Friday, October 4, 2013

The way we live.

Somewhere in my twenties, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Museum, near Munich. It was only then that the true horror of this period in history became painfully clear to me.
Although what happened there was hideous - and I remember feeling nauseated, what finally made me break down and weep was the full wall of photographs of the survivors, on the day that they were finally set free. The emaciation, the look in their eyes.

It has happened in the past that I have worked on historical dramas where we have had to do research on the war and dress Nazi offices, or U-Boats. You are surrounded by the colours, the flags, the swastika, the SS logos. It is not something I can get used to and it feels... forbidden, uncomfortable.

Yesterday we went to see a collector about using some of his memorabilia as props and dressing on our current project. In the corridor, a tall woman with a fine paintbrush was doing a trompe l'oeil mural of exposed brickwork and distressed plaster.
The collector received us in his outer office, where there is a considerable amount of Boer War memorabilia - paintings, documents, uniforms and weapons. I found this interesting.

We then started talking about the items we needed to dress a Nazi Colonel's office. I noticed that the collector was wearing a silver SS death head ring on his slim, tanned middle finger.

Tall, suave, a smooth talker. Son of a Dutch Reformed minister. He led us into his inner sanctum, where a large, spot-lit oil portrait of Adolph Hitler presides over his desk. A bronze bust of that man atop a filing cabinet. The deco armchairs, he assures us, are from the Führer's apartment in Vienna. He has sixteen different copies of Mein Kampf. The SS typewriter's s-key reads SS.
"No photographs please", he says with a smile. He chain smokes, holding his cigarette in the underhanded way of a soldier at war.
There are cases filled with medals and weapons. The walls are adorned with portraits and flags. Also, stacked against the wall: portraits of nude, sculpted women.

He lets his hand linger on my shoulder blade when he motions for me to pass.

I think I will make do with what I can rent from the prop houses.

A German evening bag from the 1930's. I found it in Simonstown, at an antique shop. Beautiful at first glance, but hidden amongst the roses...


Rosie said...

Wow. So many scary things lingering in dark corners.

I would have been ready to bolt by the time I saw the portrait.

Marie said...

Ugh. How bizarre that these people exist.

tanjawilmot said...

Ugh. Good to write about it though, get some air into the thing. Megh.