Entries in germany (32)


The Anne Frank Exhibit

Anne Frank ExhibitOn Sunday, Jean, Summer, Denise and I jumped on the Straßenbohn and went into Mannheim. We walked around and enjoyed the people - pure C-A-N-D-Y, very delicious. There were two young German girls that came running up to us saying, "Engländer, Engländer!" I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. They were probably about 12 or 13 years-old. At first, they seemed to be interested in Summer's Converse bag. We finally realized that they were doing a project for their English class; they wanted to record us speaking English. Once I understood that, I told them to get their recorders ready - and then I said, "I want to know why more Germans can't be as friendly as you are and why they don't remember Kristallnacht here in Germany." I can't wait until their teacher translates that for them - maybe it will start a dialogue! They were puzzled but immediately played it back and were listening to it as we walked away. Several minutes later, they caught up to us again and had us clap (applause) into their recorders - we happily obliged. We were speaking in German and asking them to say "Hallo" to German people as they walked by and to see how many responded positively - few did - it was an amazing, quick sociological experiment and those girls gave me hope for the future of Germany.

We were hungry after all of this and had lunch at a Turkish Döner. Ein Der Turkei Pizza mit Lamm Fleisch (Döner) rocks!! I had the Turkish buttermilk called, "Arayan" - it's a cross between buttermilk and yogurt drink, very popular with Turkish people and very tasty. After lunch, we headed to the synagogue to see the Anne Frank exhibit.

Although we went to the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam in 2001, her story never ceases to amaze me, lift me up and sadden me all at once. It's like she knew that she wasn't going to live very long. Her passion and dreams were waiting to be realized, but were dashed and destroyed by insane, possessed people. I hope she can see the positive influence her work and life has had, and will continue to have, on people all over the world. She was an amazing human being.


The Dachau Concentration Camp

"Arbeit Macht Frei": The Dachau Concentration Camp

22 December 2007

Words seem so weak and meaningless when I think about how to describe our visit to Dachau’s concentration camp Saturday.

Even that sentence seems trite and cliché – “Oh yeah, the Holocaust, sad, terrible, blah blah blah, we’ve heard it all before.” I recently wrote a paper about my Kristallnacht project and it begins like this:

Ian Kershaw said, 'The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.’ The Holocaust is a topic most people prefer to know only superficially, or to ignore altogether. I believe that an understanding of its complexity, as well as its violence, is critical to an understanding of our world and our humanity”.

I believe this is how most people respond to or think when the topic of the Holocaust is brought up. Most Americans feel like they have "Holocaust Fatigue" (and you can imagine how the Germans feel).

It’s not that people don’t think that it was tragic and terrible; it’s that they don’t really understand how tragic and terrible it was and what that means to them today (i.e. losing personal freedoms and all those slippery political slopes we seem to find ourselves on lately). There is relevance and meaning in these events that we need to talk about and keep alive; both for the victims and for our own lives; politically and personally.

Munich (München) is about 200 miles southeast of us. It should be a little less than 3 hours to drive there. However, on Saturday, it took us over 4 hours because of “Staus” or traffic jams. Dachau is about 10 miles outside of Munich. It’s where the concentration camp is located and where we stayed.

When we arrived, we checked into the hotel and dropped off our (minimal) luggage. We stayed in nice place called Central Hotel Dachau. Denise was kind enough to pay for the rooms (thank you!) We only spent a few minutes in the room(s) and we were off to see the concentration camp. It was amazing to me that the camp was only 1.5 kilometers outside of the city! I was blown away! I thought about the crematorium and the ashes that must have fallen on Dachau, unbelievable.

It took less than 5 minutes to drive to the parking lot of the concentration camp (it’s weird to say that). We got out of the car and started unloading and getting dressed for the weather. Summer mentioned something about the smell. I could smell something like old onion soup and tin or metal. I thought it smelled kind of like body odor. She agreed and said that she was about to gag. Jean and Denise said they couldn’t smell it. We could smell it again outside of the barracks area. Later on, we realized that it got into our clothes (like smoke) and we could all smell it. It wasn't a good smell and we're not sure what it was.

It was very cold there Saturday – a damp cold. It was foggy and bleak too. The first time I realized that I was really there was when I saw that infamous, “Arbeit Macht Frei” slogan on the gate. What an insult this is – I could picture thousands of prisoners being marched in and out of that gate everyday to forced road marches, meaningless labor and ultimately death. That phrase must have haunted them.

The moment I walked through the gate, there was an eerie silence and expanse of space that was cold and gray. I immediately felt very alone. In fact, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. I felt abandoned, scared and very small at that moment. I’m not easily spooked, but this place scared me in a weird, surrealistic way. It was very quiet. The only thing I could hear was the sound of my shoes crunching along the gravel with each step I took. I couldn’t feel my legs and I felt hollow, or outside of myself somehow. All of a sudden, a scene of isolation ran through my mind. I “saw” and “heard” static and then I “saw”, or felt, myself standing in a cold snow-drifted land with the wind rushing across my body. It was like a scene from a movie. I was standing at the far right of the frame facing the viewer and wind was blowing hard from my left. I just stood there looking into nothingness. The feeling of expanse, abandonment and loneliness never left me.

To go into details of what we saw wouldn’t do them justice. I even had second thoughts about writing anything about our trip. It’s safe to say that it was emotional and moving to be in a place where so many people lost their lives in such terrible ways.

For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to understand why it’s so important to remember. Why memory is so crucial to our progress. We truly are destined to repeat these kinds of things if we don’t.

This is probably my favorite image I shot there. This beautiful red rose, covered in frost and dying, lying on a box of ashes of some of the victims of Dachau. The wall says, "Never Again" in five different languages. That is the message I got - to keep these memories alive. The stones are from Jewish people that have visited and placed a stone on the box of ashes as a symbol of erecting a tombstone for the dead.

The infamous gate - "Arbeit Macht Frei" - I will never think about that phrase the same way again.

The plaque says, "Execution Range with Blood Ditch". There are a couple of these on the camp. Summer is placing stones on the memorial. The "blood ditch" is right in front of the plaque.

A photo shot in 1945 right after the liberation of Dachau showing the remains of some of the victims. They could fit up to 9 bodies in these ovens. Nine people? Can you imagine how emaciated the people were?

These ovens WERE USED to cremate people. This is in the "old" Crematorium.

In so many ways, this is what Dachau felt like to me.

I was very moved by this memorial - "Crematorium - Remember How We Died Here"

The (very moving) sculpture in the center of the camp by the artist, Nandor Glid. The emaciated bodies entangled with barbed wire - It says, "Forgive, but never forget".

This is the ONLY color in the camp. It's a bas relief that shows the different "badges" worn by the camp's prisoners. Jews, A-socials (Gypsies), Homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, and Political and Religious prisoners all had different symbols and color combinations of symbols in order to quickly identify their "crimes". The piece is three links of chain connected by bars with the badges on/around each chain.

Summer peering into the Jewish Memorial on the far south side of the camp.

These were the victims found in the room I photographed below. This is just mind blowing to me!

This is the room where the (above) victims were piled up. It was cold and eerie. The whole thing was surreal.

Jean and Summer peer through the window inside the (new) Crematorium.

The barracks - rebuilt in 1964. It was amazing how strict the SS was on the cleanliness and order of the barracks - just another testament to the sickness of it all.

This is the "old" Crematorium directly across from the "new" one.

Bodies in front of the "old" Crematorium (see photo above this) in 1945. Obviously, these victims were going to be cremated.

Detail of the (used) ovens in the "old" Crematorium.

Denise looking into one of the ovens of the "new" Crematorium.

Electric fence and guard tower. I wonder how many died on these fences?

Entering into the concentration camp at Dachau.

I'm at one of the "Execution Ranges with Blood Ditch". I wanted to stand there to see what it felt like. I was looking for bullet holes in the concrete.

The "new" Crematorium and gas chamber building.

2/3 of all of the prisoners were non-Jewish, political prisoners with Polish Catholics in the majority. 1034 Catholic Priests died at Dachau. This is a memorial to them.

This is a gas chamber that was used at Dachau. I could barely stand up in it - it freaked me out. I was amazed that I got this image with the moving body in it.

This is, "The Grave of Thousands of Unknowns" - the ashes from the Crematorium were dumped here (as well as other places).

A photo from 1945 showing the bodies of some of the victims piled outside of the Crematorium.

This is some of the train track just outside of the main gate.

"Dachau can and shall be a lesson! Therefore we dare not be silent about it, although the memory of it is sad and grievous." Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, Auxiliary Bishop of Munich and former Dachau inmate, June 17, 1960


Der Metzgerei

You've got to love the local signs here. I'm not sure if they "get it" or if I'm just over "Freudian" about these kinds of things; but the idea of a pig holding a piece of Wurst like that and the owner's name below.. hmmmm... he might be trying to say something here about his meat. I think it's BIG TIME funny.

We live very close to this Metzgerei (metz-gur-eye). They have excellent Weiss Wurst (it's Bavarian, you boil it for 10 mins and server with sweet Mustard and Preztles - OMG!!) and serve the famous "halbe meter (Kleine) Wurst" at Fest time.



This coin plus €1.80 will get you a Milch Kaffee in Germany!

Köln, Germany & The Netherlands

I needed to take break from writing my thesis/portfolio this weekend. Jean, Summer, Denise (a friend), Lucky and I took a trip to Köln, Germany and then went into The Netherlands to Maastricht.

The weather here has been in the 80s and very beautiful so the drive was gorgeous. It was a 1.5 hours to Köln and another 45 minutes or so to Maastricht. It’s amazing to cross (country) borders without even stopping!! In that way the EU is very cool.

We left Viernheim at about 8AM and got to Köln at 9:30AM so we decided to people watch and have a cup of coffee. Köln is a wonderful city. The people are friendly and the city is extremely “art friendly”. The waitress asked where we were from and I made some crack comment about Denise being a hillbilly from "West Virginny, USA" (she's not, she's from Washington D.C.) and the waitress said something like, “It doesn’t matter to people in Köln, we accept everyone” – Whoaaa! That blew me away, that’s not the Germany I know! I knew Köln was very different the minute I drove in.

August Sander (1876-1964), a well-known photographer of the 20th Century was born in Köln and did a lot of work here, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to see the city. He created a body of work called, “People of the 20th Century” – I have it. It’s a seven volume set of books, some 1400 pages. He classified the German people into groups. For example, “Artists”, “Farmers”, “Scientist” etc. and then made portraits of them. His seventh and last volume is called “Die Letzten Menchen” or “The Last People”. This is what I am most interested in. I wanted to know what it was like to see Die letzten Menchen on the streets of Köln like Sander did. And I did. Unfortunately, his portrait work is on tour. We only got to see a small collection of his landscape work. It was nice, but not in the league of Die letzten Menchen!

I haven’t been to a city or village in Europe I didn’t like yet. Köln is a place I will return to for sure. Simply for the fact of its connection to photography/art and it’s friendly vibe. The beer is good (Kölsch) and is exclusive to Köln, we had a nice lunch at an open air café called Casablanca and we saw a few of the more popular sites of the city (Köln’s Gothic Catherderal, Köln Turm, etc.) too.

Then it was onto The Netherlands. The border was about 20 minutes from Köln and you could tell you were in The Netherlands immediately. All of the signs were in Dutch (of course), it is a strange and difficult language to hear, read or speak (I tried years ago). In other words, you can’t even begin to guess what the road signs are saying. On top of that, the landscape changed, the look of the houses, the colors, everything – it was wild! The Netherlands are beautiful and the people are very, very friendly. They are an open and progressive people. We had a family (husband, wife and daughter) sitting next to us at a café telling us about how the Dutch feel about Americans. They said the Dutch people will never forget what America did for The Netherlands in WWII and believe that most Americans are good people. However, they don’t care for the current administration and have serious concerns about Iraq etc. but I think even most Americans are waking up to that fact now. We had a nice conversation with them about current world events and national identity. Very enlightening!

Onto the photos....

Yes, you can legally smoke hash, and marijuana in The Netherlands. The places are called "Coffeeshops". They are all over The Netherlands.

I really liked this cup. One side DREAMS, the other side CONFLICTS - this embodies the feeling of the cities in The Netherlands - very creative and art friendly.

Are we in Holland yet? Where are the bicycles???


Dutch signs... an easy read!


I couldn't resist this "Winnogrand" moment in Maastritch! I love this image!


A license plate.. hmmmm, why did I put this here?? It's different from ours in DE.


"Die letzten Menchen" - Heribert, on the streets of Koeln. I could only make out a few words... he was listenign to music and shared some with me. He handed me an earbud covered in blood.

I'm not sure what he was drinking... whatever it was, it was strong.

This seems out of palce, but this is the only thing we drank. Great beer! Made in Koeln.

The "new" RCA Dog in Media Park in Koeln. Lucky loved it and Jean and Summer thought it was kool too!

The August Sander Museum is in this building. They had a Lee Friedlander show and a Wessel show going.. no photographs allowed. This is where we saw Sander's landscapes.

This is another image I really like... the refelctions of two women in the glass, the red hair of the woman next to Denise and Denise's expression.

Starting our day in Koeln with coffee, chocolate muffins, brownies and people watching.