I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Saturday, 24 November 2012
More Family Album: Duelling Scars
These are my grandparents from Germany. Note the duelling scars and the fine dress sense of my grandfather (who I never met). This is from the 1920s.
My grandfather didn't fight in the second world war, but he was in Berlin at the end of the war, one of those "places you don't want to be" which make one realise how lucky one is to be born in a certain place at a certain time, but also how things can change so quickly. Berlin or Warsaw or Leningrad in 1945 is Mogadishu in 2012, only 10 times worse.
A couple of years ago, my daughter Isabel had a class at school where the homework was to find out what family and friends had done during the Second World War. We extended it a bit and, without too much effort, found a man who had been on the bombing raids over Dresden (he was never happy about it), a neighbour whose father-in-law had been in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp ( he never got over it - he killed himself twenty years later), a classmate's German grandmother who had been in Danzig/Gdansk at the end of the Second World War (she never talked about it), a grandfather who had fought at Monte Cassino and been imprisoned in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp and a Jewish friend who as a child had been hidden from Nazis in Warsaw for the entirety of the war. Isabel's own grandmother had been a refugee in a British-run refugee camp and seen 3 of her brothers sent back to Yugoslavia to be shot.