Buchenwald

On the road to Wurzburg (not direct, but along the Autobahns – so much faster, if longer in distance, than the ‘direct’ route, is the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Most camps in Germany weren’t death camps, per se. That is, they weren’t originally designed to be mass extermination camps … but the conditions there were so harsh that deaths were inevitable. And, of course, as things got worse for Germany and the Final Solution got well and truly under way, things got worse in the ‘not’ death camps.

Buchenwald was originally for political prisoners, but also held Russian POWs, Jews and, well, any number of odds and sods who had the misfortune to either come to the (unfavourable) attention of the Nazi authorities or who were regarded as racially (or other category) ‘undesirable.’

Interestingly, after the end of the war the Russians took it over and continued to operate it as a camp, no less brutal and no less lethal, for their political opponents. And, of course, the DDR followed suit for quite a while.

The more things change …

The main gate to the prison compound – interrogation cells on the left and offices and othe bits and bobs on the right. Doesn’t look too bad, does it?
“To each what they deserve” … the motto on the entry gates. Not quite as cynical as Arbeit Macht Frei.
The prisoner’s Commissary. The SS, cynical as all get out, ‘allowed’ prisoners to purchase goods shoddily made in the basement workshops with money sent to them by their loved ones … assuming, of course, their loved ones actually knew where they had been sent. The practise, both under the Nazis and then under the Communists, was often to simply ‘disappear’ people and ignore requests for information …
The only surviving Barracks Block – and it only survived because it was sold to a private company who used it as offices in their construction business for many years. For the rest? There’s either no obvious trace if they were entirely of wood construction (as this is) or there are stone foundations if they were slightly more substantial. Or the inmates were kept in tents. in the case of the Russians and the cold war prisoners they might not even get that.
The Crematorium. Since this wasn’t a death camp, it wasn’t as big as in places such as Auschwitz … but the death rate was high and it was set up as an industrial scale process,

Dresden – The Zwinger

As it turned out, the Residenz, the main museum in Dresden was closed the day I went to see it … but the Zwinger, the second main museum, was open … or most of it was. The bit with the Old Masters (paintings) was, of course, being refurbished and only a small selection were on display … but since old paintings, by and large, aren’t my particular thing, that wasn’t a big deal.

A proper ruler, at least in Germany, kept good records … and, to create many of those records, he needed many scientific and measuring instruments. One of the sections of the Zwinger contains all of those which belonged to the ruling house.

This is a magnetic compass, of course, and, as you can see, it is a gimballed one – that is, it is designed so that it will retain a stable orientation regardless of how its contained moves. Normally this would be used aboard ship – but, in order to carry out accurate surveys of their domains, rulers needed accurate measurements … and so a gimballed compass often accompanied them when they were surveying.
And, of course, they needed geometrical tools – but, being princely types, ordinary ones weren’t good enough … as you can see.
Pocket Sundials with corrections for various latitudes were also handy before the development of decently accurate clocks.
Likewise, weighing things was a necessity … and accurate fancied up Scales were part of the princely equippage.
And that’s probably about the only picture of me you’re likely to see. It does show, however, how piss poorly the lighting mixed with glass cases interact to make photgraphy virtually impossible in many cases. You’ll also note that, if you look closely, all of the photos here are fuzzy … no flash photos allowed and the rubbish lighting effects coupled with the glass reflections meant that exposure time was so long … a second or two … that I couldn’t get a decent focussed shot of, oh, pretty much anything.
A mechanical calculator – the type created by Blaise Pascal. IIRC this one was actually made in his French workshop and purchased by the ruler.

There were other collections in the museum, including the aforementioned Old Masters (which had nothing I was really interested in photographing) and the Porcelain collection – one of the rulers was a big collector and his descendants hung onto it …

This one’s for Jen! Chinese porcelain guardian cat in the Porcelain collection!
Chinese Temple Dogs

Dresden- Heer Museum

Another museum in Dresden, and more interesting than the other sights, quite frankly. Situated in a partly rebuilt armoury and barracks complex towards the outskirts of the city it covers the German army (Heer) from the middle ages onwards … and pulls no punches …

Waste not, want not. This was an old medieval Bombard which would originally have been mounted on a sled-like, wheelless, base – but as technology progressed, the owners had it mounted on a wheeled carriage, probably in the early Renaissance. It is unlikely it saw much use in that form, however, as it was simply too bloody heavy to drag around at any speed, even for use in Sieges.
Reiter’s armour and long barrreled wheellock pistol of the sort used during the 30 years war. The Reiter would, typically, be used in a caracole – the formed a circle in front of the enemy and rode around in the circle at speed, firing their pistols into the enemy formation at the nearest point … and, theoretically, if/when the enemy broke they could charge … or other shock-cavalry units such as Curaissers could do so. Typically they had at least four wheellock pistols, and might have as many as six.
Neger manned torpedo. It was based on a standard torpedo – it couldn’t submerge but it could carry a real torpedo slung underneath. A really marginal weapon idea – about 200 were manufactured and deployed and 80% of the crews died, often because the darn things simply capsized and they were difficult to escape from. They managed to sink one DD and three Minesweepers.

The big drawcard that was easy to photo (being outside and well lit, of course), was the vehicle park … including the usual West German homegrown stuff as well as their US/European made bits and bobs, but also including a lot of Russian stuff that was used by the DDR’s Volksarmee.

Volksarmee ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’ SP AA vehicle.
BTR-152 Armoured Personnel Carrier
BRDM-2 Armoured Scout Vehicle
Leopard Mk1 Armoured Engineer Vehicle
Mobile Patriot SAM vehicle.
M-577 Command Post is Bundeswehr markings and camouflage

There was a lot more, especially inside, but, as is all to common, the lighting was rubbish and/or seemed to be deliberately placed to reflect off the glass display cases … in both cases making it impossible to actually take usable photos … even with Flash, I suspect (though that wasn’t allowed).

Lots of stuff on the Volksarmee and the Bundeswehr and how they interacted with their allies and civilian populations … all quite interesting, but, again, nothing in the way of written material that you could purchase in the sparse museum shop … not even in German.

Battle of the Nations – Leipzig, 1813

The Germans take their military history very seriously. This huge monument was built for the 100th anniversary at huge expense – which isn’t surprising as the structure is massive.

View over the reflecting pool – it doesn’t show, but the tower is 260 metres high and the base is 230 meters wide!
The Crypt – not quite a ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ – the people on the upper walkway give an idea of the scale of the interior space here!
Leipzig across the Reflecting Pool taken from the main entry level.

As you will remember, Leipzig was where the anti-Napoleon Grand Coalition came together and trounced the Grand Armee, weakened as it was, both in numbers and morale, after the disastrous Russian Campaign. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and sent to St Helena the next year.

Colditz

This happened to be on the way … the Museum took up a small part of the prisoner’s wing – the main part of the Castle was the German Kommandatur – Offices, Administration and Barracks for the Guards and their commanders … unfortunately it is now a Youth Hostel and, unless you’re staying there, you can’t go inside … and it’s been completely refitted anyway.

The interior of the place was used as a Mental Hospital by the East Germans and there wasn’t much left of the ‘original’ WW2 fittings even in the prisoner’s wing.

The Main Gate (well, the one through which the Prisoners were marched when they arrived in town, the ‘service entrance’ is around the side, off to the right, and up the hill. Remember, this was an Oflag (for officers) so they were ‘gentlemen’ and you wouldn’t have them use the servants entrance!
The sparse furnishings of something represented as a ‘typical’ cell … but, being officers, the occupant(s) often had (or acquired) other possessions which would have filled up the space slightly more. I suspect it would have been unlikely they would have had a room to themselves anyway.
The Inner Courtyard. The space was deemed too small for proper exercise by the Red Cross so the Germans fenced off a part of the Castle’s game park (behind and down the hill from the building here) which is where many of the escape attempts were made.
The outer courtyard showing what would have been the entrance to the Kommandatur – but is now the entrance to the Youth Hostel.
The road up to the service entrance. The rear of the Kommandatur is near right, the lower building and the building behind it were the prison proper.

And that, gentlebeings, is all the photos I have downloaded from both cameras so far … there are more on the memory cards and I will get around to transferring them to my laptop and thence, gradually, to this Blog, over the next little while …

Dresden

Not a lot there. The rebuilt Frauenkirche is OK … but just another church.

After the bombing all that was left was a heap of rubble. The locals kept all the (larger?) bits of stone and, after reunification, rebuilt the church very quickly using the remnants plus a lot of new material. I believe that the darker blocks you can see are the older (original) bits.
The interior was also restored – a lot of the destroyed/damaged buildings had been extensively examined and recorded by various government authorities, especially during the Nazi years (though I don’t know whether Nazi era records had any role here) which made it easier to reconstruct. This is the Quire, Pulpit and, as you can see, it’s pretty darn ornate!

There was also a pretty good Transport Museum which looked at the vehicles and companies based in the city and their products – especially good on DDR era vehicles.

A model of Benz’s first ‘automobile’
Pre-War two seater Motorcycle – there was also a Sidecar available. Not very successful.
A 1950’s Wartburg – a pre-war manufacturer taken over by the DDR. Only produced in small numbers as it was too resource intensive it used the same basic two stroke engine as the Trabi!
Prototype Wartburg 355, mid 196o’s- again, considered too resource intensive, so it was passed over for the Trabant!
Everyone’s favourite ride on lawnmower – er Trabant. As in Russia, you didn’t just buy one, you paid for it and went on a waiting list – which could be as long as 10 years (those in politically important jobs or with the right connections might have that time halved or more. Of course, as with all East German cars, spare parts were in as short supply – so you actually had to bring your own to the Garage when you car broke down! So people tended to buy any spare parts that became available, even if they didn’t need them right away, so they could trade them for parts they might need down the track!

Berlin – German History Museum & Altes Museum

Just over (one of) the bridges connecting Museuminsel to the ‘mainland’ is the German History Museum which, as you might guess, covers German History. Unfortunately, while quite interesting (especially the special Exhibition on the Weimar Republic and how it failed, there wasn’t a lot to take pictures of … just lots of audiovisual material or stuff that I’ve captured on film (so to speak) elsewhere.

Miscellanea from the WW1 section – that’s the absolutely horrid and infamous Chauchaut Light Machinegun in the centre. More ways to jam than operate properly – semicircular magazine because of the tapered French rounds it used. An absolute abortion – but the French didn’t have anything better and the US also used as they didn’t, either.
Same display case as above, different angle – Maxim MG-08 in front.

Altes Museum

The Altes Museum is one of the lesser biggies on Museuminsel – mainly lesser stuff, or smaller stuff than in the Pergamon.

Looking suitably neoclassical.
Greek (Corinthian) style Hoplite Helmet of the 5th century BC (or so)
Ever wonder how to keep clean without soap? This is the Roman solution – the small silver pot is for olive oil and the silver rod with the curved end is a strigil (‘scraper’). You go to a Roman Bath and work up a sweat to open up the pores and then you cover yourself with olive oil to soak up the dirt and unwanted bodily oils and then you use the strigil to scrape it all off. Simple? Not really – it was notoriously difficult to impossible to do it effectively by yourself and you either had to have a slave/servant of your own or a hired slave/servant at the Baths assist you (doing your back, for example).
Classical Greek? Hellenistic? Byzantine? Heck, I forget – nice work though!
Reconstruction of a famous (lost) statue pair of two gods armed and equipped (but not armoured) as Hoplites. Like all classical graeco-roman statues they are painted in lifelike colours.
A selection of table silver from one of the several large finds from the late Roman period – hidden during the invasions/collapse and never recovered.

MuseumInsel #2

Pergamon Museum #2

There’s a fair bit more at the Pergamon Museum than just the Ishtar Gate.

The Market Gate from Miletus, for example. Graeco-Roman.
Assyrian(ish) Lammasu – guardian protectors placed on either side of important City or Palace Gates
Assorted bits of really nice Near Eastern Jewellery … this necklace (?) is of gold and lapis lazuli.

The Neues Museum

Despite the name, this contains much in the way of Egyptian and Germanic antiquities … it is a separate institution (at least nominally) but with the new construction on Museuminsel it is now connected to the Pergamon Museum by an underground walkway.

What’s an Egyptian Museum without a statue of Bast for cat lovers?
And ritual cart statues – sadly, as is almost always the case, the golden earrings that were in the statuettes pierced ears were long gone by the time it was discovered,
A nice set of Canopic Jars – to contain the internal organs removed during the mummification process.
Gold jewellery and other items from high status burials – evidently Gold was something of a royal monopoly and only high status individuals would be granted the right to possess any, either as direct gifts of jewellery from the royal court or as raw gold to have their own pieces made to order.
On the upper floors there is some surprisingly interesting Roman stuff – like this very well preserved example of a warded roman barrel padlock and original chains.
And the remains of a set of Phalerae, silver medallions issued by the Emperor to soldiers, usually Centurions and above, as rewards – sort of like a cross between a Medal for Valour, a Campaign Medal and a retirement bonus (it wasn’t uncommon for such awards to be made multiple times to a single individual – and you could only actually wear one of them). They were evidently worn attached to a leather harness which was worn over the armour.
And there’s the usual suits of plate armour – most of it late Medieval or even early Renaissance.
Though some of it is much earlier – like this piece, probably 11th or 12th century.

There’s much more on Berlin to follow … but that will be in a later post

Berlin Museuminsel #1

Museuminsel is a collection of several important national museums – not all of which I visited (the Art/Painting/Old Masters … not particularly interested) …

Pergamon Museum – The Ishtar Gate

This is well known as the location of the Pergamon Altar (not really an Altar, but, hey, who cares) from which it takes its name and which, like the other big items on ‘display’ was disassembled and removed to be re-erected in Berlin.

The last time I was here in 2003 the museum was undergoing refurbishment and the Altar was only partly displayed as were other of the major features … this time it was not accessible at all as there is (another) major rebuilding project under way.

The Ishtar Gate, however, and the Processional Way, however, which, last time, were also only partly on display were fully on display this time!

Swings. Roundabouts.

Bull from the Processional Way leading to the Ishtar Gate – as you can make out, these were reassembled from fragments of glazed brick excavated in Ottoman Iraq at the site of Babylon way back … amazing artwork and an amazing archaeological jigsaw puzzle!
Dragon ( mušḫuššu ) also from the Processional Way.
Lion from the Processional Way

The reconstruction is not 100% original, some of the glazed bricks were not found (shattered into two small fragments?) and they were replaced with modern reproductions when erected … the rosettes above and below the animals, for example, are almost entirely replacements based on the few surviving fragments.

The Processional Way as displayed in the Museum … the actual way, in situ in Babylon, was about two or three times the width shown here.
The central part of the Ishtar Gate – bloody tourists all wanting to take pictures and look. How dare they!
One of the ‘towers’ on either side of the central gate arch
The right hand side of the arch of the Ishtar Gate.
The Processional Way and Ishtar Gate were rather like ‘Troy’ … that is, they were one of a series of similarly intended structures built, razed and replaced by bigger or better ones.
An earlier iteration of the Processional Way with unglazed bricks … Bull and Dragon still depicted.
Even earlier – differently coloured fired clay cones (yellow, red, black) pressed into wet clay bricks to form several different geometric patterns.

You get a real feel for what it may have been like back in the day … it must have been an awe-inspiring sight to foreign embassies and other visitors and to anyone travelling to Babylon on business, commercial or religious. Which, of course, was the intention of the thing … conspicuous display of just how wealthy (and, therefore, powerful) the King was and how strong his desire to please the Gods was, and, of course, this implied that the Gods would favour him in all things as well. A sobering thought for those visitors.

Bergen-Belsen

Visited after seeing all those tanks – Pictures speak louder than words.

Mass grave mound – there are about a score or more of these on the site, with numbers between the 800 in this one and around 5000 in several others.
Jewish Memorial
Memorial Column & Wall
Polish Memorial Plaque
General memorial plaque

There is also an excellent on-site museum with many audio-visual segments in a variety of languages as well as a great many artifacts and the story of the various phases the Camp went through … it wasn’t always a Death Camp as such. One of the better presented such museums I have seen (Sachsenhausen near Berlin and Dachau near Munich) in 2002/3. Pulls no punches.

Panzers of the Cold War and after

There aren’t as many types, obviously, and a lot are US or Russian in origin, but, of course, there’s the German ones as well.

Leopard 1 prototype.
HS.30 APC – based on a Swiss design, it proved to be a costly failure and only about 2500 of a projected 10000 were built. There was a huge political scandal over it in the mid 60s
Schutzenpanzer Kurz, 11.2, based on a French Hotchkiss design. Used for recon until the Luchs entered service.
Leopard III
MBT-70 Prototype. The Germans wanted to bid on the contract to replace the M-60 and the MBT-70 was built to the specifications the Yanks wanted. By all accounts it was superior to the competition … but it had one insurmountable flaw … it wasn’t a US design … so it ‘lost’

There’s a lot more, but I think we’re all tanked out by now!