By Kevin Pilz
I’m Kevin Pilz and I’m a Hobby photographer from Ulm, Germany. I started with photography three years ago when my daughter was born. Besides family pictures I mainly shoot portraits and challenge myself with little photo projects such as shooting in monochrome only and restricting myself to only use one focal length from time to time. I follow Steve Huff ever since I started with photography. I also posted the daily inspiration #966.
One if my favorite photographers is Don McCullin. For him, “photography is not looking, it’s feeling.“ And I feel the same way about photography; so when I don’t have a connection to my subject, I will never get others to feel anything when they look at my photos.
It took me a while to publish these photographs in an appropriate way as I think that this content is not quite suitable for social media. I don’t want that these pictures could be taken out of context and I want to present them the way I like it. Therefore, I created my own website and as a long-time fan of Steve, I asked him, if I could publish this report on his site, as well.
With this report, I want to show the feelings and emotions the below photographs invoked in me.
Recently, nationalists are gaining power all over Europe. Xenophobia is emerging in all social classes. The democratic foundations are in danger – more than ever before. In September 2017, a new German Bundestag will be elected. This would be the first time since World War II, that a right-wing party could be elected in the Bundestag. I do not want to go into detail because I think that you, dear reader, are aware of that situation in Germany and Europe.
This is a general issue on a subject that in my opinion everyone in every society should be concerned about.
The political climate concerns me. I see parallels in history; however, history should never be forgotten and it’s worst aspects never repeated in any way. Especially the darkest episode of the German history – National Socialism.
Recently I went to the Concentration Camp (KZ) Dachau, near Munich. I always wanted to go there and see for myself what people can do to one another. When I saw all the fences and watchtowers, I was shocked. Everything in this camp is aimed to murder people in an inhuman, sadistic way.
The gas chamber and the incinerator are one of the most barbaric constructions created by mankind. For instance, on the outside of the chamber, there is a flap where the murderers could put the potassium cyanide in. From the inside of the chamber, you could see this flap through a steel grid. After your own murder you got burned and your existence literally extinguished.
When I got home and post processed my pictures, I felt even worse. I had to fight back my tears. I think these pictures speak for themselves.
In retrospect, I realize the visit in Dachau changed me. In times like these, it is important to know where we come from and talk about these parallels in history and do something about it.
So hopefully, I can change something with this report.
I would be very much appreciate it if you leave a comment on my website or here down below.
Thanks for reading.
PS: I took these photos with my Fuji X-T1 and the Xf18f2 and XF35f2.
First of all – some powerful photos there. Like you, I was born in Germany, the son of a WW II Wehrmacht Panzer Officer. We emigrated to the US in the early 1950’s and vowed to be the best “American Citizens” that we could be. I subsequently served 26 years in the US Marine Corps and am now fully retired, but my German heritage is very important to me.
But there is something you said – actually on more than one occasion – that the right and “xenophobic” tend to go hand in hand all over Europe. Why is that the “right” is always villified? The reason so many folks – like those associated with the AFD party in Germany – is because they are tired of unbridled immigration, along with other status quo scenarios which are quite similar across the continent. Countries (to include the US) are losing their national identity and it’s certainly not like it used to be 50 or so years ago when immigrants came here to become part of American society (and other societies in Europe). What’s bothers me even more however is how various international progressive movements, regardless of what name these individuals or partys may carry, are always quite skillful in being able to label opposing viewpoints with now standard Xenophobic (a term quite regularly used in Germany), Homophobic, Racist (now there’s one that is overly used), and so much more.
I didn’t intend to be political here, but the OP’s photos, although riveting and thought provoking, may put off some folks who are insulted with the OP’s characterizations of those who oppose the status quo – which incidentally is causing Europe to come apart at the seams.
OK, so now let the name calling begin (seems that always happens).
Kevin, thank you very much for sharing these images.They brought back many mixed emotions for me. My wife and I took a private tour of Dachau a few years ago while in Germany on vacation. I took many of the same shots. Ironically, the person who gave us the tour was a granddaughter of a former Nazi guard. Even more ironic, we are Jewish. After the tour, we were completely emotionally and mentally drained. After returning to our hotel, we went to the Lowenbrau Beergarten, which helped a great deal. 🙂 When we got back home to the USA, I took my images and made a coffee table book of our entire European trip. Whenever I show the book to family and friends, they always comment about the prison camp photos, as they always seem to elicit a reaction and conversation. “Never forget”. Thanks again.
thank you so much for your comment on my pictures. I think it was a really awkward situation that your guides’ grandfather was a Nazi guard. After I saw the “Bunker” and the crematory I felt really sick and helpless; furthermore angry about those SS guards who tortured all the victims there. Unfortunately, history repeats itself because people forget about the past. There were genozides in Africa, Europe and Asia and now we have this terrible situation in Syria. I hope people finally realize that we are all the same. But I think this remains a dream…Thanks again for your comment.
Shocking Indeed very well documented, EU dealing with tough issues. Here in the US I was shocked when one crude comment after another by Donald Trump were overlooked by Americans and when one looks and listens at his rallies and hears, “Kill Her,” or “Lock Her Up.” it amazes me.
I grant them their rights, but wish we had reasonable gun background checks in place and didn’t allow people to carry guns on college campus. I agree with the right to own a gun legally.
Thanks for your work and reminder
bob from Chicago
Thanks for your comment Bob. You know, as an European, it is very strange to own a gun at all. I am strictly against owning weapons as a private persone. Therefore we have the police and army. I do not wanna start an argument. This is just my POV. Thank for commenting my pictures, greetings from Ulm, Germany. Kevin
Wonderfully documented. ‘Least we foeget!’
Thank you guys for all your comments, I was really overwhelmed by your feedback! Have a great day, Kevin Pilz
A well done project. Very emotional photos.
Excellent work, Kevin.
Very moving story, very moving photos.
A long time ago (1966 I think) I was hitchhiking in Europe and suddenly saw the sign to Dachau then the fence – that was chilling enough for me. Grim pictures but it’s good to be reminded how many of these places there were and how Europe let fascism get out of hand.
Very moving images – thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your moving images, and moreso for the message. We can never assume we are safely removed from going down an evil pathway again. In the US there is the very scary candidacy of Trump, which more and more resembles fascism.
The scary thing is that Hilter came to power in an educated, sophisticated society, and through democratic means. Once he had power then he became a dictator, but it was the people and the conservative party that initially gave him power. And like a certain person in the US, everyone initially viewed him as an idiot know-nothing.
A must read for anyone on how this can come to be, even in an advanced, educated society, is this review from the NY Times:
Thank you wade, I’ll check that link out
The images are powerful reminders. Like you i am concerned about nationalist tendencies not only in Europe but also in the United States (I am german living in the US). I am concerned that too many people forget about the past and what we should learn from it.
I was there in 2009. Great photos of some horrific place.
I have been in the Dachau three times, but never ocurio to me convert the photos into black and white. The feeling is different. thank!
Here’s one value – imho – of this depiction of the worst in mankind:
We look at the Nazis, and along with our immense (and entirely appropriate) revulsion, we feel self-righteous.
But we’re all sometimes tempted to push against resistance from others, and achieve our aims by force. Compared to the colossal inhumanity shown in the camps, these temptations are usually tiny in scale.
But our tiny, daily temptations to use our strength to get what we want, still contain a similar dynamic to the rise of National Socialism; just on a miniature scale. It’s the strategy of objectifying others: turning them in to a means-to-our-end.
If we get good at succeeding in life by using force, the dynamic can flair up and spread to a larger scale. It can spread in our relationships, it can spread socially, it can even spread politically.
To me, this excellent photo essay is a reminder to pay attention every time we’re tempted to prevail by tiny acts of force!
Thank you Kevin and Steve.
Regardless of how well photographed (composition, exposure etc.) barbwire, steel doors or empty halls are, it is impossible to describe them as beautiful. Rather I think of the adjective “important”. Thanks for sharing your images.
Thanks for all of your comments!
A much needed reminder.
You have captured the horror of the place. You are so right, we must not let history repeat itself.
God created us all equal and we must fight for our freedom.
Strong and dark pictures. I can relate to the feeling, having been to Auschwitz once. Literally felt sick after completing just half of the tour and couldn’t continue. Industrialized murder of dehumanized subjects…still sends shivers down my spine.
I think these pictures and subject matter are appropriate for social media. The world needs to better informed and educated so history won’t repeat itself.
very nice pictures. i can feel the emptieness and absence of joy. but wait: the joy is with the sadist having fun dismissing others (narcistic bulling). it all starts with the authoritarian character and ends in necrophilia (erich fromm)
this camp was build for communists
where have all the nazis gone (and their money), who has produced the zyklon b and the “blitz”
taking power and control is a drug for psychopath (imperial thinking), take care land of the free (and your little european brother)
Kevin, I have been to Dachau. It is an experience I will never forget. Let us hope the rest of the world never forgets. Your images evoke all the emotion I felt when I was there. And that is the power of photography… to evoke emotions in others. Well Done!
Thank you for your perspective and reminding us of the insane cruelty that man perpetuated on other men, in the name of fanatical socialism.
I cannot comprehend the holocaust; I ask myself how a well educated society could become so intoxicated with evil? How did they stop seeing their victims as people. How the masses unquestioning fell in line with the political leaders. Too me it has always been more than just ‘we were following orders’. There was a pathology, like a cancer cell that goes haywire.
Your photos are quite powerful, particularly the strong contrasts in black and white. Thank you for sharing not only your photos but your empathy for the victims.
Amazing photos. Strong emotional impact. Thank you for sharing.
Evocative, powerful images beautifully done.
Like a lot of people, I like photos of abandoned buildings. But these are quite different – even if you didn’t know what these buildings were, there is still something unusual. Unlike most abandoned places, everything here is neat and clean. This creates more visual ‘silence’ and makes these images particularly haunting.
I don’t know why you think ‘right wing’ is somehow a bad thing. These camps were built by socialists. But that is a debate that will leave photography behind, and for me, photography is more important. So I’ll leave it there.
Karim, I do not want to steer these comments away from Kevin’s great photoessay and its intent, but your comments that “socialists” built these horrible camps cannot go unchallenged. You make the mistake that many hard right-wing people here in Australia make by thinking the Nazis were “socialists” just because their official name – The National Socialist Party – contained the word socialist. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a facile move to do this and it’s a denial of history, too. The Socialists fought against the Nazis in the streets. The socialists were rounded up by the Nazis and put into these camps, along with anyone who opposed Nazism.
Kevin, your photographic essay and the words that accompany it are a powerful and timely statement. Thank you for opening our eyes, our minds and our collective conscience.
Moving images and moving words. There’s a message in here for all of us.
These are moving images, thank you for sharing. I was there last year and felt the same way you do.
Impressive work. I can understand your emotions!
I too have visited Dachau – it is a very sobering experience, and I also had to fight back the tears – it has an atmosphere that you can touch which your photographs have captured. We can only hope that nothing but nothing like this ever happens again.
I too have visited Dachau – it is a very sobering experience, and `i also had to fight back the tears – it has an atmosphere that you can touch which your photographs have captured. We can only hope that nothing but nothing like this ever happens again.
I think this set “Against Oblivion” is a striking visual meditation on what people can do to people when stereotyping and prejudice become sanctioned by unreflected “discourse” and finally by those we one day wake up to find in power. As you say, those tendencies are present again to-day – and that is true of any and every European country we could mention. So your pictures are also a significant protest. Thank you.
Very strong photos. Thanks for sharing.
Kevin. I took the same trip into Dachau and have many of the same images as what you’ve posted here. Yours are stark and real and tell the story that words have long forgotten. Thank you for sharing. My father who is German and fit right into the “ideal” of the Nazi doctrine but my grandfather would not bow to such a harrowing viewpoint so they left in 1935.