I just got home from driving along most of the Polish-Czech border, trying to find and photograph the blue skies above each of the ninety-five World War 2 concentration camps of Groß-Rosen. The difference in ways of commemorating struck me, and even though I have no empirical proof of what I saw along the way, it felt much more as if in Poland and the Czech Republic there was a feeling of “moving on” – maybe even instead of commemorating – as if commemorating were in danger of meaning “standing still”, of atrophy. So much so that, days later when I eventually did encounter a commemoration monument, it caught me by surprise and felt very odd to me. I’m now trying to understand why.
When I walked to the quarry of the Groß-Rosen concentration camp a few days later, I was struck by another thing. I saw a quarry that looked physically identical in every way to the marble quarry in Carrara which we both photographed together last summer. The same cut stone patterns, the same water basin below, the same void left in the mountain, a meaning attached only by the destination of what was taken out. Two quarries with a perfectly antithetic purpose. One to annihilate, one to commemorate.
The process of slicing rock out of the earth was identical in both cases. A rock for a rock. I pointed my camera upwards and photographed another blue sky.
The mountain roads in that area weren’t always that good. Frequent large potholes required my utmost concentration, constantly scanning the tarmac immediately in front of the car, forcing me to look nearby only, reducing everything else, the people, the houses, the distant landscape, the larger context, any possible understanding, to an endless blur.