Opposite the Maginot line in Germany lay the second Siegfried line, or Westwall. The network of concentration camps of Hinzert where I was last week stood right in the middle of it, the camp and sub camp system brought to life in 1938 specifically to use forced labour to construct and fortify large parts of this line, with prisoners considered antisocial and in need of re-education.
The systemacy and institutionalisation of it all, equating a human being to a usable, disposable entity measured merely by the work in hours, added to the cause. Exploit. Discard when exhausted. Repeat.
Nearby in the city of Trier there was also a Hinzert sub camp. Karl Marx was born there more than a century earlier. With his notion of class struggle, Marx predicted the economic exploitation that the Nazis would force upon the country, which was in turn an element of political oppression, mass murder and genocide.
I am testing a new old camera, a gift from a friend. Looking into the ground glass, I see my face inverted, flipped, and shadowed by my hat, and I become a stranger to myself.
Your image comes to mind as I drive through a tunnel, soldiers compressed as the narratives they represent, a reality larger than every individual yet in part shaped by every individual.
And always that exploitation appearing in whatever humans do. Time distorting as lights flash by, I’m fighting my fatigue as I drive. But I’m heading home, and there’s tremendous power and consolation in that thought.