Monday, November 12, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa, Canada. Image Source: Globe and Mail.
In the Commonwealth and elsewhere, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day marks the moment when fighting stopped at the end of the First World War. The day now also commemorates the dead of the Second World War and subsequent wars. More recent conflicts have inspired the invention of brand new memorial 'traditions.' This is one way that conflict reclaims the past in the present time.
Still from "The Tunnel," Dreams (1990). Image Source: Collin County Community College.
In Dreams (1990), Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and Ishirô Honda produced a fourth dream, "The Tunnel," which looked back on Japan's ghosts from the Second World War. This is a tricky sequence because Kurosawa began his career in 1942. Then and later, he produced war narratives which attracted criticism. The segment was remade recently in a student effort (see it here), which shows how the bland Millennial dilution of World War II washes away controversies. All the same, the original chilling excerpt reveals how survivors remain suspended between the realities of conflict and the unrealities of civilian peace that follows. A defeated officer, shamed by his survival, trails home after the war; as he enters a tunnel on the road, he is greeted by an anti-tank dog. Soon he confronts his whole dead platoon ...
One of the clearest and most sobering signs of the Millennial anti-reality malaise is the upswing in Holocaust denial. When a British prince can show up at a costume party dressed as a Nazi, you know there is a softening around the whole memory of the Second World War and of that war's genocidal underbelly. Specific denial comes in many forms. It criss-crosses through wild anti-Illuminati and anti-Masonic chatter, which sometimes revives and updates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for online doom cultists and 9/11 conspiracy theory buffs. There is a whole contingent which views the present politics in the Middle East through a meta-Holocaust lens. There is a blandly expressed, but equally nasty, anti-Zionist political discourse floating around, notably in highbrow circles. This last viewpoint either takes the Holocaust skeptically or obliquely challenges the Holocaust's continued historical relevance.
The Holocaust remains relevant for all the historical reasons that it became a bloody watershed in the past; for the reasons that it plugs into troubles today; and for one more reason related to both, which ties the past, present and future together. That last relevance is the fact that the Holocaust was so horrible that it made, and still makes, us question reality. Even survivors from the death camps repeatedly echoed the sentiment expressed by Harry Herder, a liberator at Buchenwald: "We see it, but we don't believe what we see."
London during the Blitz, September 1940. Image Source: Guardian.
Last year, a 70-year old film with colour footage of London during the Blitz resurfaced:
For images, sounds and records of London during the Blitz (which lasted from 7 September 1940 to 16 May 1941), see a Channel 4 report and a Guardian article below the jump.Previously unseen colour footage of London during the Blitz has been discovered, after lying in an attic for almost 70 years.The amateur footage includes images of bombed-out landmarks such as the John Lewis department store - on Oxford Street.The 20 minute film was shot by the wartime mayor of Marylebone in west London, Alfred Coucher. The film was used as part of a US government propaganda film entitled "Why We Are At War."
Image Source: BBC.
Last year, BBC reported on found aerial footage of France just after World War I, kept in a Paris vault for nearly 100 years. In this rarely seen film (below the jump), you can see what the countryside looked like after the guns stopped. The BBC juxtaposed those images with shots of what the same landscape looks like today.
Another report, here, similarly this year uncovered a WWI-era camera with undeveloped film. The camera, stored in a chest in France, had photographs of Australian (and other nationalities) soldiers just behind the front lines of the Somme. The camera belonged to a French couple who offered to take and develop photographs of resting soldiers, so that the latter could use the pictures as postcards home.
For more images and films, see British Pathé's WWI Archive. Included among them are the films and photographs of shell shocked soldiers, who reflected modern battle horrors and psychological injuries never before seen.
WWI: 10 Telling Images
Click on the image to go to a WWI photo gallery. Image Source: British Pathé.