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Pieces of the Past

Written 27.6.2010

I started the day with a steep climb up a gravely path to the Ring of Remembrance, just outside of Sorge. On my way, I passed a watchtower, border column and a fence, to which several people had affixed padlocks with names written on them. These in memory, I guessed, of loved ones who had died somehow as a result of the border, perhaps in a crossing attempt. Further down the path, I found the Ring- a huge piece of landscape art, erected in 1993 by Hermann Prigann. I stood in the center of a circle made of tree trunks and branches, some dead, some living. Nine concrete columns made an ugly intrusion, a right angle, into the circle. These pieces are original parts of the border. It was interesting to see the interplay between renewal and decay suggested by the artwork, while Prigann’s choice to include elements of the former border is a powerful challenge to remember the past and learn from its pains.

I left the circle and then faced a long series of steep hills, perhaps a 20-25% grade that I first went down, then up, up, up, pushing my bike both ways due to the poor conditions of the Kolonnenweg (patrol path), and the extreme grade. Sweaty and tired, I finally made it to Hohegeiß, where I zoomed down a pleasant road to Zorge. I arrived in Ellrich around noon, and found the Ellrich-Juliushutte Concentration Camp Memorial. This camp was a satellite of Buchenwald, where weakening inmates were sent to be worked to death. Food and clothing was sparse, and horrible conditions led to a 50% death-rate in the camp. I passed the remains of barracks, and, shockingly, the site of a crematorium that was built as late as March 1945. Solemnly, I continued to Walkenried on a gravely path.

Thirty kilometers later, the cityscape of Duderstadt was a welcome one indeed, and I eventually found pleasant accommodations at the Hotel Budapest, where, as you know, I had internet access and was therefore swamped with work and excitement until late into the night.

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