* Narrate how she feels, as a German woman, taught for years and years that British, American and Russian soldiers are “enemies” – and yet now she finds herself dancing in the middle of a crowd of German women, dancing with “the enemy”

 

While creating a general “feel” for the situation, describing the music is crucial. To help you write about that, check the playlist on this website: “Music from the year 1945 / Die Schlager des Jahres 1945.”

→ If you scroll down a bit, there’s a playlist that you can listen to for free.

You will recognise that there are a bunch of German songs. There are also many English and American songs on this playlist.

 

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→ Over to you: Listen to 3 songs – whether English or German.

If you chose German songs, look up the lyrics by doing a quick online search. Use Google Translate to get an impression of what the text is about. You noticed that most of the lyrics are upbeat and positive, and many of them deal with first love.  🙂  

Other songs are old soldier songs; for example the song called LILI MARLENE, which can be found as an English (!) version on the playlist. Maybe an idea for a scene, where both he and she KNOWS the lyrics, and each of them can sing along in their own language?

Narrate their feelings when listening to the music – especially AFTER the cruelties of war, and now facing the hardships of post-war life every day.

Let them dance, and enjoy their new-found freedom.

Finally, let your scene end with a kiss between the British soldier and the German woman.

(Yes!)

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