So, an involuntary extension of my holiday. How to pass the time. With a pastime? Possibly of past times? Bingo – inspiration can strike from nowhere, I guess. Although this time I can actually pinpoint exactly where the inspiration came from.
This year was the third time that we rented a holiday home on Holmsland Klit (stop sniggering!!!), a narrow strip of land between the North Sea on the Western side and a lagoon called the Ringköbing fjord on the Eastern side. On the beach of the Klit are a number of goosepimple-inducing reminders of the last great war – bunkers left by the Nazis, built as part of the so-called Atlantic Wall.
History excursus: The Atlantic Wall was a massive fortification and defense enterprise thought up by the Nazis. Nearly 3000 km of coastline from Spain all the way up to Norway were fortified with bunkers, anti-aircraft batteries, and minefields. The defense line was never properly completed, but those buildings that were finished remain there until this day. They have been moved by tide and time, however, and while the coastline is being eroded by the onslaught of the waves, the bunkers which were originally built into the sanddunes, are now slap bang in the middle of the beaches. They look like giant building blocks, haphazardly thrown into the sand by a giant baby (strangely, that is almost a fitting metaphor for the lunatic that led half of Europe into doom and disgrace 70 years ago…)
Anyhow, faced with these relics, I thought of the human price that was paid for the war. And it occurred to me that the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2 is coming up in three years’ time. Which also means that fewer and fewer contemporaries are around to tell of the times.
However (and now we are finally getting to the point), in Germany at least, there are some visible reminders of the last war. Every village in Germany has a war memorial. But as the war slips from living memory, the war memorials, too, seem to become forgotten, despite their rather conspicuous presence on village greens, hills and all sorts of exposed spots. The history nerd in me is piqued – war and memory. Unfortunately that is an ever-current topic as wars never seem to stop. Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan. 65 years ago, the victims of war were “immortalised” by plastering their names on bombastic memorials. But does anyone ever look at them? Are they in our consciousness or have they somehow blended into their surroundings? Maybe it is time to document them before they are also lost in the black hole of time and oblivion.
|“Vermißte” – The Missing|
If nothing else, it will certainly fill my time – because there are loads of these in the villages and hamlets around me home town… MIA, S.