Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 4 • 1/100 sec
I’m going all serious on you again.
Earlier this week, I watched part of a documentary on how a North Korean man escaped from the concentration camp he had grown up in. He had watched his own mother and brother executed there for trying to escape, but eventually the desire to be free got to him as well. He and another man worked together to get out, and the other man was killed in the process. This type of stuff is still happening in North Korea.
I can assume that North Korea’s camps are very similar to Auschwitz, the Nazi camp we visited in Poland. Security there was extremely tight. In my photo, you can see a sign reading “Stop!” on a standard electric fence. Behind that, there is another barbed-wire fence with the top curved inward. It was also electrified. A third fence, the same design as the second, is next. Finally, there is a brick wall. Just by looking at it, I would guess it around eight feet high. If you look down the fence to the end, there is a small building with four windows. That is one of guard shacks, which were spaced along the perimeter of the camp. Guards would wait there for potential escapees, and try to shoot them before they reached the fence. In fact, our guide told us, prisoners would sometimes use the fence as a form of suicide, since the electricity was such a high voltage it would kill them. The guards tried to shoot the prisoners first, however, since they “did not like to clean up the mess” of someone being electrified.
Looking at all this, I did wonder how some people managed to successfully escape, as it seemed nearly impossible. According to our guide, some 802 attempted, but only 144 made it out alive (not counting all those liberated at the end of the war). I heard some found favor with dissenters who worked in the “hospital” and were snuck out. Some also escaped during work outings, but at high cost: for each successful escapee, ten others from their work team would be shot as a deterrent. Others were freed by SS guards who changed their minds about the Nazi agenda. As we walked around, I kept wondering to myself: If I was put in their place, what would I do? Would I try to escape or stay to protect those around me? If I did make an attempt, what would I try to do?
Put yourself in the prisoner’s shoes for a moment. How do you think you would handle this situation? Remember to pray for those still in camps today.
Some have said that these train tracks mark the site where more families were torn apart than anywhere else in history. These are the tracks leading into Auschwitz, one of the largest Nazi concentration camps in Poland. I took this shot from the top of the guard tower, where I could observe most of the camp. Here, the trains would enter the camp and the passengers would be stripped of their luggage and “sorted” into two areas of the camp: those who went one direction went to hard labor, the others went to the gas chambers. Many people got their last glimpses of their mothers, sisters, and children here.
Our tour had lasted for two hours, and most of us were emotionally exhausted by the time we’d reached the end. The stories were endless. People that had been living normal lives, suddenly uprooted and sent to a camp where death followed them at every turn. It was a side of humanity that many would love to forget existed, yet only our remembrance of it can keep it from happening again. We asked our tour guide how she could keep doing this day in and day out (she had been there for six years). She replied that her job had great meaning – in educating the next generation, she could take part in never letting the world forget what hate and racism could do.
This is just one photo of hundreds I took at the site, and over the weeks and months ahead, I’d like to occasionally post one and tell another story from the camp. It’s a tough subject, but one that I feel needs to be discussed.
What is your opinion on concentration camps to begin with? Is it a good idea to keep them in the public eye?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 14.0 • 1/200 sec
(Note: Ok, so I took this pic when I was first learning. I don’t recommend these settings for outdoor shoots)
“Welcome to Golkonda!” the tour guide thundered. I didn’t pay a ton of attention to him, since I was glancing nervously at the security guard in full military getup guarding a canon. Armed guards were a common occurance. Still, everyone here was friendly. Our tour group was led around the fort and shown many of the sights. Not bad for Rs 100 (about $2.30 at the time), even if the locals got in for Rs 5-20. It’s common in India to get the “skin tax” added on to prices if you’re a foreigner. 😛
Golkonda fort (aka Golla Konda, or “Shepherd’s Hill”) was built in the 13th century under the Kakatiya dynasty. Legend states that a wandering shepherd boy found an idol on the hill, so the Hindu king built a mud fort on the location. In the 15th century, construction began in granite, and the fort continued to be added on to until it’s ruin in 1687. Today, Golkonda is a collection of four forts behind an outer wall, covering 11 km² (4.2 mi²) in all (see here for more architectural details). One cool fun fact is that the mines surrounding Golkonda are where the Kohinoor and Hope diamonds were supposedly discovered.
On our tour, we got to visit the bat cave (and yes, the residents were there) and climb to the top to see a panoramic view of the twin cities Hyderabad & Secunderabad. At the base of the fort, our guide showed us where we could stand to clap or yell so that we could be heard at the uppermost citadel nearly 1 km (0.6 mi) away. Great acoustic system! They also had a running water system at the top – amazing technology for the time it was built! Finally, our group decided to shell out another Rs 40 (less than a dollar. Ooo!) to see the hour-long sound and light show that told the history of the fort. Sweet!
What’s your favorite historical place to visit?
Hidden away in a remote corner of the small island of Okinawa, Japan, there is a beautiful park. However, it represents something very ugly in history – the Battle of Okinawa. The 1945 WWII battle lasted 90 days and claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, half of which were civilians. It was this battle that prompted US President Truman to drop the atomic bomb to end the war and avoid another land invasion. The park was built to mourn those lost in the battle, share the historic lessons learned with the world, and in doing so, attempt to establish peace.
Okinawa Peace Memorial Park is a collection of several monuments, so I tried to get as many as I could in this week’s picture. The tower on the far left is Okinawa Peace Hall, which included prayers and paintings to honor those killed. In front is the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, with exhibits detailing the battle and effects on the people. In this picture, I would have been standing in front of Peace Hill, which features a large memorial arch. Not shown is the Cornerstone of Peace, Himeyuri Monument, and the Former Navy Underground Headquarters. The Cornerstone of Peace is one of the highlights of the park. The set of 116 black granite slabs includes over 240,000 names of people who died in the Pacific wars from March-Sept 1945. Now, a cooperation of several universities and computer graphics companies are developing an interactive program to better visualize the impact of the war.
The museum guide states, “The ‘Okinawan Heart’ is a human response that respects personal dignity above all else, rejects any acts related to war, and truly cherishes culture, which is a supreme expression of humanity.” This philosophy was developed from the war experience, and is a key to understanding Okinawan culture.
Do you like to visit any war memorial at times? What meaning does it hold for you?