The new Dresden broadcast station in 1946
→ The new broadcasting station in the hygiene museum
→ “We’re developing socialism” – Johannes Lieberwirth’s memoirs
→ Broadcasting operations in the Dresden regional broadcasting station
→ The control room
→ Broadcast technology
→ Microphone technology
→ Equipment in control room 1 for the “Stone Hall” in the hygiene museum
→ AUDIO The Dresden station identification
→ Top-flight opera recordings despite modest surroundings
→ VIDEO The live broadcast of the opening of the Grosses Haus in 1948
The new broadcasting station in the hygiene museum
The SMAD authorized the setting up of the regional broadcasting station in Dresden on May 13, 1945, just five days after the end of the war. During the early months, the broadcasting company was located in Kesselsdorfer Strasse. On March 1, 1946 it moved to “Villa Renner” on Tiergartenstrasse, near the Grosser Garten park. Before long, however, these facilities proved totally inadequate.
The station’s new home from October 1946, which was to remain its location for many decades, was the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum on Lingnerplatz. With its 60 or so staff, the broadcaster occupied the left-hand wing of the German Hygiene Museum, one of the few buildings to have survived the Allied firebombing raids of February 1945. Rooms for the programme editors, studios and recording staff were all installed here. And even the former lobby of the Hygiene Museum – the “Steinsaal” or stone hall – served as a provisional studio.
Kurt Hunger, the head of administration at the time, would later recall that in the first few months of the station’s broadcasting activities, he and his colleagues had transported office furniture and technical material to Kesselsdorfer Strasse balanced on wheelbarrows and stuffed into rucksacks. The Russians meanwhile donated equipment requisitioned from their army supplies and ration cards. The victors were keen at this point for a speedy “delivery” of their edited version of events to the residents of the city.
“We’re developing socialism!” …
Former reporter and newsreader Johannes Lieberwirth recounts the early days of the regional broadcasting station in Dresden after the war:
“What did the Dresden broadcast station and Carl Maria von Weber’s Freischütz have in common 50 years ago?
The radio station took the first two bars of the aria “Durch die Walder, durch die Auen” as its call sign.
Admittedly, some wags took to inserting other lines than “through the woods, through the meadows” to the famous tune, along the lines of “not today, but tomorrow”. That however was not true of the radio station, whose transmissions were always on time.
That said, there were a few teething problems right at the beginning, as a result of a few technical hiccups which caused short breaks in transmission. By the time I made my first announcement (for the news) on June 2, 1947, the technicians had ironed out the problems.
The person who kept an eye on the day’s programmes in an almost motherly way was the production director, a lady called Frau Zimmermann. Each day comprised a broadcasting time of about five hours, mainly in the morning and afternoon. Once a week we were part of MDR’s 5.30 am early music programme. It was up to us, the speakers, to ad-lib our own time checks and linking commentary (when we sometimes “waffled” a bit too long).
Hans Hendrik Wehding, head of the music department, and also a well known composer and conductor in his own right, would choose tapes and recorded discs for us.
My work contract was signed by the station director Dr. Erich Mauthner. His chief interest was in the pleasures of life rather than the station’s ideological orientation. That was something handled unobtrusively by a Soviet officer, Captain Deutschmann, a teacher by profession, who spoke German like a native and proved to be an affable “minder”.
The editor-in-chief was Lea Grosse, who was overzealous in her correction of our scripts. She belonged to the circle of “Antifascists” who were developing radio in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SOZ). To achieve their goal, however, they needed the help of experts like Guido Reif, the able head of the arts department, and Richard Hahnewald, the imaginative head of entertainment, who was very popular with the staff. He livened things up, shook up programming, which in the early months offered little beyond news and some music, very rarely real reporting.
Under his pseudonym of Ulli Busch he stage managed the popular programme “Was sich Hörer wünschen” (what listeners request).
Recorded in the great hall of the Hygiene Museum, this cultural event involved soloists from the Staatsoper like Christel Goltz, Inger Karen, Helena Rott, Elisabeth Reichelt, Kurt Böhme, Josef Herrmann, Werner Faulhaber and Arno Schellenberg plus musicians from the Staatskapelle and the Dresden Philharmonic.
One of the programme’s main aims was to be a conduit for greetings and a means of searching for German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union.
The programme, which I had to announce, was indeed able to be heard in many of the Russian camps with the result that after years of separation, family members finally received news of their loved ones in captivity. The programmes had to cease at the end of 1948, however, because the Kremlin declared that there were no more German POWs held in the Soviet Union. That in turn meant the beginning of the end of Hahnewald’s career as head of department. Not long afterwards, he was forced to endure an inquisitorial version of running the gauntlet at a staff meeting, accused of “vilification” of “German-Soviet friendship”, reprimanded for the “unpolitical” content of his programmes and forced to submit his letter of resignation. That was in 1949, the year that the GDR was founded, when the head of the Socialist Unity Party of German (SED), Walter Ulbricht, soon after announced that socialism was being developed in the country.
Those true to the party line developed a bureaucratic system based on the principle of “A love of peace resides in the east, war-mongering is inherent to the west”.
Spoken-word programmes were to concentrate on focal topics like “The fight for peace and unity in Germany, the Soviet Union, people’s democracies, five-year plan, culture”.
Every item had to be submitted before transmission to the “department for planning control”. We had to state duration, names of those involved, content and focal points of reports and submit scripts of the programmes in quadruplicate, which laid a time-consuming burden on programme editors.
I began in late 1949 to deliver additional reports for the news, especially for the sports section, headed by someone who, like me, had sung in the Kreuzchor in Dresden as a boy.
Admittedly, all such reports made no mention of the “secondary employment” that was a perk of the trips we reporters took around the country, sometimes for several days at a time: food rationing required us to be creative on an individual basis. Official visits to “agricultural production cooperatives” (state-run farms), poultry farms or dairies ended for the listener when the tape machine was switched off, but included for us receipt of food items which despite limited storage space in the outside broadcast vans we were always able to stow away. Lunch at the broadcasting house canteen was often supplemented by these extra rations.
In 1950 we created a programme called “Was sagen Sie dazu?” (what do you say to that?), which addressed unpleasant conduct by some comrades and state-run factories. I was given this job in addition to my sports reporting, for which I was appointed head of department in 1950.
Working at the small Dresden radio station meant a varied spectrum of activity. I had the opportunity of “trying my hand” at production assistant, director of radio serials and plays, and producer of public events. That was a good way of acquiring additional skills and expertise in different fields. In that respect, Editor-in-Chief Willi Forner gave us a free rein. He was an old Communist and a skilled journalist, who had taken over from Lea Grosse.
While on the technical side the resourceful and respected engineer Gerhard Probst (who was later to become Postmaster General) was in charge for a long time, the hot seat in overall management of the station saw a lot of comings and goings. In the five years that I worked for the station, there was an equally large number of station directors. Dr. Mauthner was followed by Erhard Reichardt, son-in-law of the Saxon Premier Otto Buchwitz, then our zealous comrade Bergner who was averse to any form of joviality, though it did not stop him demanding of programme makers: “We need to produce more unpolitical humour!” He was not really qualified for the job and was sidelined to a VEB (company “owned by the people”). He was succeeded by Fritz Wasner, who also failed to stay the course.
This constant changing of management came to a temporary end with the appointment of 23-year-old “young Turk” Nowak, who had from time to time provided us with short reports as a “people’s correspondent”. E knew as much about running a radio station as a police patrolman does about lace-making. His remit was more aimed at ideological monitoring of the staff and the programme schedule. Ultimately, he and the chairman of the SED works council decided who had the qualifications for working in a socialist medium, and when in September 1952 the State Radio Committee of the GDR was formed, the regional station in Dresden was degraded to a status of a local studio with a staff of about 20 people, along with similar studios in Chemnitz, Cottbus and Görlitz, which in fact went against the cuts that had been announced.
I was one of those who fell through the net at that point/was a victim of those cuts. That said, I did not content myself with the official cause of dismissal given, the “reorganisation” of the radio station. My demand to know the real reason was eventually, after some hesitation, revealed to my by NOWAK and the SED official. As a result, I am in possession of a written reprimand affirming that I did not fully understand Marxism-Leninism, was corresponding with relatives in West Germany and that I had spent many years as a POW of the Western (British) powers. And so I owe my involuntary departure from the regional radio station to these “shortcomings”, yet I am indebted to the broadcaster for the experience I gained there for my ultimate career.
Johannes (Hannes) Winkler
Penned for the radio magazine programme “TRIANGEL. Das Radio zum Lesen”
Der Sendebtrieb im Dresdner Landesfunkhaus
The Control room
Reminiscences from Gerhard Steinke:
»Our ›control room‹ was just a small shed with a correspondingly small window on the staircase above the hall. And its acoustic potential was minimal. There was just enough room for two persons at the table with the control panel. Beside it, a small wall rack held the amplifiers; the loudspeaker had been mounted above the
window. Simple assessment and level adjustment was all that was possible. Rather a bit too little volume than too much, since the magnetic tape was very sensitive and loud non-linear distortion resulted as soon as one was not careful enough in operating the ‘fidgeter’, an inadequate modulation control with a dial.
»The final assessment of the recordings was carried out later in the ›control room‹ of the neighbouring broadcasting centre wing.
»The entire system, complete with the microphones, the monitor loudspeaker and the tape recorders, was from the early forties and had belonged to the Reichsrundfunk.
»The tape machines themselves were far away from the recording studio in ›Sound Recording 1‹ in the broadcasting centre wing of the Hygiene Museum. There the technical assistants started the machines at commands given by telephone from the control room or shouted out by the conductor himself.
Die Rundfunktechnik im Dresdner Landesfunkhaus
• The rechargeable microphone batteries and cable drum were housed in a lockable wooden case located over the conductor’s podium and above the hall ceiling.
• In the interest of good tonal quality, the Neumann 1-1 microphone with the so-called »crisp« M 1-2 capsule was used, giving the desired pressure boost in the rest of the pick-up field in the 4 to 7 kHz spectrum, resulting in more than 10 dB rise in level in this range.
Consequently in the diffuse coverage area the frequency response was quasi linear at greater distances, aiding good reproduction of higher frequencies.
• This is indeed an omnidirectional microphone but thanks to the pressure rise in the axial direction it was possible to attain brilliant string sound along with acceptable depth and spatial effects.
• Using the Neumann M 7 microphone available at the time with cardioid characteristics would have made it necessary to attenuate the reverberation in the recording (particularly for Salome, due to the larger ensemble).
As had been determined in trial recordings, however, the resultant coloration was unsatisfactory; bass tones were overemphasized and the upper range was deficient.
• An M7 cardioid microphone had to be used, however, for the soloists, who were situated on the left, behind the first violins.
A microphone installed earlier, suspended above the edge of the stage, was used for the choir and the fairies.
Equipment in Control Room 1 for the large recording hall in the Hygiene Museum:
• Tuchel sockets with self-cleaning blade contacts F7 illuminated signalling column and F10aE signal transducer for the optical link with the conductor and assistants from the control room or audio recording room 1
• Mixing board with 4 preliminary gain controls 1 Master gain control
• 2 Preamplifiers, V 41
• Main amplifier, V 63
• Model O15 coaxial speakers made by Ing. Eckmiller, response up to 15 kHz
Built in a small production run in 1942
• R.M.S. meter, U 4 with J 3
• AEG B2 magnetic tape recorder »Tonschreiber berta2«
• Surplus Wehrmacht matériel modified for stationary use Calibrated to above 12 kHz
Senderkennung und Pausenzeichen des Senders Dresden
Der Landessender Dresden meldete sich nach Umstaltungen mit dem Anfangsmotiv “Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen” (Arie des Max) aus Carl Maria von Webers Oper “Der Freischütz”.
Erzeugt wurde das Pausenzeichen auf elektroakkustischem Weg durch einen sogenannten “Pausenzeichengeber”.
Bei diesem ferngesteuerten elektrischen Gerät trieb ein Elektromotor über eine Welle kleine Hämmerchen an, die dann in der Meldieabfolge auf Metallzungen schlugen und mittels eines Tonabenehmers die markante Dresdner Senderkennung erzeugten.
Hochkarätige Opernaufnahmen trotz bescheidener Verhältnisse
»In September 1948, before we began recording Rusalka, there had been considerable problems with the contacts of the microphone cable connections in the recording studio, so that the transmission of an opera concert on September 12, 1948 – live, of course, as they always were then – had to be broken off prematurely because of loud crackling sounds.
It seems I had not screwed the plug connections together tightly enough and I got quite a bawling out from Gerhard Probst, who ›steered‹ the sound, as we used to say then.
»Before the Rusalka recording sessions, the old connections were therefore replaced with newer Tuchel sockets with self-cleaning knife contacts. The old plugs and sockets were now used in the signalling equipment that provided a means of visual communication with the conductor.
»The forthcoming opening of the rebuilt Dresden Theatre in September 1948 meant that changes had to be made in our control room in the wing of the Hygiene Museum.
Developed for and used at the 1936 Olympics, the transportable V 35 amplifier with 4 regulators and a summation regulator which had been used there for the Salome recording sessions was now assigned to the theatre.
For Rusalka, we now had to make do with a small control panel and a main amplifier. All very primitive compared with what came later, never mind what we have today.
»The new magnetic tape technology was first regularly used by the Reichsrundfunk Gesellschaft in 1943.
The machines used a tape speed of 77 cm/s and 6.5 mm magnetic tape. The tape was Type C, made from F-Cellit [presumably nitrocellulose] and using magnetite in the coating.
»After the destroying of the first production plant in Ludwigshafen in 1943, magnetic tape production was transferred to Wolfen towards
the end of the year. The reconstruction and recommissioning of plants became possible in West and East, including Wolfen, in July 1945, shortly after the end of the war. The AGFA plant in Wolfen had in the meantime become a part of the Soviet joint-stock company ›Photoplenka‹, whose changeover to magnetite tape production however led to considerable quality problems for radio stations in the Soviet-occupied zone.
»That explains why particularly the tapes used for Salome and later Rusalka in 1948 were substandard. To make matters worse, certain mechanical parameters were being changed: the tape width of 6.5 mm was reduced to 6.3 mm in 1945 and then to 6.25 mm. The first standardization at 6.25 mm and 76.2 cm/s took place after the Americans began making their own apparatus and recording tapes in the USA in 1948 in emulation of the magnetic tape technology they had found in Germany. And since only the inch was used in the USA, the rest of the world had to adopt the standard they created.
»In order to be able to use the Dresden studio’s stocks of ›fresh‹ (virginal) tapes left over from the war (mostly with a black surface and prone to tearing), Manfred Wosch, a Dresden engineer and gifted tinkerer, constructed a small device using razor blades which enabled the running tape to be trimmed to a width of 6.35 mm.
The device with an additional vacuum cleaner attachment to pick up the narrow tape offcut had of course to be constantly demagnetized. In the case of the few tapes in the archive, we did not want to risk using that process; valuable recordings therefore had to be copied. Then the dimensions of the tape transport had to be corrected and replaced; but we could not ensure that either the cut or the absolutely factory-fresh tapes always ran true. When they failed to pass the recording and playback gaps in the magnetic heads at a perfect right angle,
the result was flutter and wow – nothing gross, but enough to distort frequency response and level. ‘Howl’ moreover resulted from the stretching of the mechanically fragile tapes by motors running asynchronously and exerting varying forces.
»Magnetic tape was a precious commodity! Some archive recordings therefore had to be made on tapes that had already been used and erased or on even older tapes (from wartime production).
»We received ›good‹ newly produced magnetic tapes from the Berlin broadcasting centre for our opera recordings.
But even they were never faultless, produced various levels of noise, caused what we much later learned to call ›drop outs‹ and had to be individually calibrated as to the optimal recording current level they required.
Additionally, the tape running quality of the two machines we used had constantly and laboriously to be optimized by hand. But the results were always worth the effort.
»It can almost be regarded as a marvel that, after being thus copied and rescued, the recording of Rusalka still seemed electroacoustically, musically and artistically so usable; the credit for that must go to all those involved, but particularly to the audio restoration engineer Holger Siedler.«
But we are jumping ahead …
Die Live-Übertragungen aus dem Großen Haus 1948
Filmische Dokumentation zur deutschlandweiten Rundfunk-Übertragung der “Fidelio”-Premiere mit Zeitzeugenberichten der MDR-Sprecherin Christa Klose und des MDR-Toningenieurs Gerhard Steinke sowie der Sopranistin Lisa Otto und des Konzertmeisters der Staatskapelle Dresden, Reinhard Ulbricht. [Gekürzte DVD-Fassung]
Rundfunkschaetze.de thanks the post-war radio pioneers – Heiner Döhler, Gerhard Steinke and Johannes Lieberwirth – for their valuable eye-witness reports, information and photos.
Vorausgegangene Beiträge zur Geschichte des Landessenders Dresden
⇒ Der MIRAG-Nebensender Dresden · 1924 bis 1933
Recherchen des MDR-Radiojournalisten Tobias Knauf
⇒ Der Landessender Dresden wird wiederbegründet · 1945
Erinnerungen des damaligen MDR-Kulturchefs Ulli Böhme
und des MDR-Toningenieurs Gerhard Steinke