Tag Archives: Dark Tourism

Oradour-sur-Glane

The atmosphere here is heavy. The visitors in their tourist uniforms, cameras in hand, zig zag down this street pausing to peer inside each building. A car dissolving into the ground. A wall clock with its workings rusted and exposed. Cooking pots, prams and sewing machines. The detritus of people’s lives slowly rotting where it stood. And in between, incongruously, mown verges and an uncanny neatness indicate the status of a museum.

A minimal amount of information is given, leaving us to construct our own imaginary tableaux of what happened here, inside each house, each shop, inside the church.

As far as memorials go, this one envelops you. It is overwhelming. Who was it that had the presence of mind to say ‘leave it as it is’? Not to move anything? It is not an interpretation of an event, a constructed object to stand in front of and contemplate, but rather the remains of the event itself. And by default we are all in it, in the streets, in this place…implicated.

Nearby is the new village, rebuilt after the war looking down on the untouched remains of what was here before. And I start to wonder what it would be like if every place where an atrocity had happened was abandoned, with life rebuilt alongside. How crowded the world would be…cities nestling together, sometimes in triplicate. Gleaming churches butted up against burnt out originals. Streets that no longer follow a linear pattern as replacement houses are jammed into available spaces. New forests planted alongside old. On and on, until in no time at all, we will have run out of space, crowded out by memories and the dead.

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a Ballardian holiday – dark tourism

Last September I was preparing to travel to Hungary and Poland to visit the mass graves and camps.
It was the end of the summer, the weather was good, and it made sense to combine the research trip with
a holiday.  A strange postmodern Ballardian holiday…

I’ve been reading an article by Jason Webster about a package holiday that tours sites of Nazi memory in Germany. It takes in Wannsee Villa, Sachsenhausen, Eagles Nest, Nuremberg Court Room, Dachau. Needless to say it has attracted controversy, but I was surprised to read that at Eagles Nest there are already coaches to take tourists up to the site where they can buy Eagles Nest branded baseball caps and t-shirts.

‘How the Nazi period should be remembered is an over-arching theme that develops as we travel around the country. When I lived in Germany as a child, in the late 1970s, any mention of the war was taboo. Today, however, many venues have recently-opened excellent museums [...] suggesting that Germans themselves are coming to terms with their past and are more at ease with the idea of others coming to learn about it [...].
In earlier centuries it was fashionable to take the Grand Tour, to complete one’s education by travelling to Italy and Greece to learn about Classical civilisation. Today’s equivalent may turn out to be this – to witness the relics of one of the greatest horrors of man: a grandeur not to be emulated but to grapple with, to question, to struggle to comprehend.‘ Jason Webster

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