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  • Writer's pictureAllon

027~ Never again to us? or never again...period?

Updated: Mar 20

I came across Yehuda Elkana's writings in the early stages of gathering material to assist in provoking my thoughts.

In his article "The need to forget" - I was especially moved by the differentiation of the two notions (...or nations) which he figured, have come out of Auschwitz:

A minority declaring "Never again" and a majority declaring "Never again to us".

I found this interesting both for the subtle differentiation in the general conclusion, as he saw it, and also for the fact that Elkana has consciously allocated the minority as the group with the global understanding of the disaster, while falling into the narrow prism of the aftermath are the majority of the survivors asserting this shall never happen again to us!

This got me thinking about the impact these iconic images of Auschwitz may convey, or rather the impact that the image, always from the same point of view, might have on our ability to look at things in a new light, in a fresh manner, taking our pain as a persecuted segment (even if and especially because the Jews were a major segment) of the Holocaust, and starting fresh and liberal. Can we be flexible? Can we see the others? or shall we focus on us, and only us?

Auschwitz classic angle (photo by Wiener Library/PA)

Auschwitz 2007 Wiki open source

I gazed at this photograph a lot, trying to see what my thoughts are and my first idea was to go there and retake this photo like never seen before.

The original idea

So... I started toying with a photo idea.

What if I were to go there and take a photo looking from the camp gate - and onwards to the infinite horizon? What if I gave an iconic image of the freedom to move out and beyond?

What would the view beyond those gates look like? Who would I meet? How would they react to me? is everything out there so dangerous? Is everybody out there looking to get me?

How about we step out of that Auschwitz Cave, and find out some truths about the world?

I liked that idea! and I used Google Maps to try and previsualize what it could look like:

Google street view looking Out and Eastward from Auschwitz gate

My idea was pretty straightforward - I thought it would be amazing to witness the spectators' emotions shift as they realize that this seemingly redundant green field is nothing less than the view right across the most horrifying notorious death camp built and known to man since the beginning of time. The precious moment they realize what's right behind them - I just wonder what feeling it would provoke.

But... then reality and budget calculations... narrowed it down to prioritizing my one journey to Berlin.

Who knows, maybe one day - I will be able to go and take this photograph. I am well aware that it isn't only a "financial barrier."

The moment of the epiphany - The image idea is born

During that time, I lived in the countryside, about 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv.

I realised by this point that there is no way I will be able to fly to Poland and take this photo, and just as I thought about it, one day, as I was driving near a Kibbutz with the windows open singing along, I looked to the right, and BOOM - an association kicked in as I saw a huge agricultural metallic construction...

I looked at it and said to myself loudly and calmly in the car, "Wow - guess...if you can't reach Auschwitz... Auschwitz will reach you" and with that, I began planning the shot, knowing it would entail a Photoshop intervention - a montage.

Fast montage sketch

I could feel I was getting closer to something exciting. All I needed now was a good photograph of both the construction and another one of the railroad. If all is captured correctly, the photo assembly should be pretty easy.

Railroad section near home- I will need to duplicate one railroad...

The "familiar" agricultural construction - lots of cleaning needed here

Another small coincidence I came across during the Photoshop work on this image: As I multiplied the rails and positioned them correctly to imitate the inspiring photo, I carved out irrelevant areas in the reflections and noticed a small train signpost caught my eye for it displayed 2 very interesting numbers: 6 and 77.

Railroad sign with meaningful numbers

A small sign with a powerful assurance that my project is all about understanding the bigger picture...

According to Wiki - "An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished."

Out of all possible numbers (the sign didn't need to be there either!), these two struck me as relevant to my project since 6 represents the Jewish casualties, and 77 would be the general estimation of all who perished during the war.

How symbolic!

This road sign had them both... side by side.

At least I have the final image to stare at... while the answers slowly unveil with time:

Birke- No! Photoshop composition

In some way, my initial image was a kind of tribute to the attempt to leave the Cave, and in this new image I have created the kind of serene atmosphere of the Fall of Icarus, where so much and so little are happening at the same a way.

I hope you find it interesting too...With the view of the brown scorched fields, and the plantation in the background, the converging lines, all the way to the golf couse just beyond the railroad, which is conveniently blocked by boulder rocks, the railroad sign on the left..

It fascinates me how anybody who looks at this image immediately identifies the composition and therefore automatically assumed this is a photo of Auschwitz.

What should be the best conclusion? which approach should I adopt? Should I see this solely as a Jewish disaster? Should I reach out to fellow human beings who might feel the same? And if I believe (which I do) that this behaviour is deeper than the religion segregation layer, and goes deeper into the human most basic abilities for justice and compassion which can be found in every person be he what ever colour of the skin, or believe in the heart...

Dear pendulum - if beyond those gates I might find saviours....could it be possible that in the gates, together with me are Jewish perpetrators?

The thought that looking at the general composition, without delving into the smaller details - sparks immediately the first stipulation makes me wonder if we can ever look at this disaster in a broader scale and understanding, sharing the disaster with fellow victims of all sides. Sharing the disaster rather than appropriating it.

More about week thanks to Edgar Hilzenrath and Yehiel Di Noor.



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