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.
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 3.5 • 1/250 sec
The city gate. Go back in time, and this was the one way to get past the fortress-like walls. It was the way to avoid the deep moat that protected the city. It was the gate where visitors and merchants and dignitaries alike first set foot in Warsaw. But after WWII, it was underground.
During the Warsaw Polish Uprising in 1944, the Nazis razed most of the city. After the War, the people slowly began to rebuild Warsaw on top of the ruins. The new city began to grow and thrive again, though they did not forget their history. Rebuilding was a long process, and many ruins remained for decades. Finally, in the 1980’s, some ruins were cleared out to reveal these gates, hidden next to the old Ghetto wall beside the city’s moat.
The are obviously no longer used as the city gates, considering they are at a level well below where the current city is built. But they are preserved here as a reminder of the city’s rich history, and all the people of Warsaw endured.
What’s your favorite historical discovery in the past few decades? Why?
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?