While Spain faced postwar, the world in general and Europe in particular were mired in a conflict whose consequences shocked in a different way: this difference was marked by the concentration and extermination camps created by the Third Reich. Until then, the concentration camps were not unknown, but it was the first time such a complex industrial infrastructure and systematic methodology were created with the aim of killing people. The methods used by the nazis progressively achieved a sophistication level difficult to assimilate because of their degradation, violence and cruelty with the victims. Today, the territories have changed and some of these places have been maintained and even reformed to become institutions that in one way or another remember what happened; others have being adapted for new uses while others continue with similar functions.
Lager arises the time relationship maintained in these places and gives the viewer the impulse of visiting them. The starting point of Lager comes from reading memoirs from the survivors of the Holocaust (Viktor Frankl, Neus Català and many others) and the explicit shock value that comes from their experiences, including the displacement through several camps like Auschwitz (Poland), Struthof (France), Mauthausen (Austria), Dachau, Buchenwald (and Dora), Flossenburg and Sachenhausen (Germany), in order to locate spatially their background. Through the personal experience , LAGER is built using the remnants that still remain as a link to observe the transformation these places have experienced and their actual use.
Lager is composed by different images (taken with medium format analog camera 6x6) of concentration and extermination camps of the Third Reich, as well as their surroundings and related facilities. This working process facilitates the research and interaction with the photographed places. The final work shows the photo accompanied by a text indicating the place and function of the shown location. The absence of the most representative symbols in these places is deliberate, allowing an individual conception of space-time-reality.
“It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say .” ― Primo Levi.
In 1937 the SS opened the concentration camp which would be the largest on german territory in WWII: Buchenwald. Placed at Ettersberg Hill in the center of the country, close to Weimar, was composed by other 139 subcamps and here were deported people from all over Europe: political opponents, Jews, spanish republicans, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, homeless, Jehovah’s Witnesses,… Almost 280.000 persons were imprisioned here or in the subcamps, only 21.000 survived to see their liberation.
1.943. Gustloff-Werk II Factory, Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Weimar, Germany.
One of the purposes of the nazi concentration camp was provide workforce. Some of the factories (in which the inmates worked like slaves) were placed inside the concentration camp. At the second middle of the WWII, were usual companies dedicated to armament industry for the nazis, such Gustloff-Werk II whose one of their plants is now a forest.
1.941. SS neighborhood. Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. Flossenbürg, Germany.
Some of the camp officials and higher ranking SS personnel were housed in a specially constructed housing area on a hillside near the camp. These houses are still in use today.
1.940. The parachutists wall. Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Mauthausen, Austria.
Even today is still visible “The parachutist wall” at Mauthausen Quarry. In this place the SS guards, puts some inmates aleatory chosen and were forced to choose between to push the prisoner in front of him off the cliff or be shot.
1.942. SS shooting range. Hebertshausen, Germany.
Dachau was not only a concentration camp, was a huge complex for Waffen-SS training. In one of the walls for firearms training, were executed around 4000 soviet prisoners shot by one line of guns and a second one of submachineguns.
1.943. Sleeping tunnel. Dora Concentration Camp. Nordhausen, Germany.
To protect the production of the V-2 rockets (the first missile) from the air raids, some nazi leaders decided to perform a net of 20 km of tunnels under Kohnstein mountain. The inmates were housing inside the tunnels, coexisting with explosions, dust, soot of the trains, humidity and lack of light. For some works inside the tunnels, life expectancy was one month.
Many places were strongly transformed to built a concentration camp. Quarries were opened, villages were moved and forests were cuts down. After the war, some of those places were transformed for other uses.
The nazi industrial system to annihilate people counted with the same organisation, rules and development than any other production system. The camps needed new communication ways, railway tracks included.
Buchenwald inmates were forced to build a track between Weimar and Buchenwald in three months. This railway served the needs of the Gustloff-Werke factory, but later inmates were also transported on these tracks. From Buchenwald Station were sent transports taking children and sick inmates to Auschwitz where they were murdered. When the SS evacuated the camps in Poland, mass transports were sent to Buchenwald. Many of the inmates were already dead upon arrival or died shortly thereafter.
1.942. Commandant house. Struthof Concentration Camp. Natzweiler, France.
Many times, camp commandants lived in a house near or even inside the camp with their families, few meters from the inmates. In Struthof, the commandant house was a country house with a pool surrounded by fir trees, belonging from a family from Strasbourg, expropriated when nazis chose this remote place to establish the Concentration Camp.
1.941. Warsaw Ghetto. Warsaw, Poland.
After the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Jewish resistance, the zone was devastate block by block in retaliation for this and the population executed or deported. In spite of the destruction, some parts of the wall of the Ghetto are still visible between the apartment blocks.
Buchenwald worked such a factory with his own village around, provided by streets, houses, petrol station and facilities in order to provide diversion and entertainment for SS and their families, like a zoological garden. At least two bears and other animals lived here, near to the watchtowers and the prisoners.
1.939. Workshops for military arsenal. Dachau Concentration Camp. Dachau, Germany.
Dachau was a huge complex for SS where the Camp, the first built by nazis and the main model for followings, was just a part. Nearest areas was destined to several activities: from Gestapo office to plantation for medical herbals. Sometimes this activities was separated from the camp by a road, a wall or just a simple barbed fence.
Concentration camp was not a practise limited just to nazis: soviet administration used some nazis concentration camps such Buchenwald to incarcerate to local functionaries of the NSDAP (nazi party), but also adolescents and victims of denunciation from the region were interned under hard life-conditions. Many of them died in the manner of people prisoned by nazis.
1.944. SS cells. Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Weimar, Germany.
Sometimes, prisons and guardrooms also took in some SS, such the basins of a building in Buchenwald, where were executed some of the accused in one of the attacks to Hitler.
After war, either by raids, reprisals or the actions from own nazis to destroy strongly damning evidences, many facilities was seriously damaged or destroyed. Some of them were restructured for other uses, even for memorials, and others simply abandoned.
1.942. Road to Struthof Concentration Camp. Rothau, France.
Transported by lorries or on foot, prisoners were forced to march to the camp, most of the times after a travel on freight cars. This was one of the first stages on a dehumanisation process before joining in a camp. Blows, shouts and many other facts which expects to divest prisoners from their own dignity to become themselves to non-human, according to Nazi racial theories.
1.941. Railway bridge to Mauthausen. St. Georgen an der Gusen, Austria.
Many of the constructions remains such a useless infrastructure: paths, tunnels, bridges or others. Made in a very short time (because prisoners were used as slaves), served to transport most efficiently to other inmates from all Europe to the Camp.
1.944. Birkenau. Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
This series of photos taken around the outskirts of big cities, shows limited spaces as pieces of a smaller puzzle which then compose another even bigger puzzle: invisible and imagined, though still possible. One pressing question I raise is that of “dehumanized spaces”: the surrendering of oneself to a strict functionality without concessions to imagination and the relationships that people can construct with these spaces. Creating scenes from a poetical point of view using geometric compositions and intense colours with an enormous presence of black as a symbol of emptiness.
In 2017 was closed “La Modelo”, commonly name which is known this prison, placed in the city center of Barcelona. The Centro Penitenciario de Hombres de Barcelona (Barcelona Penitentiary Center for Men, official name) was opened in 1904 in the outskirts of the city, but later, with the quick growing, the building was had left in a important place in the city, close for example to the main train station and surrounded by housing.
One of the most darkness periods was during the spanish military dictatorships, specially the Franco one: political dissidents, trade unionist, homosexuals, were incarcerate in this prison, as well as other regular inmates. Some of them were executed here too.
The future of this building is not clear yet, but some of the projects are around a park, social housing and a Memorial.