Helena Schaetzle (Germany): 9645 Kilometres Memory
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“History is alive as long as our memory is alive.”
Konstantin Isaakow, Moskau
Almost every person in Europe has part of their family history connected to World War II happenings. With the dying out of the last living witnesses of this time, we are entering an age of forgetting and overcoming our past. The aim of this project is not just to remind of that time and the remains still perceivable in today’s society, but also to close a circle of time with personal records and memories of still living witnesses in photographic and text form. Thus, to overcome prejudices and look beyond, seeing the personal experiences and memories rather than the memories and experiences of a certain nation.
In the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945 more than 50 million people were killed. Most of them were civilians or politically and racially persecuted people like Jews, homosexuals or Roma. The biggest loss happened on the Soviet side, where about 27 million people died. This was mainly caused by the cruel war strategy of the Germans, which showed in the way they treated prisoners of war or in the systematic execution of people by the SS. The “Generalplan Ost” put on to record the elimination and oppression of people from the East European states. But the high loss of Soviet people was also caused by the ruthless command of Stalin.
Until today, experiences made during World War II influence the inhabitants of Europe. Out of an infinite number of sources, images of this time are saved in our memories. This collective memory takes effect in a historical but also in a political way, as well as psychologically. Sam Wineburg shows in a study about National Socialism, that schools and history books play a minor role in the way young generations thinks about history; most information is passed on by every day family conversations as well as movies. By showing different experiences people had at the same time at the very same place, I hope to help to expand the historical awareness of my generation and give an impulse for a critical discussion.
My images do speak about escape, chase, destruction and war. Pictures of the present which still reflect traces of the past, photographed as photo documentary but with space for one’s own interpretations and thoughts. Pictures which might encourage to look into one’s own family history.