Category: WWII

Categories

Riga & Tallinn

Last Wednesday I came back from a nine-day return trip to the Baltics, well, just to two of the capital cities, Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia. My first trip to the region had been in 2014, and I knew that in these cities a few new sites of relevance to dark tourism had newly opened in the meantime or had changed significantly, thus warranting a re-visit.

In Riga, the

Majdanek

On (or around) this day, 77 years ago, on 23 July 1944, the concentration camp of Majdanek was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. They found only a few hundred weak and ill prisoners left. The rest had already been “evacuated”. The SS retreated with such haste that they didn’t destroy much evidence of their deeds here, so the

Women’s Day

On this day it’s International Women’s Day, so I’m marking this by posting some photos of really big women sculptures. Above is the very biggest of them all, the largest female statue ever built. This is the Rodina Mat, aka “The Motherland Calls”, statue on Mamayev Hill in Volgograd, Russia. She’s the central part of the memorial complex for the Battle of Stalingrad. This is Soviet monumentalism at its most monumental! The figure is 52m tall from head to toe, with sword even 85m. At the

White Rose & Total War

On this day, 78 years ago, on 18 February 1943, two very dark events in Germany’s darkest history coincided on this same day.

One was the arrest of siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl, who as members of the White Rose resistance group at the university of Munich were distributing flyers, in which they harshly criticized the Nazi regime and

30th Anniversary of German Reunification

On this day, thirty years ago, on 3 October 1990, Germany was officially reunified and the GDR (the old communist East German state) ceased to exist, just eleven months after the so-called Fall of the Berlin Wall (or, more precisely, the opening of the border crossing points, which is generally seen as the beginning of the end for the GDR). The physical Wall too was soon after mostly demolished. So it has now actually been gone longer than it had been in existence! How time flies.

30 years is of course a big anniversary and the German media are predictably full of

New Flak Tower Photos – and a New Poll

Flaktürme, or ‘flak towers’, in Vienna’s Augarten park. In case you don’t know, “Flak” is short for “Flugabwehrkanone”, or ‘anti-aircraft gun’, and these towers were constructed to house batteries of big guns of that type during WWII. They were each complemented by another tower for radar/aiming technology. Hence the main towers were called “Gefechstturm” (‘combat tower’), while the smaller secondary tower was called “Leitturm” (‘directing tower’ or ‘lead tower’). Thus these installations always came in pairs. On the lower floors they additionally provided much needed air-raid-shelter space for civilians. But in their main military purpose,

Light at the End of Dark Tunnels

The idiomatic phrase ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is probably being used a lot in these weird times– as something that is hoped for, the end of a crisis. Alas, with regard to the current pandemic, that light remains very faint at best, if it’s discernible at all. There’s still no cure, no vaccine, no clear outlook of what’s yet to come.
These thoughts inspired me to look through my photo archives searching for images of tunnels with lights at their ends, and indeed there have been some on my extensive travels. Here we go, the first one is

Viva Venezia – Venezia buia

I had a fantastic five days in Venice. Even though it wasn’t exactly empty and devoid of tourists, there was certainly not the degree of ‘overtourism’ that had plagued the city before the pandemic. Without the usual thick throngs of tourists, Venice was indeed much more pleasant to visit now.
While much of the trip was about just enjoying Venice as it is at the moment, wandering about and indulging in culinary delights, there had to be some dark elements too, of course. Venice may not be a top-league dark-tourism destination, but it does have its dark sides as well. The second Italian phrase in this post’s title, “Venezia buia”, means ‘dark Venice’, by the way.

Brno and Big Blasts

This week I resumed a little bit of travelling, for the first time since January in fact, namely by going to Brno in the Czech Republic, which is only a 90-minute train ride away from where I live (Vienna). Brno (Brünn in German) had long been on my to-do list but had been too easy to postpone given its proximity. Now, with all those pandemic-induced restrictions it had become a more immediate option to test the waters of travelling during these COVID times. So I travelled with my wife by train on Tuesday and came back the same way on Thursday.

I managed to tick off all four significant dark-tourism attractions of Brno during that time: the

Dark Tourism and Bridges

This beautiful and highly iconic structure is of course the fabled Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, USA. And what’s its dark secret? This very deadly one: it’s one of the world’s top suicide hotspots. Thousands have jumped off this bridge to end their lives, how many exactly is impossible to tell, but some 1600 bodies were recovered. Yet many others will have drifted out into the Pacific with the tide never to be found.

As a place to top oneself and simply vanish, this was an almost ideal spot. The height of the bridge, 70m above the waterline, more or less guarantees death on impact through

Stauffenberg’s Execution after Operation Valkyrie’s Failure

On this day, 76 years ago, in the early hours of 21 July 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was summarily executed by firing squad in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock building in Berlin, together with some of his co-conspirators.

Their plot, code-named “Operation Valkyrie”, had been to assassinate Adolf Hitler at his command post of Wolfschanze (‘wolf’s lair’) in what today is in north-eastern Poland (then German East Prussia).

Stauffenberg, thanks to his high rank in the military, had access to Hitler, and so it was decided that he would plant a bomb hidden in a briefcase near Hitler during a meeting at Wolfschanze. Stauffenberg was to leave the briefing early and

Trinity

On this day, 75 years ago, on 16 July 1945, the first atomic bomb explosion was set off in what was called the “Trinity” test in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA. The image above is a historic photo of the mushroom cloud that formed shortly after the detonation. The whole event was meticulously documented, including by means of super-high-speed cameras. Here’s another example; it shows

Scaled-down D-Day Commemoration Ceremonies This Year

On this Day, 76 years ago, on 6 June 1944, the biggest ever amphibious landing operations, popularly known as D-Day, took place in Normandy, France, and gave the Western Allies the foothold they needed to begin the fight against Nazi Germany on the Western Front in WWII. The whole plan was code-named ‘Operation Overlord’.

Beginning here, the Western Allies slowly pushed back the Nazi occupiers out of France and eventually

Dunkirk 1940

On this day, 80 years ago, on 4 June 1940, the last of the Allied evacuations from Dunkirk took place, and the next day Nazi Germany declared victory in the Battle of Dunkirk.

It was the first major confrontation on the ground between British and German troops in WWII within France. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had been deployed to France after Germany invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war on Germany. When the

An allegedly controversial photo/topic

As a suitable first blog post photo I thought I should pick the very one that started the whole Facebook fiasco (for more on that see here). While it may have been against “community standards” there (though I don’t think it really was, but so what), we do not have any such restrictions of freedom here. So consider it for yourself.
What I wrote about it on Facebook on that day (at a time when I was trying to insert little allusions to the coronavirus crisis) was this: