In this project I explore issues of memory and time. The memory of World War II in Germany is fading as people who experienced the war firsthand get older and die. Many oral histories have been recorded, but as the survivors die, most of their recollections will be buried with them.
Yet the memory of WWII remains a living history, especially as the recent arrival of refugees from the Middle East and Africa have reinvigorated important questions. Most notably: what responsibilities do Germans have based on their/our history?
I explore these issues by visiting places in and outside Berlin that were important for the creation of the Third Reich as well as Hitler’s goal of extending the Lebensraum for the Germans to the East, which preceded the Endloesung [Final Solution] of eliminating all the Jews.
Particular places of importance are, for example, the concentration, labor, and death camps; train stations from which Jews and other people were deported; prisons; or public places in which important events took place.
I explore how our memories of these places fade by overexposing my film negatives for seventy-one seconds (this interval chosen because the intervention occurred in 2016, seventy-one years after the war ended in 1945).
Overexposing film means that only traces from the photographed places have been recorded, which is the same thing that is happening to our memories. Our memories are fragmented and not always clear—some are in color and some in black and white. Some will soon be gone forever.
Würfel’s project was singled out by juror Mutsuko Ota, the editorial director of IMA Magazine. Here are the first few lines of Ota’s statement explaining why this work stood out to her—we encourage you to visit the winner’s page to read the rest!
“Memory and time are one of the fundamental questions of human experience and, in particular, are important factors in photography as a medium. In each country, preserving and passing on the negative memories of the past is done as a form of asset management—though inevitably, the intensity lessens as time goes by…”