28.12.2016  Ongoing

He secretly carried her picture

— RETRACING MY GRANDFATHER WHO CAME HOME FROM THE WAR WALKING

 

It is in the early days of 1943 when Dutchman Adriaan Cornelis Augusteijn (b.1915, Rilland-Bath) is 'recruited' by the Regional Employment Bureau in Amsterdam to carry out forced labor in Germany. Due to the battle of Stalingrad in the Soviet Union, many German young men are called upon and sent to the ‘Ostfront’. There is a desperate shortage of workmen.

After a train journey that leads him along Kaldenkirchen, Gladbach and Hagen, he arrives on June 24, 1943 in Langschede in the Ruhr river area. He is set to work as a benchman and welder at Mannesmann Stahlblechbau, a steel company that plays a pivotal role in the German war industry. The company makes cases for ammunition and bombs and is known for its notorious anti-Semitism. He is forced to leave his wife and two children behind in Amsterdam.

The conditions are tough. Long working hours, bad food, cold and boredom. In the sparse hours left he writes letters to his wife.

In the winter of 1943 he manages to escape and a difficult journey back home begins. Back to Amsterdam, on foot …

My grandmother, Amsterdam

Did he walk at night? How and where did he get food? Was he helped on the way? Where did he sleep? Where did he hide? I never had the opportunity to ask him, my grandfather, these questions. He eventually died at a young age.

In 'He secretly carried her picture' the love of my grandfather to my grandmother and his journey home are central. Starting in 2017, I'm going to explore and retrace as many parts of that journey as I am able to find. Looking for what he might have seen, discovering and somehow ‘experiencing’ how it might have been. The final series will consist of found letters from my grandfather to my grandmother, photos and documents but mainly from my own photographic impressions that I will make along the way.

‘He secretly carried her picture’ is a small, personal tribute to all those who today are fleeing war, anywhere in the world.

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