In 1994, three days after graduating from high school, I hopped a plane with twenty or so of my classmates and flew to Stuttgart, Germany. My high school partnered with a high school there in an exchange program every year.
This is probably my favorite photograph from Germany… even though the subject matter is horrendous. We visited Dachau, one of the concentration camps. This is a photo of a bunk where the Jews slept. They lay side-by-side, alternating head to foot to maximize the space. Basically, they were packed in like sardines. I didn’t use a flash, I was just very lucky the lighting was perfect. Again, the A-1 with Ektachrome. Don’t ask me the F-stops or shutter speed… I shot it in 1994. I dunno. This is, I think, the only photo from my 1994 trip that I display with the rest of my 8″x10″ enlargements that are matted and framed… and it doesn’t bother me at all that I have to tell people what it is. It’s interesting that most folks find the photo to be boring until they know the stark reality of what the subject matter is. Then it seems to take on new meaning for the observer.
I studied history in college–history and math are my two favorite subjects (huge nerd alert, I know). My favorite eras are the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II. For this reason, traveling through various regions of Europe are of huge interest to me… when visiting Dachau, prior to walking the grounds you watch a film. If I recall correctly, it’s ten or fifteen minutes in length. It contains actual footage from the Nazis surrounding the goings on of the concentration camps, or death camps.
Fortunately for the captives in Dachau, the kilns were finished just prior to the end of the war and never put into operation. However, there were still untold deaths experienced in the camp due to starvation, work, and abuse. The camp’s grounds, which consist of a museum, one kiln, and two remaining barracks, serve as a reminder to all that we should never allow this type of atrocity to happen again.