Sunshine Recorder


Nazi legacy: The troubled descendants
Photo: “My Nazi father shot women with babies in their arms from this balcony, I am tormented by how much of him is in me’ … Monika, daughter of camp commander Amon Goeth
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The names of Himmler, Goering, Goeth and Hoess still have the power to evoke the horrors of Nazi Germany, but what is it like to live with the legacy of those surnames, and is it ever possible to move on from the terrible crimes committed by your ancestors? 
When he was a child Rainer Hoess was shown a family heirloom.
He remembers his mother lifting the heavy lid of the fireproof chest with a large swastika on the lid, revealing bundles of family photos.
They featured his father as a young child playing with his brothers and sisters, in the garden of their grand family home.
The photos show a pool with a slide and a sand pit - an idyllic family setting - but one that was separated from the gas chambers of Auschwitz by just a few yards.
His grandfather Rudolf Hoess (not to be confused with Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess), was the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. His father grew up in a villa adjoining the camp, where he and his siblings played with toys built by prisoners.
It was where his grandmother told the children to wash the strawberries they picked because they smelled of ash from the concentration camp ovens.
Rainer is haunted by the garden gate he spotted in the photos that went straight into the camp - he calls it the “gate to hell”.
"It’s hard to explain the guilt," says Rainer, "even though there is no reason I should bear any guilt, I still bear it. I carry the guilt with me in my mind.
"I’m ashamed too, of course, for what my family, my grandfather, did to thousands of other families.
"So you ask yourself, they had to die. I’m alive. Why am I alive? To carry this guilt, this burden, to try to come to terms with it.
"That must be the only reason I exist, to do what he should have done."
His father never abandoned the ideology he grew up with and Rainer no longer has contact with him, as he attempts to cope with his family’s guilt and shame. […]
For Bettina Goering, the great-niece of Hitler’s designated successor Hermann Goering, she felt she needed to take drastic action to deal with her family’s legacy.
Both she and her brother chose to be sterilised.
"We both did it… so that there won’t be any more Goerings," she explains.
"When my brother had it done, he said to me ‘I cut the line’."
Disturbed by her likeness to her great-uncle, she left Germany more than 30 years ago and lives in a remote home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"It’s easier for me to deal with the past of my family from this great distance," she explains.

Nazi legacy: The troubled descendants

Photo: “My Nazi father shot women with babies in their arms from this balcony, I am tormented by how much of him is in me’ … Monika, daughter of camp commander Amon Goeth

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The names of Himmler, Goering, Goeth and Hoess still have the power to evoke the horrors of Nazi Germany, but what is it like to live with the legacy of those surnames, and is it ever possible to move on from the terrible crimes committed by your ancestors?

When he was a child Rainer Hoess was shown a family heirloom.

He remembers his mother lifting the heavy lid of the fireproof chest with a large swastika on the lid, revealing bundles of family photos.

They featured his father as a young child playing with his brothers and sisters, in the garden of their grand family home.

The photos show a pool with a slide and a sand pit - an idyllic family setting - but one that was separated from the gas chambers of Auschwitz by just a few yards.

His grandfather Rudolf Hoess (not to be confused with Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess), was the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. His father grew up in a villa adjoining the camp, where he and his siblings played with toys built by prisoners.

It was where his grandmother told the children to wash the strawberries they picked because they smelled of ash from the concentration camp ovens.

Rainer is haunted by the garden gate he spotted in the photos that went straight into the camp - he calls it the “gate to hell”.

"It’s hard to explain the guilt," says Rainer, "even though there is no reason I should bear any guilt, I still bear it. I carry the guilt with me in my mind.

"I’m ashamed too, of course, for what my family, my grandfather, did to thousands of other families.

"So you ask yourself, they had to die. I’m alive. Why am I alive? To carry this guilt, this burden, to try to come to terms with it.

"That must be the only reason I exist, to do what he should have done."

His father never abandoned the ideology he grew up with and Rainer no longer has contact with him, as he attempts to cope with his family’s guilt and shame. […]

For Bettina Goering, the great-niece of Hitler’s designated successor Hermann Goering, she felt she needed to take drastic action to deal with her family’s legacy.

Both she and her brother chose to be sterilised.

"We both did it… so that there won’t be any more Goerings," she explains.

"When my brother had it done, he said to me ‘I cut the line’."

Disturbed by her likeness to her great-uncle, she left Germany more than 30 years ago and lives in a remote home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"It’s easier for me to deal with the past of my family from this great distance," she explains.

I imagine the feelings of two people meeting again after many years. In the past they spent some time together, and therefore they think they are linked by the same experience, the same recollections. The same recollections? That’s where the misunderstanding starts: they don’t have the same recollections; each of them retains two or three small scenes from the past, but each has his own; their recollections are not similar; they don’t intersect; and even in terms of quantity they are not comparable: one person remembers the other more than he is remembered; first because memory capacity varies among individuals (an explanation that each of them would at least find acceptable), but also (and this is more painful to admit) because they don’t hold the same importance for each other. When Irena saw Josef at the airport, she remembered every detail of their long-ago adventure; Josef remembered nothing. From the very first moment their encounter was based on an unjust and revolting inequality.
— Milan Kundera, Ignorance

"Forget Your Past" by Nikola Mihov

Nikola Mihov is a photographer and video maker living in Bulgaria. In his series “Forget Your Past“, he looks at old and abandoned soviet era moments and statures in Bulgaria. The series features 38 photographs with detailed information about the people who designed the structures and the history behind them.

Many of the iconic communist era monuments in Bulgaria were dismantled after the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989. Nevertheless, more than one hundred important monuments built between 1945 and 1989 remain standing. The majority of these sites are not recognized by the state and they remain ownerless. Their exact number is unknown and it is difficult to find information about their authors and their history. The graffiti “Forget Your Past” above the entrance of the Bulgarian Communist Party memorial demonstrates their faith. Situated in towns across the country, and once a symbol of pride, today most of communist era monuments are neglected and ransacked. Regardless of whether they were built to commemorate the Soviet Army or the struggle against Ottoman rule, they all share one and the same fate: to be a silent symbol of the forgotten past. Nikola Mihov’s photographic series “Forget Your Past” reveals 14 of the most significant communist era monuments in Bulgaria. This project is realized within the support of Trace, a platform that brings together artists and architects to consider the integration of the communist monuments into the present day urban environment.

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.
— Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu [In Search of Lost Time] (vol. I, Swann’s Way) (1913) 

(Source: books.google.com, via fuckyeahexistentialism)

I imagine the feelings of two people meeting again after many years. In the past they spent some time together, and therefore they think they are linked by the same experience, the same recollections. The same recollections? That’s where the misunderstanding starts: they don’t have the same recollections; each of them retains two or three small scenes from the past, but each has his own; their recollections are not similar; they don’t intersect; and even in terms of quantity they are not comparable: one person remembers the other more than he is remembered; first because memory capacity varies among individuals (an explanation that each of them would at least find acceptable), but also (and this is more painful to admit) because they don’t hold the same importance for each other. When Irena saw Josef at the airport, she remembered every detail of their long-ago adventure; Josef remembered nothing. From the very first moment their encounter was based on an unjust and revolting inequality.
— Milan Kundera, Ignorance