The Holocaust and Climate Change – Past Meets Future in Hillersleben

I have often reflected here upon my past experiences as a Holocaust survivor and have likened climate change to a self-inflicted genocide. One of my main objectives in this summer’s globetrotting trip was to look at the intersection between my family’s Holocaust history and new efforts to make the future a bit safer from the coming horrors of anthropogenic climate change. Unsurprisingly, this involved visiting key sites in Germany, including Hillersleben.

This week, I am showing some photos, both old and new, of changes within these areas. While I didn’t plan it as such, I am writing this blog on the weekend when millions of young people, inspired by the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg (see August 6th blog), have skipped school to participate in some of the largest global demonstrations in our memory. Their message is clear: they are concerned about climate change and are demanding that adults (especially policymakers) do something about it.

Figure 1, repeated from August 6th, begins my tour of Germany with a section of the Berlin Wall. The rest of the photographs show the evolution of the site of my displaced persons camp— Hillersleben, a town not far from the city of Magdeburg, which was part of East Germany before unification in the 1990s.

Figure 1 – Portion of the Berlin Wall with graffiti that says, “save our planet”

This segment of the Berlin Wall is part of the Topography of Terror museum, built on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime held the headquarters of the SD, Einsatzgruppen, and Gestapo.

     Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust Figure 2 – The edge of the Jewish cemetery in Hillersleben and the house behind it in 2008

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust

Figure 3 – Interior of the house shown in Figure 2

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust, solar power

Figure 4 – August 2019 photograph of the same Jewish cemetery in Hillersleben. A group of solar cells has replaced the house.

 Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust, solar power

Figure 5 – 1945 photograph of the cemetery, on display in the Magdeburg museum

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust, solar power

Figure 6 – 2008 photograph of the names that were on the gravestones before they were removed from the cemetery

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, HolocaustFigure 7 – 2019 photograph of an engraved stone memorial to the graves that were removed. It lists no names.

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust, solar powerFigure 8 – Extent of the solar cells around Hillersleben, 2019

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, cemetery, Jewish, Holocaust, solar power, windmill

Figure 9 – Solar cells, windmills, cows, and corn for biogas around Hillersleben

Hillersleben, Magdeburg, water, wastewater

Figure 10 – Part of the town’s wastewater disposal system

Hillersleben will be the territorial meeting of my own past and my grandchildren’s future (should they accept it as such). It seems to be actively working toward sustainability, so hopefully its legacy will continue to be one of mitigating the forces of genocide—both Nazi-led and self-inflicted.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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1 Response to The Holocaust and Climate Change – Past Meets Future in Hillersleben

  1. Sumya Ahmed says:

    The pictures in this post are very powerful and I think this statement of yours is a great way to describe these images and the message they give.” It seems to be actively working toward sustainability, so hopefully its legacy will continue to be one of mitigating the forces of genocide—both Nazi-led and self-inflicted.”It really shows the dark reality of our future as well hope of how we have the power to change it. Through reading many of your blog posts as well as what you have taught us in class, I believe we have the skills and ability to help save our environment, as you mentioned that humans are built with natural survival ability. Projects such as IPCC and The Earth Summit are powerful as well to bring change as a global community.

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