My father LIFE Magazine Photographer Ralph Crane
These are snapshots, postcards, and paintings of my father's home town of Halberstadt, 82% of which was destroyed during WW II. It is located about two hours SW of Berlin in former East Germany. My father Ralph Crane, a long time staff photographer for LIFE magazine was born here in 1913 and left his home town in 1934.

This is a selection of images from my two visits to Halberstadt, and shows destruction -- and reconstruction -- of this once beautiful town with its long history of culture and commerce. Halberstadt is just NE of the Harz Mountains. Like other German towns, it was virtually destroyed by the Allies about one month before the defeat of the Third Reich in an all out last ditch effort to put an end to the war.

My great grandfather has a street named after him in honor of his contribution to Halberstadt. He was a physician and city council member, but is especially remembered because he treated people for free who could not afford visits to the doctor. His son - my grandfather - also became a physician. But his grandson Ralph Crane changed directions and rather than follow the family profession, was inspired by his father's hobby of photography and became a photojournalist.

My father started taking pictures avidly when he was about 12 and by the time he left Germany, he was already freelancing for the New York Times newspaper and World Wide Photo agency (now AP). The New York Times moved out of their Berlin bureau in 1933 when the political and social climate became extremely censored and journalists were prohibited to work unless they were part of the propaganda machine of the rising Third Reich. Ralph Crane moved one year later to England and then on to Geneva, Switzerland. There he met and married my mother who was a multi-lingual public relations person in the Geneva office of Les Interets de Geneve. From Switzerland he freelanced for many European magazines and newspapers, and for photo agencies like Camera Press and Black Star. After France capitulated to the Germans, Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers, and the future of Europe hung in the balance.

In Spring of 1941, Ralph Crane emigrated to the US via the international free port of Lisbon, under the auspices of the New York Times. My mother, who had been brave to marry him during all the uncertainty of the war, followed him one year later, also traveling through occupied France, then Spain, and on to NY City via Lisbon.

Ralph Crane was 21 when he left Halberstadt and his country of origin because of the political climate there. Years later in 1967 - traveling from sunny California - he returned for the first time to visit Halberstadt while he was doing a story for Time/Life's "Cookbooks from Around the World" series. His home town had been virtually obliterated during World War II and partially rebuilt - although beyond recognition - by the Soviets.

During this 1967 trip to Soviet occupied East Germany he spent six weeks on a rambling tour of his native country in a VW bus and took all the field photos for "The Cooking of Germany", published in 1968.

I knew very little about my father's life in Europe just before and during the war, except that he had left Germany because of the Third Reich. Finally in 2002 and again in 2004, I had the opportunity to go visit where my father was born and grew up. It was very moving and fascinating.
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