When I visited the USA for the first time at the age of 21, I had an icon I needed to see, which for me symbolized the United States! Not the Statue of Liberty not McDonald's nor Dunkin' Donuts... nope! It was all about those movie scenes where there's a metal clicking chase, pulling down the ladder or jumping into the great trash tank, running down those fire escape stairs! Hollywood style! It was the first thing I looked out of the cab for as we were driving down the streets of Boston. I know it sounds silly, but hey... the Israeli parallel would be kissing the airport tar road upon landing, yes - that tar. So don't judge me too harshly. 😄
So for me, Germany would be the gas signs, only I was dreading to see them. I didn't want to see them. I knew I would bump into one at some point, and as much as I preferred not to make eye contact - well, since my eyes were in constant floor-height browsing mode - it was bound to happen, and it did. And once it did, it happened often. I took a sneak shot, a quick shutter release with my Lomo pocket film camera, in a corner of a street, like a soldier in city guerrilla combat.
There was no denying my difficulty staring right into the evil sign (just like I experienced a weird intense problem boarding trains! Wow!)... and there was no denying I shot badly. 😞
2008 My first encounter with the Gas sigh
Weird and very strange!
After returning to Israel, I started to organize some sketches along with my developing thoughts erupting from my new discoveries. I started to read recommended books, such as "Modernity and the Holocaust" by Zygmunt Bauman, which left me jaw-dropped. After that, I dived into "The Seventh Million" by Tom Segev and was amazed that all this information was somewhat available, yet never known to me. During the time I read, my imagination wandered, and visual ideas began to form. I planned them as little sketches and took them with me on daily photo shoots. One of these plans was to reshoot a gas plate on the floor that I had seen so many of.
In the city, most signs I found were completely covered in concrete, and I wanted to find one that would have some greenery, not too much and not too little. Maybe because I remembered that the scattered ashes made great compost for lovely plantations to grow from, or maybe to show that gas didn't stop everything... Whatever it may be, when I returned in 2011 with a list of images to shoot, this particular shot was in my mind as I walked around like a gas sign hunter, or rather looked like I was looking for a corner to relieve bladder pressure. Once I found the perfect sign in the perfect location, this sign I was afraid to look at... had me staring right back at it for hours one afternoon. And after a while, staring at it through the prism, it almost seemed like I could see a face looking back at me with a beauty spot just under his left eye, a shining silver nose, and a sealed mouth.
THE GAS DUDE
I loved the result! It was crystal sharp, and all the fine details were pleasant to my eye. I felt I had reached my point of filled anxiety towards this icon, and finally, I could let this thought go. But that wasn't the only gas sign I saw... there was another one that I didn't expect to see.
It was glued on so many walls, and I quickly took a digital photo of it, in case it might shed any extra light on the oh so suffocating topic...
And that's how I heard about the T4 Project...
"The T4 program stemmed from the Nazi Party's policy of 'racial hygiene,' which advocated for the cleansing of the German population from racial enemies, including individuals confined to mental health facilities and those with physical disabilities." (Source: Wikipedia)
To cut to the chase, I will say that in this secret project, killings in Germany began months before the focused effort to annihilate the Jews and seize their assets. The chilling industrial mass killing of Jews was an expansion of the monstrous pipeline model developed in a few "hospitals" scattered across different countries, including five of them in Austria. These hospitals were responsible for the extermination of disabled German citizens.
I feel sick only re-writing these lines.
So here is a link to Wiki about this story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_T4#:~:text=The%20T4%20programme%20stemmed%20from,people%20with%20simple%20physical%20disabilities.
And just found this pretty comprehensive video doc on YouTube if you can stomach more- feel free to feel bad for yourself 🙏