Check out the Photo Galleries: 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Traces
May 3rd I was on the bucolic trail just sucking in the great weather and ignoring the swarms of mosquitoes when I came upon yet another herd of sheep grazing on the Elbe grasslands. At the end of the electrified enclosure was a teenage lamb with its feet in the air pulsing with the shock of the fence. It had slipped in the mud against the fence and couldn't right itself. Only one other teen lamb ventured over to look at the spasmodic agony of its playmate. I looked hither and yon on the path. No one. I had no idea how much shock was in the fence. I couldn't leave. Finally in the distance someone approached. I waited and had to flag the man down because he had in ear plugs. I convinced the gentleman, about my age, that something had to be done. I took off my camera and waded into the mud at the river side of the fence where the lamb twitched. As I reached over to lift the hind legs free, the gentleman, who had bent down the electric fence with his foot, came to pull the fore legs free. The lamb stood up and ran off bleeting to his waiting herd.
After weeks of beautiful river scenes, I started to look at the reflections on ponds and on the river. I have a whole series of Monet-like shots. In a way they reminded me that all I report is a kind of reflection.
One Cloud Over Germany
I have a shot with just one cloud. Often as I walked, there would be just one cloud in the sky. As I approached Schnackenburg that cloud released a torrent of rain. Shortly after, the sun was out again. Too much time to reflect while walking, made me think about 'one cloud over Germany'.
Pork and Pig
Having ingested my fair share of schnitzel and sausage, I pondered where the pigs were that feed this German taste. I can now report, after many kilometres, that I have seen one pig on a spit and one lonely pig in an enclosure. I am still left with the question, "Where are the pigs of Germany?"
Not until I met a friendly Biosphere Ranger who stopped to tell me about the ice ages in Germany did I understand the glacial flatlands in the middle Elbe area. Near Doemitz I saw the first 'wandering dune'. Until the Elbe lands became 'civilized' these dunes wandered where the wind would take them.
Cousins from Hamburg
Thomas and Sylvielyn Reif joined David and I in Hitzhacker for a wonderful two days. We spent Sylvie's birthday together toasting with champagne in the lovely courtyard of the hotel Unter den Linden run by the accommodating Kleinhans family. We wandered in and around Hitzhacker from Damnatz to Bleckecke catching up on relations. Thomas' grandmother and my great-grandmother were sisters. The Reifs are my last remaining family in Germany.
The Stones Speak
In the Damnatz cemetery we'd seen a stone for Charlotte Voigt who died 'in the middle of life' during WWII. Then Thomas, Sylvie, David and I climbed the Jakobsberg in Hitzhacker where on its peak we found old Jewish gravestones from the 1700 and 1800s. Except for one, they were defaced on the German side but legible on the Hebrew side. Sylvie befriended the pleasant Frau Dierks (tending to the graves of her husband and children) who took us on a tour on the tiered graveyard where we saw the graves of WWII dead, nobles and of the Amsberg Family--Prince Claus von Amsberg, the husband of Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands was from Hitzhacker. We even saw a gravestone marking an Oberleutnant of a WWII who was wounded in Russia. His stone bore a swasticka. When I asked our hotelier, Mrs Kleinhals what she knew of the Jewish graves, she said that as school girls they had tended to these graves. Now, unlike the rest of the carefully tended cemetery, they lie uncared for. Stones on the stones show that some visitors have been there.
Herr Lehmann who runs an extraordinary museum in the old toll house in Hitzhacker, arranged for us to meet WWII witnesses. Frau Kleinhals, Herr Schulte and Frau Linke provided extaordinary anecdotes of war times in the area. Hitzhacker was in the midst of the fighting at the end of WWII. The extraordinary tales will be featured separately. Just as a teaser, Herr Schulte was the offspring of the Nazi "Lebensborn" program where blonde, blue-eyed Frauleins were to gift Hitler a baby. Herr Schulte, one of these babies, has a sad tale to tell.
WIFO, an Acronym for War
WIFO was the deceptive name the Nazis gave to cover up the construction of a huge oil/gasoline/rocket fuel bunker facility in the woods outside Hitzhacker. They bought the lands in 1934, fenced them in 1936 and had hidden the huge facility with the planting of birches and by painting the roads leading to it green. We needed the guide that Mr. Lehmann sent to help us into the remnants of the facilty dynamited by the allies after the war.
Lookout Tower near Hitzhacker
Sylvie, David, Thomas and I climbed a rather tall lookout tower which had commanding views of the Elbe lands. My photos were upclose and personal.
Love the Reporters!
I met Gisela J in Bleckede when we arrived and Kristin-Ann M when we left. During the evening with the WWII witnesses in the Landhaus an der Elbe, I met two more reporters. The attentiveness, questions and unmistakeable interest of these reporters is a genuine pleasure. They very much want to see how their land is being perceived by someone walking through it —with my interests. These engaging and open reporters have helped shape my opinions about the willingness of Germans to look at their past, present and future.
I titled one of my photos "lighthouse on the Elbe". These white towers where the guard houses of the former DDR. These towers were erected in zones cleared of small villages. People died trying to cross these heavily guarded areas. One photo is through the grating of the fence that kept the east Germans from the West.