Another day to remember the holocaust and some places dedicated to remembering (Boston, Prague, Austwich, Laxton)

Tomorrow is National Holocaust Memorial Day. 27th January marks the day that the largest concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberarted. Holocaust Memorial Day also remembers those affected by genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.  Of course, every day we should be observant about groups being victimized. At different times I have been to three holocaust memorials around the globe. I have been to Krakov in Poland but, could not seriously consider going to Austwich from there although it is theoretically possible, because it is a 3 – 4 hour round trip, just to get there and I did not have a whole day spare. I’m not sure I would have wanted to go, it seems a rather morbid activity and perhaps rather voyeuristc.

Appropriately the Holocaust memorial in Boston, Massachusetts is part of the Freedom trial which also. commemorates those denied freedom due to slavery. It features a line of six, tall glass towers. Each tower represents a major Nazi death camp: Majdanek, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The glass is etched with 6 million random numbers to represent the 6million Jews in  concentration camps. You can walk in line through one tower to the next like a tunnel. At the bases of each tower steam rises, from the grate below, therefore it is very eerie to walk though and brings to mind walking into gas chambers.

More personal than the numbers on the Boston memorial, the walls of the Pinknova synagogue in Prague features handwritten names of the 78thousand Czech and Moravian victims. So many names and no the only details being, if known their data of birth and date of death; no information about them as a person. Although upstairs in the synagogue is an exhibition of Child Holocaust victims art, so the loss creativity can be seen. Downstairs I zoned in on someone who shared the same first name as me and I’m trying to find out more about her, which is not proving easy so far.

The Berlin memorial close to the Brandberg gate (which was once part of the the Berlin wal) features no lists of names or numbers. It is a collection of large square blocks of granite. It covers a relatively large area with most blocks been too high to see over as you walk though. Some of the paths roll like waves rather,than being flat. Therefore it feels a bit like being in a maze and disorirntated, whether this makes you think about about holocaust victims or taking pictures in a different location is debatable. I believe there is just one explanatory board on the site. The blocks darkness makes the place rather bleak.

Upon realising I have not been to a Holocaust museum in the  I did a google search. I found there is National Holocaust Centre in Laxton near Newark, which features exhibits about the holocaust and outside a rose garden to contemplate in Additionally a Holocaust memorial for London is currently been designed, echoing the Freedom trial in Boston it will be displayed im Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Thames and Westminster; alongside monuments to suffragettes, abolishment of slavery and civic service.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How can life go on’ i.e. after the genocide; something to consider today.

Imitation Game Review

A good story that makes you want to know more; part of it being a good story ,is that it is based on the true story of Alan Turing and him cracking the Enigma code at Bletchley Park, which was the headquarters for code breakers during the 2nd world war. His efforts  allowed English military to intercept German military messages which is thought to have shortened the war.

The start in 1953 is rather slow before rewinding to Turing’s interview at Bletchley Park, which in my mind would have been a more powerful opening scene. The interview at Bletchley park establishes Turing’s character and introduces the seemingly undeafeatable Enigma machine with it’s complex codes that changes daily. In addition to flashing forward to the 50s, the film also  flashes back as far as Turing’s school days where he falls in love for the first time with Christopher. In the intolerant times of the 50s this preference for men established in childhood,  led to arrest and trail in 1952 for indecency and later his death by cyanide in 1954. The flash back and forwards brings in this sub plot to the breaking of the enigma code.

The film does impart that Turing had a dramatic life, however I do not feel it does it in a poignant way. Rather than the film saying a thousand words, it is left to captions at the end to make the points about the impact of cracking Enigma and the brain lost with his suicide. Although I thought the story, could have been told better, it was enjoyable viewing. Keira Knightly brought her role to life, for me Cumberbatch brought Turing  to life less so.