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Old 08.11.2009, 15:27
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Autumn trip

Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Groß-Rosen, Auschwitz, they are the names of places that have passed into the history of the twentieth century, dark things have happened there, things that give you nightmares if you try to get your head around them.
School children visit these places on compulsory outings, I remember crying after my Volksschul´s trip to Dachau way back in 1974. Since then I have visited other, far more sinister places, not just from a kind of morbid curiousity, but also from trying to understand the "why?" It is not a question of being a ghoul, reveling in the pain of others but I think that they must be visited, we must get the visions of barely living skeletons into our racial memory, they, the dead and dying on those grainy pictures must never be forgotten, for then they will truly die and their suffering would have been in vain.
Why? The saddest question we can ask.

I was on a trip to the company´s sister office in Osterrode, as the weather had promised blue sky for the weekend I took it as a sign to ride the 700 Kilometers on the bike, the temperature was in the lower single digits and I had donned appropriate cloths, jeans and T-shirt in my case, it would take me two days on the bike and eight hours in the Mondeo, slammer chose the bike, my logic circuits have been in continuous operation now for almost a half century maybe it is time for a rewire. Arriving at the hotel the guy behind the desk asked the one question that has me shaking my head in wonderment at the human race, "have you come on the bike?" I just wish that I had read the quote:

Ivor Cutler used to love it when people said to him "have you come on your bike?"
He'd smirk and reply, "no, not today..."
(thanks for that HC)

On the Sunday I visited another place with a sad history: Mittlelbau Dora, near the town of Nordhausen. Just on the wrong side of the former German-German border nested in the beautiful Harz mounain range. It is a town that even now, twenty years on since the wall fell is still dying a slow and very painful post-socialist death. I parked the bike on the forecorse of the railway station, only a handful of people stood and waited, maybe not for trains, maybe they waited for the flowering landscapes that we had been promised, grey people with empty eyes two of them rummaging through the waste bins for empty beer bottles, they bring 20 cents deposit each.


Railway station in Nordhausen, utilitarian railway tracks and boarded up windows.

A very drunk man was using a bus shelter to relive himself, he was lurching back an forth, cursing somebody seen only to him, I got the newspaper I wanted and hurried back to the bike before somebody else thought a BMW makes for a good urinal. I fired the bike up and blew Dodge following the reddish brown signposts showing the way to "Mittelbau Dora." Just on the outskirts of the the town.
Dora was at onetime just a innocent mine.
It is said that Auschwitz was called "hot hell," Dora was known as "cold hell" people died so fast in the tunnels that the surrounding concentration camps could not supply enough replacements.


The way in, once blown up by the Sowiets, re opened only lately.


A landscape now at peace with its self.


place for 60000 humans, 20000 of them died.

We know what was built in the caverns, high tec of the time, hundreds of Aggregat 4 rockets, mankinds first spacecraft, robotic planes, mass produced aircraft frames and uncountable spare parts to keep a wold at war.
Fantastic machines but built at a price far too high.
I joined a group on it´s way to the tunnels under the leadership of a tour guide, listened to the stories, trivia and bon-mots, stories of suffering, of capo´s ratting out their own to save themselves, camp brothels and cinemas and shops for the privileged.








60 year old scrap of war, broken Fieseler 103, the V1

Bäh! Anyone interested can read the wikipedia short version, I am just to tired and sickened to repeat the tales. What I can tell you though is that Herr Albert Speer and Herr Doctor Freiherr Werner von Braun and the other the so-called "noble Nazi´s should have been on a bench at Nürenburg, Man might have walked on the moon a bit later but at least them two would not have gotten away scott free.
There was a very modern inviting museum on the grounds but I gave a miss, all these camp museums show the same kind of things and I had had enough for one day.
I carried on up the road to Halberstadt turning left to Goslar crossing the old border under the shadow of the haunted Brocken mountain, Germany´s version of Pendle hill.


Witches mountain, can you see my ex mother in law? Incoming at two o´clock


On a clearing at the old borderpost somebody had gotten hold of a DDR army issue field kitchen and was selling a thick yummy peasoup at 3.99 € a bowl.
I looked around and took a deep breath, the air smelled of rotting wood and fungus.
The Harz is a deciduous forest, filled with Oak, Chestnut and Birch trees, full of gumdrop hills, deep clefts and valleys in a granite landscape, lakes filled with very clear and almost black water, very deep,very cold it is a very dark forbidding place, easy to see how a lot of our Legends and fairy tales began, especially now in Autumn at the beginning of November when the leaves burn in yellow and red.


Cold black and dark.

I saw a white speckled toadstool, something straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, sitting down on a fallen tree I sipped my hot peasoup, another two hours run back to the hotel.
Gingerly I made my way along narrow winding roads, wet leaves and slick black bitumen on the road made it a demanding run.
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Old 08.11.2009, 15:31
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Re: Autumn trip

Nice, but, this is what blogs are for, and also thumbnails .

Also, just a question: why do you keep on going to these places?

I think everyone should go once, but no one needs to go twice.

I still feel chilled from my visit to Dachau last year .
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Old 08.11.2009, 15:39
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Re: Autumn trip

The "why" question is answered in the report, things fade into history that should not.
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Old 08.11.2009, 15:48
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Re: Autumn trip

Oh, sorry. Couldn't be arsed reading the whole thing as the pictures are so big.
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Old 08.11.2009, 15:54
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Re: Autumn trip

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The "why" question is answered in the report, things fade into history that should not.
Of course they should "fade"... not be forgotten but also not be in the forefront of our consciousness, otherwise it would not be a natural function of our brains to allow hurtful memories to lessen.


Now, that said, I appreciate your desire to visit such places, I can see how it would be important for some, particularly those who had family which were affected one way or the other (no matter which "side" of the war their family members had been on).

On the other hand, some of the folks who have family who were affected would possibly rather not experience your trip with you.
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Old 08.11.2009, 16:39
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Re: Autumn trip

Interesting replies, for me it is maybe a upbringing thing, I left the UK for Germany in 1972, I had just turned 12, circumstances at the time made me realize that to understand the new country and my new life I would have to understand the history and the complex connections of the most influential period in German history, I found that little facets put together give a different picture than the one shown on the history channel to our apathetic modern society.
I understand that it is not for everyone to want to be confronted by the past, the past has a lot of ghosts, some need putting to rest others kept alive.
I am sorry for any any grief caused I am also sorry about the big pictures but I DID keep them at around 1.5 Meg, just the right weight, unless you have a 58kbs modem.
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Old 04.08.2011, 23:26
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Re: Autumn trip

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Interesting replies, for me it is maybe a upbringing thing, I left the UK for Germany in 1972, I had just turned 12, circumstances at the time made me realize that to understand the new country and my new life I would have to understand the history and the complex connections of the most influential period in German history, I found that little facets put together give a different picture than the one shown on the history channel to our apathetic modern society.
I understand that it is not for everyone to want to be confronted by the past, the past has a lot of ghosts, some need putting to rest others kept alive.
I am sorry for any any grief caused I am also sorry about the big pictures but I DID keep them at around 1.5 Meg, just the right weight, unless you have a 58kbs modem.
Followed a link here, and just have to say having lived in Germany I totally agree with what you write here. After visiting Berlin and Dachau and other former DDR cities and learning about what happened, I felt I really understood the Germans better, as well as European history. You are right, you get a totally different picture when you visit these places and see for yourself.
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