The comparisons & associations come easy, and they still hold true: these derelict behemoths of heavy industry do look like the remnants of an alien civilization which fled the planet. The giant machine above is only a very small part of the whole plant. In 1965, at the height of it’s expansion, 17.500 people worked there. A city within a city (of only 40.000, all told).

What are you going to do with all the rust? This steel mill is a UNESCO world heritage site now. Big deal. Supposedly it’s the only one of its kind preserved in full. That still doesn’t solve the problem. I have written about this one, I’ve photographed it, I’ve tried to put it into perspective in more than one way. I even was part of a task force pondering the options, albeit for a short time only, because I asked the wrong questions. For instance: Can we be honest and admit these jobs are gone for good? Can we admit the community created by this thing, and the state built around it, is dying? We couldn’t.

So they turned it into a museum of itself. Which is probably the best thing you can hope for, given the circumstances. Except that the museum is lying. Not in a brazen way, of course. The slave laborers of World War II are being acknowledged, only to forget that the overwhelming majority of people who worked there were victims. In contrast to the slave laborers their pay was higher, they weren’t killed for the slightest misdemeanor, and they could choose to be victims somewhere else. Yes, many of them grew to like it there. The love for being hurt doesn’t change a thing: you’re still a victim for other people’s profit.

So it comes down to a few sobering facts. This used to be a place of hurt. And the world has little respect for something that big after its usefulness is gone.

David Wade, Adrian, Shu, Lloyd and 5 others said thanks.

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Marcus Hammerschmitt

Writer, journalist and photographer. Eighteen books so far, on paper and on screen. My biography is boring, my life is not.

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