»Souvenir of Germany«

A Theatre of Warfare and Aviation

souvenir (n.)

1775, »a remembrance or memory,« from French souvenir (12c.), from Old French noun use of souvenir (v.) »to remember, come to mind,« from Latin subvenire »come to mind,« from sub »up from below« (see sub-) + venire »to come,« from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- »to go, come.« Meaning »token of remembrance, memento« is first recorded 1782.

(‘Souvenir | Origin and Meaning of Souvenir by Online Etymology Dictionary’ 2021)

»Places chose you. They take hold of you, wether you wish them or not.«

(Cave in Pollard and Forsythe 2014: 07:23)

This happened to me almost one year ago. These old military grounds and the mostly abandoned buildings with their gloomy atmosphere fascinated me. I started to photograph them and research about their history.  For over 130 years, this area was used by German, French and American armies as a training ground, an airfield and barracks (Eckstein 2008: 15).

Today the area is in a change. When the visible traces are torn down to give place for new housing, nothing will remind of the sites’ history. With this, documenting, telling the stories and thus create a memory theatre is »Souvenir of Germanys« essence. It is about man’s impact on the land and local history. But local history is caused by world history, which is mirrored here, too.

This portfolio visualises ten episodes of the past. Beginning with the German era until 1918 (»The Parade Ground«), followed by french occupation after the Great War (»Franzosenzeit«).

In the 1930s, the Griesheim airfield was a stronghold of gliding and aeronautical research (»Gliders, Science, Research«). Many developments in aircraft construction that are still valid today came from the Griesheim airfield. But there were also close ties to the military and the Nazi regime.

As a result of the Nazi regime (»Dark Times«) and the World War, Griesheim was also bombed several times; the heaviest attack was on 24. December 1944 (»Mission 760«).

On 24. March 1945, the US Army reached Griesheim  (»They reach Griesheim«), and the war ended for the town.

The Americans used the military ground until 1992. In the cold war, the airfield became a missile launch area (»Cold War Scenes«), despite the protest of the inhabitants. Today, this part of the site is a nature reserve, and the bunkers and hangars are abandoned.

Aviation came back too, in the form of American medical evacuation helicopters (»MEDEVAC«) and civil pilots from two flying clubs (»Civil aviation: »Hessenflieger« and »Darmstadt Flying Club«). Today, only the gliders from Darmstadt’s University are allowed to start and land here.

And there was journalism, too (»The Stars and Stripes«). The European edition of the »Stars and Stripes« was edited and printed here until 2005 in a former German airforce barracks built in 1913.

What’s left today are the buildings and streetlights and gates that look like dinosaurs. There is no need to light the grassy paths or keep people off the military areas through big gates. It is a place used by scientists of several disciplines and a new home for people in the nearer future.

Walter Benjamin wrote, that »Whoever has once begun to open the fan of remembrance will always find new limbs, new rods, no image is enough for him, because he has recognised it: he could let it unfold, the essential is only in the folds…« (Benjamin 2011: I,65). More or less, every day, I find new images, information and stories about this site. Dealing with this area is an ongoing project, which might end with a picture of the first new building.

The Episodes

Using Format