As I was in the process of putting this post together, I happened across 'The Last Man at Nuremberg,' an article featured in The Atlantic about 95 year old Benjamin Ferencz who is the only living prosecutor from the war-crime trials that followed the Holocaust. Timely, in terms of writing about these striking images by photographer Jacob Robinson that comprise two series related to the histories of the Third Reich.
Nuremberg was the site of the Nazi party rally grounds as well as the city where leading members of the party were later tried in an utterly unprecedented legal battle that prosecutors like Benjamin Ferencz had to basically figure out as they went along. Robinson captures spectral remnants of the Third Reich's influence and its persistent, difficult legacy. Robinson writes of his series Ruin Value:
The debate of whether Germany’s complex history should be preserved is an important one, loaded - even generations past Nazi rule - with problematic repercussions.
Further irony and uneasiness emerges in a sister series, Reichsgelände, in which the artist captures images of the Reichsparteitagsgelände, or Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which through the decades have been repurposed for other ventures or have returned to a state of insignificance, however imbued with the underlying history as a place where Adolf Hitler had commissioned a complex of structures to establish, promote and propagate the Nazi ideology.
In Ruin Value, structures are explored as testaments to the Nazi ideology; Reichsgelande documents these places of former significance which have either been reclaimed and evolved into new spaces, or sunk into insignificance.
Robinson's images are, in essence, portraits of places and symbols associated with both the Nazi ideology and a bygone era. I was particularly moved by the image from Ruin Value of the ghost of an eagle hovering above the doorway (top image). The aesthetics and architecture of the Third Reich have been well-documented; Hitler famously planned to completely and grandiosely redesign and rebuild his hometown of Linz, Austria into one of the Fuhrer cities, which included Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Nuremberg. He understood and exploited monumentality to achieve his vision. What Jacob Robinson is able to capture in his photographs is the faded and yet unforgettable parallel marks that the Third Reich left on both the physical landscape and in the global consciousness.
More information and work by Jacob Robinson can be found on his website, jacobrobinson.co.uk.